McWilliams ‘ready’ to step in for suspended O’Toole at Fleetwood

Shaun McWilliams hasn't started for the Cobblers since the New Year's Day defeat to Wigan Athletic
Shaun McWilliams hasn't started for the Cobblers since the New Year's Day defeat to Wigan Athletic

Boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink says teenager Shaun McWilliams is in the frame to replace talisman John-Joe O’Toole at the heart of the Cobblers midfield for Saturday’s relegation crunch clash at Fleetwood Town.

The Town academy product came off the bench for the closing stages of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury Town, his first action of any kind since starting in the 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic on New Year’s Day.

To be fair to Shaun he has been really, really positive, and it has been hard for him not playing as much as he would like. He is definitely going to be considered

Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Since then, the 19-year-old has been a regular on the bench week in, week out, without getting on to the pitch, but he showed no rustiness as he helped the Cobblers claim a precious point in their bid for Sky Bet League One survival.

Now, with O’Toole suspended following his red card against the Shrews, and Matt Crooks also sidelined due to a ban, a place is up for grabs in the centre of the Cobblers midfield, and Hasselbaink says hometown boy McWilliams has very much put his name in the frame.

“Shaun came in and he did really well,” said the Cobblers boss.

“He has basically said to me, not in words but in what he did, that ‘I am ready’. He said ‘I am ready for you to pick me, and I will do my best to do the job’.

“That is what we want, and to be fair to Shaun he has been really, really positive, and it has been hard for him not playing as much as he would like.

“He is definitely going to be considered.”

McWilliams certainly seems the best fit to replace O’Toole, as he has a physical presence, but also an excellent eye for a pass.

The only other real options open to Hasselbaink are to switch back to a 4-4-2 and have Hildeberto Pereira partner Matt Grimes, and the Legia Warsaw loan man has played the past two games in central midfield, or to recall Sam Foley.

The latter seems unlikely, as Foley has been out of the frame in recent weeks.

If McWilliams does play, it will be only his 15th start for the club, and will come also exactly 12 months on from the youngster making his first team debut in a 1- draw at Roichdale last season.