Cobblers boss Wilder faces goalkeeper conundrum

Adam Smith has been given the Cobblers No.1 shirt, but will face a fight for a starting spot (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Adam Smith has been given the Cobblers No.1 shirt, but will face a fight for a starting spot (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Cobblers manager Chris Wilder admits it will be tough to choose between goalkeepers Adam Smith and Ryan Clarke this season, but says it’s a great problem for the club to have.

Both players arrived in the summer following the release of the previous campaign’s custodians, Matt Duke and Shwan Jalal.

Ryan Clarke played under Chris Wilder at Oxford United (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Ryan Clarke played under Chris Wilder at Oxford United (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Smith made the move from Leicester City and Clarke was brought in having played under Wilder while the pair were at Oxford United.

The stoppers have shared the minutes during pre-season which has given no indication as to who Wilder currently favours between the sticks.

And the manager admits that choosing between them gives him a welcome selection headache ahead of the Sky Bet League Two opener at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

“I think we’ve signed two excellent goalkeepers,” Wilder said.

“It’s going to be a really tough decision to choose who will start the season but the competition for that position is going to be fierce and I think we’ve improved that position during pre-season.’’

Town leaked 62 goals in their league campaign last season, and Wilder has made great strides to ensure that the amount is lower this time round.

As well as the two keepers, he has added defenders David Buchanan, Josh Lelan and Rod McDonald.

And Wilder is hoping whoever is playing behind the back four will perform to the best of their ability.

“They (Smith and Clarke) are both driving each other on to work extrememly hard,” he said.

“They’ll both want to start and there’s going to be one that will be majorly disapointed.

“It’s important that we do keep clean sheets and defensively we’ll be tight, but it’s important when they do break through that we have a good goalkeeper to keep the ball out of the back of the net.”

Smith has only played a handful of professional games, while on loan at Mansfield and Cambridge United in previous seasons, but he has shown the raw signs of a player that has what it takes to make a name for himself in the game.

Clarke is the more experienced option having made 232 appearances for Oxford, and Wilder feels the rivalry for the starting jersey will only help them both perform to the high standard that both himself and the players should expect.

“The competition and the standard is going to be high and they have to make sure that they play well week in, week out,” the manager said.

“They are going to make mistakes but it’s up to them to keep their standards high and drive each other on.”