Cobblers boss Chris Wilder believes there is still a lot more to come from central midfielder Ryan Watson.
The 22-year-old joined for a second loan spell from Premier League side Leicester City last month, having spent almost a year out of the game due to a cruciate ligament knee injury picked up in his first stint at Sixfields.
He endured a difficult start to his loan spell with the Cobblers, gifting possession to Plymouth’s Graham Carey just before half-tim on his debut, allowing the Argyle man to score the opening goal in the devon side’s 2-0 win at Sixfields on August 22.
Watson struggled to regain his composure following his mistake, but Wilder kept faith with him and selected him for the trips to Newcastle United and he then came off the bench at Accrington as he started to regain his touch.
Watson was a starter again in Tuesday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Colchester United at Sixfields, and turned in arguably his best performance for the club to date, scoring a stunning goal into the bargain.
The Crewe-born youngster picked up the ball in his own half and drove at the heart of Colchester defence, gliding past several opponents before unleashing a low piledriver into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards.
It was his first goal in senior football, it was a belting finish, and Wilder is convinced it won’t be his last as he regains full fitness and confidence.
“It is difficult when Ryan hasn’t played a lot of football, and he comes into a group when he is possibly still not cooked,” said the Cobblers boss.
“He will only become cooked by getting on the pitch and playing minutes, and I think he has shown his bravery and character.
“He gave the ball away against Plymouth and it obviously ended up in the back of our net, and it was a difficult afternoon that for all of us.
“There is more to come from him. We brought him in because of what he did on Tuesday, and hopefully he can kick on from there.”
And on the goal, Wilder said: “Colchester will probably moan that they have not laid a glove on Ryan, and he has drifted through two or three tackles.
“But we can say he has been really powerful and strong, and got his shot off which we encourage the boys to do - it does drive me mad at times that they take that extra pass.
“But they have to make the right decisions at the top of the pitch, and Ryan’s was a great decision. It was a great bit of skill to get into that position, and a fantastic finish.”
Watson will have to wait and see if he will continue in central midfield for the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge to Sixfields on Saturday (ko 3pm) in Sky Bet League Two, although it could be that Wilder will recall Jason Taylor.