‘Defend from the front’ is a mantra of virtually every football manager - and it seems the Cobblers players are now getting that message loud and clear.
Ahead of Saturday’s home Sky Bet League Two date with Crewe Alexandra, boss Keith Curle revealed the the surprising stat that in 10-man Town’s backs-to-the-wall win over Oldham Athletic last Saturday, front two Sam Hoskins and Kevin van Veen put in more work than the entire back four put together.
He is absolutely delighted with that, and particularly with the work ethic of Dutchman van Veen, who has not always necessarily been associated with always doing the hard yards under previous managers.
“Kevin van Veen scored a goal and created an assist, and I thought the work-rate of him and Sam Hoskins protected our back four,” said Curle.
“They enabled the midfield three to stay compact and shuffle across, and it is nice that statisitcally the data says the front two on Saturday worked harder than the back four in its entirety.
“That shows the work ethic ethos is growing throughout the squad, that the strikers do the work and that makes defending a lot easier.
That shows the work ethic ethos is growing throughout the squad, that the strikers do the work and that makes defending a lot easierCobblers boss Keith Curle
“People may say that it comes naturally to Sam Hoskins and it is a fundamental of his game, but it shows that Kevin van Veen is taking a step in the right direction.
“And if you get talent working hard, then you are going to have every chance of progressing.”
Another player who caught the eye with his work-rate against the Latics was Matt Crooks, particularly in the second half.
The former Rangers man, who scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Macclesfiedl last week, made several lung-busting runs from midfield when the Cobblers launched counter-attacks, and on a couple of occasions was unlucky not to add to his five-goal tally for the season.
Curle revealed he wasn’t totally happy with Crooks for his first-half display, but he does believe the 24-year-old is now a real goal threat.
“Matt grew into the game, but for the first 20 minutes I think he was still walking around that match ball under his arm!,” said Curle.
“But he then showed there is an understanding of what is required, and he could have another two or three goals on Saturday.
“He is getting into goalscoring positions, he is being a threat in the opposition’s half, and even more so stepping into the final third.
“If you allow him time and space on the ball in that final third, then he will cause you problems.”