Chris Wilder lavished praised on super-sub Ricky Holmes after the winger’s second-half display against Mansfield Town on Easter Monday as the Cobblers boss told certain players to ‘get on with it’ if they miss out on selection.
With the atrocious weather conditions and poor playing surface in mind, Wilder made a late change to his team for the trip to Nottinghamshire, choosing to drop Holmes in favour of three strikers as he opted for an untested 4-3-3.
But that gamble backfired as Mansfield took a deserved 2-0 lead into half-time which forced the Northampton manager to rectify his mistake at the break when he introduced Holmes and switched back to a more balanced 4-4-2.
That paved the way for a much-improved second-half display, spearheaded by Holmes, as Cobblers fought back to earn a 2-2 draw.
“I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to run a football club and to make good decisions,” said Wilder.
“I didn’t make a good decision on Monday but there’s always casualties.
“I left our best player out because I believe conditions-wise, game-wise and the amount of games he’s had and what he’s done for us, and what does he do?
“He might think this, that and the other about me for leaving him out but he comes onto the pitch and goes and effects the game for himself, his team-mates and the football club, regardless of me.
“I love Ricky but that’s a proper player for you. He might have been thinking ‘what’s he doing?’ in the morning of the game and possibly 1,800 supporters were thinking the same at half-time!
“But that’s how it is and he goes on the pitch and effects the game in the right way – by dragging his team up with the help of a few others, to get another point that adds to our big total with seven games left.
“That’s what he’s about as a player and that’s what I’m about as a manager.”
While he admitted it was frustrating not to start, Holmes said he used it as extra motivation to prove his manager wrong.
“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “I want to play every game but you’ve got to take it on the chin and you can’t sulk.
“You’ve got to come on and prove to the gaffer that you’re worth being on the pitch and hopefully I’ve done that and I’ll get back on there on Saturday.”
Nicky Adams and Lee Martin didn’t even make the bench at Mansfield while Alfie Potter hasn’t played since the turn of the year.
Wilder added: “I’ve left Ricky out and I left Lee Martin out and players just have to get on with it.
“We’ve got 11 players and seven subs and that makes 18 so I’m struggling to crush 23 into that.
“We also made the change at the back and even though we’re disappointed with the goals, I thought Zander (Diamond) and Rodders’ (Rod McDonald) partnership was back.”