It was far from straightforward but Chris Wilder believed his side exhibited “all the qualities” required to win promotion this season during their 2-1 victory at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.
The lacklustre Cobblers were on the back foot for long spells against an energetic and vibrant Dagenham side but goals from John-Joe O’Toole and Ricky Holmes saw Town keep pace with League Two leaders Plymouth Argyle despite Christian Doidge giving the home side a 62nd minute league.
Wilder was relived his side came through unscathed having been well aware of the threat Dagenham would pose under new manager John Still, who was taking charge of his first home game in his third spell back at the club.
Wilder said: “We’re not always going to be at our flowing best but it was a tough week for us with playing the league leaders away from home, we had the MK Dons game at the weekend and then coming here.
“All those factors added into it and it was also John’s first home game and I’ve got absolutely no doubt that Dagenham will not be struggling with him in charge.
“That’s nothing to do with the previous manager but John will bring players in and they will beat teams so I’m glad we’ve come away with a victory.
“I wouldn’t like to be coming here at the back end of the season needing a result because they press, they harry, they want to make contact with you, they run forward and we were fortunate to be level at half-time.
“We weren’t happy with the way we started and sometimes you have to hang on in games.
“But all the qualities that you need when you’re going for promotion were shown by the team in the second half – when you have to dig yourself out, when you have to go again and really raise your game and I thought the quality on a difficult surface second half was really good by us.
“We got the full-backs out, the ball stuck at the top of the pitch and I think we were full value for a result, even though it came in a great fashion.”
Wilder also explained his reasoning behind resting Marc Richards and Ricky Holmes with the duo starting Saturday’s game from the bench.
He added: “Players want to play. Ricky wanted to play, Rico wanted to play but I’ve got a tough job in terms of trying to plot our way through.
“We’ve got a massive game on Tuesday which we go into with full confidence knowing the tickets that we’ve sold.
“It’ll be an incredible night there and we want to go and get a result so I’ve got to try and manage our way through for us to get a result at Plymouth and get a result at Dagenham – whatever tactics or formation or team selection it is.
“We’ve managed to do that on Saturday and Rico and Ricky really gave us a big lift coming on. They’re big players for us.”
Having signed on-loan from Millwall the previous day, Lee Martin was thrown straight into the starting line-up at Dagenham and impressed early on before tiring.
On Martin’s debut, Wilder continued: “I thought Lee did really well. We chucked him straight in and he showed glimpses and bits of pieces of what he can do.
“He’s not done any work with us so it was a little bit of a gamble but sometimes you have to take those and plot your way through and thankfully we’ve gained a big three points.”