It has almost become the norm for Keith Curle to spring a surprise or two with his Cobblers team selection since taking charge three months ago and Boxing Day was no different.
Curle made two changes for this League Two encounter with Swindon Town but it was not so much who he picked, rather where he picked them. Sticking with 3-5-2, centre-back Jordan Turnbull lined up in midfield, midfielder Shaun McWilliams went to wing-back and right-back Hakeem Odoffin played as the middle man of a back three.
But Curle’s changes were justified by his side’s first-half display as Turnbull impressed in midfield, helping to create Town’s sixth-minute goal when his tackle and pass released Kevin van Veen whose superb cross was volleyed home by Andy Williams.
Turnbull, with his tough-tackling and controlled aggression, did the dirty work at the base of midfield which allowed Town’s forward men to play with freedom during their dominant display in the opening 45 minutes as a series of chances went begging.
Turnbull moved back into defence after half-time when Sam Foley replaced Odoffin as Swindon turned the tide and levelled things up through Keshi Anderson’s strike just past the hour-mark.
But there can be no doubt Curle’s call to play Turnbull in midfield paid off. Explaining the decision, he said: “We needed someone with a defensive mentality in there because I knew we would get forward and get on the front foot and be an attacking threat.
We needed someone with a defensive mentality in there because I knew we would get forward and get on the front foot and be an attacking threat.
“What you need to do is make sure you have the back door shut as well and have a player in there that’s got mobility, can handle a football with a defensive mindset that he wants to take territorial advantage.
“If our forward play doesn’t come off, we have a line of defence before we get spread.”
Turnbull has played both centre-back and left-back for the Cobblers, but never midfield. “I’m always just happy to be out on the pitch and playing,” he said.
“The manager pulled me before the game and it was the first I knew of it that he was going to play in central midfield.
“I was happy with it. I enjoyed myself in the position, playing that defensive role and sweeping up in front of the back three. That was my job and to get on the ball and play it simple so I thought I did OK and I enjoyed it out there.”