Wilder hoping Toney’s talent can fire Cobblers into the play-offs

Chris Wilder is hoping Ivan Toney can provide the goals that can keep their hopes of a place in the end-of-season play-offs alive
Chris Wilder is hoping Ivan Toney can provide the goals that can keep their hopes of a place in the end-of-season play-offs alive

He’s the player who takes inspiration from Sweden star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

A teenager with a touch of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air about him.

A striker courted by Championship clubs and who came close to joining one - Wolverhampton Wanderers - not so long ago.

He is a young man whose facial expressions are so amusing that one picture of him was put onto card and used as on face masks that swamped Sixfields last season.

And his goalscoring heroics at the end of the previous campaign even saw one of his efforts, an acrobatic strike at Dagenham, emblazoned on fans’ t-shirts.

His name is Ivan Toney.

And his manager now wants the 19-year-old to step up, just as he did in the final few games of last season.

On that occasion, Cobblers needed their Football League lives rescuing.

This time, with top scorer Marc Richards still out, Chris Wilder is hoping Toney can provide the goals that can keep their hopes of a place in the end-of-season play-offs alive.

“Ivan has to stand up because we’ve got Diego (De Girolamo), who’s come in but not played any football, we’ve got James Gray and we’ve got Ivan,” said Wilder.

And Toney produced positive signs that he can be the man to help make up for the loss of Richards, who is not expected back until the final fixture of this month, at Burton Albion.

The Academy product made an impact from the bench at AFC Wimbledon last Friday as he helped Cobblers salvage a 2-2 draw.

And he was the best Town player on the pitch against Cambridge United on Monday, coming on after just 30 minutes and producing a mature display.

“We were brave with the substitution (Toney for Chris Hackett), we knew it wasn’t working with the formation, they were better than us and we had to do something about it,” said Wilder.

“We did, and from then on Ivan gave us a target to play off up the top and he was excellent, playing against two experienced centre-halves.

“He’ll be a little bit disappointed he hasn’t scored, but he’s a young guy and 
he’ll learn.

“We’re delighted he’s at the football club and we’ll work with him.

“Ivan gave it a right go on Monday and that’s all we can ask for.”

Toney looked like a league two version of Ibrahimovic on Monday afternoon as he delivered some elegant flicks to keep his team moving.

He also had their only shot on target, but failed to really trouble Chris Dunn in the Cambridge goal.

“He won his headers, he linked the play up, he was clever in his play, never gave the ball away, limited his touches and he pushed their centre-halves right back,” said Wilder.

“They never got out of their half second half and they played on the counter and we had to break them down.

“It was just the final ball and when we did get in there Ivan will be a little disappointed he’s not scored, but all credit to them. They defended for their lives.”

Toney scored three crucial goals in the final two games of the previous campaign to preserve the Cobblers’ Sky Bet League Two status.

And his manager and team-mates would love him to deliver the goods again in the final five matches of this season as they bid to close a five-point gap to the top seven.

“I thought Ivan was really good on Monday,” said midfielder Joel Byrom. “He gave us a different dimension when he came on.

“He looked hungry and he didn’t get the chance that his play deserved.

“You know what you get from Ivan: he works really hard and he’s a threat.

“You can see he’s got all the ability in the world.

“He’s only young and you’re going to see glimpses from him in games, and not in others.

“He’s got a bright future and he’s a real asset to us.

“You could see when he came on the pitch that he gave us a lift.”

And how Town would love another lift from their talented teen at Stevenage on Saturday.