Cobblers boss Page feels central defensive problems led to Eastleigh defeat

Cobblers boss Rob Page

Cobblers boss Rob Page

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Boss Rob Page was left to rue a central defensive injury crisis as the Cobblers wrapped up their pre-season campaign with a 4-1 defeat at National League side Eastleigh on Saturday.

Northampton travelled south without the ill Zander Diamond and Ryan Cresswell, meaning they had just two recognised central defenders in Rod McDonald and Gabriel Zakuani.

McDonald and Zakuani started the game, but then the latter had to leave the field at half-time as a precaution due to a thigh problem, meaning right-back Aaron Phillips was switched to central defence for the second half.

Eastleigh took full advantage of the reshuffle to score three goals in 11 second half minutes and go 4-0 ahead, and Page was left to reflect on a difficult afternoon at the Silverlake Stadium, saying: “That’s not a great way to end a pre-season fixture list is it?

“But we’re not going to get too carried away with it.

“Take away the fact that we have had two centre-halves go down injured, with Zander not being able to train since Thursday and the Cresswell going down ill overnight.

“We then had to take Gabs off at half-time, but taking that away there are a few things we have to work on to get ourselves in shape and ready for next Saturday.

“It has been a roller-coaster of a pre-season, we have had good and solid performances against QPR and Wolves, and the three teams we have struggled against are the teams from this level.

“We will look back at it and we will learn from the mistakes we made today, there were too many players off their game.

“I would say there were three or four that didn’t reach the standards that they have done, and when you have got that there is only going to be one outcome.”

The three goals the Cobblers conceded in the second half were all from set-pieces, and although not wanting to make excuses, Page said the enforced defensive reshuffle was a key factor.

“The three goals are from set-pieces, and I have got Shaun (McWilliams) playing right-back who has never played right-back before, I have Aaron (Phillips) playing centre-half, and they were a big, physical team who scored from set-pieces.

“That is disappointing if you are well organised and hard-working you maybe eradicate that.

“There are a few things to work on the training ground next week and we will make sure we get it right for Saturday.”

Page also felt the Cobblers lacked an onfield leader once Zakuani went off, and said: “It’s the middle of the park we need to be solid, and I thought we lacked that experience with Gabs going off, and Zander not being there.

“I felt we didn’t have any leaders out there, let’s put it that way, and that is something we will address and get right.”

Zakuani, Diamond and Cresswell are all expected to be available for the Sky Bet League One opener against Fleetwood next Saturday (August 6).