Rob Page has backed Adam Smith to return a better player after the Cobblers boss explained his reasoning for taking the goalkeeper out of the firing line for Tuesday’s trip to Bradford City.
Smith has come in for some criticism of late after several unconvincing displays, and he paid the price on Tuesday when he was dropped for the game at Valley Parade for his role in conceding Peterborough United’s winner at the weekend.
He was excellent last season and he showed glimpses of it again this season but when you’ve got someone of David Cornell’s quality behind him and pushing him every day in training, it was an opportunity to put him in. Adam has taken some criticism but all goalkeepers will throughout their career and all players willCobblers boss Rob Page
In came former Wales Under-21 goalkeeper David Cornell, who signed on a free transfer in the summer, but he was unable to keep a clean sheet on his first league start of the season as James Hanson’s header ensured Bradford took the spoils.
It was the first time Smith has been dropped for a league game since his arrival at Sixfields 18 months ago, but Page, who was pleased with Cornell’s performance against the Bantams, expects him to bounce straight back.
The Town boss said: “Smudger has been outstanding since he’s been at this football club and he’s got an excellent future in front of him.
“But we’ve got to manage him. People forget how young he is because he isn’t the finished article, but he will be with hard work.
“Every now and again you’ve got to protect the younger players.
“He was excellent last season and he showed glimpses of it again this season, but when you’ve got someone of David Cornell’s quality behind him and pushing him every day in training, it was an opportunity to put him in.
“Adam has taken some criticism, but all goalkeepers will throughout their career and all players will.
“It’s about how you react to it and he’s been outstanding since I’ve left him out.
“After the Man United game he went and kept a clean sheet the next game, so he’s a good character and he wants to do well and he will.
“But we can’t forget how young he is. He’s still a young lad and we’ve got to manage him through that.”
Hanson’s second-half goal was enough to inflict a third successive league defeat on Northampton, who drop to 15th as a consequence, but Page remains confident he can and will stop the rot.
“What’s important is what’s in that changing room,” he added. “We all believe in what we’re doing and what we’re all about.
“Nobody likes to lose games of football but we’re trying our best to put it right.
“It’s three defeats on the bounce and you go through spells like this, but it’s all about how you handle it and how you react to defeats.
“We’ve got to be positive and look forward to Saturday’s game.”
As well as Cornell, defender Rod McDonald also made his first league start of the season on Tuesday when coming in for the injured Lewin Nyatanga at centre-back.
“I thought David played really well and I thought Rod gave a good account of himself as well,” continued Page.
“Lewin was struggling with his Achilles and couldn’t train on Monday. He had a fitness test but couldn’t get through it.
“With Zander going down we couldn’t risk Lewin having a lengthy time off so Rod has stepped in and done really well.
“He’s only played 45 minutes before with his last game against West Ham so he’s come in and done really well at a tough place.
“Their plan was to get the ball wide and deliver crosses into the box for Hanson and I thought we coped with that really well.”