Cobblers ‘have five spots up for grabs’ as boss Page explains selection choices

Rob Page encourages his side from the touchline on Saturday, with Dons boss Neal Ardley doing likewise. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
Rob Page encourages his side from the touchline on Saturday, with Dons boss Neal Ardley doing likewise. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

Rob Page will not be afraid to make wholesale changes if his side’s performances do not improve in coming games, with the Cobblers boss believing only ‘50 per cent’ of his team are currently playing to the required standard.

Northampton have been involved in two goalless draws in the past week and on both occasions they were somewhat fortunate to come away with a point having been second best for large periods.

Whilst there are few concerns from a defensive viewpoint, it’s in attack where the problems begin for Page who has been unable to find a fluent and effective attacking combination with the Cobblers struggling to create much in the way of genuine goalscoring chances throughout their first four games.

After Saturday’s goalless draw with AFC Wimbledon, Page gave his most critical post-match interview since taking over as he offered an honest assessment of his side’s current struggles, and even suggested their ongoing 28-game unbeaten run could be a contributing factor.

“It could be in the back of their minds because they are protecting that fantastic record they’ve been on,” he said.

“But you’ve got to be brave and we should be winning games like that. We should have beaten Fleetwood as well and we can’t keep saying that.

Lawson D'Ath is yet to feature in the league this season

Lawson D'Ath is yet to feature in the league this season

“We played into their hands, we started going more direct and they were winning the first balls and then picking up the second balls.

“We have to be braver because we weren’t brave enough on the ball in the first-half.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on Smudge (Adam Smith) to make a great save in the last minute and no disrespect to Wimbledon but we have to win these games.

“We know that as a group and at the minute, if I’m being brutally honest, I’ve got 50 per cent of the team firing and 50 per cent are not and that’s something I need to address and I will do.

If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve got 50 per cent of the team firing and 50 per cent are not and that’s something I need to address and I will do.

Rob Page

“There are lessons to learn and the sooner we do it the better.”

The recent omissions of Lawson D’Ath, Joel Byrom and Rod McDonald have raised eyebrows but Page explained they are decisions purely based on personal preference

He did, however, hint at possible changes in coming games given their recent poor performances.

On D’Ath, Page said: “It’s selection. He’s been left out of the last two squads and that’s purely selection.

“We’ve got a bigger squad now and we’re still looking to add so there’s competition for places.

“We’re going to need every single one of those squad members this season.

“Players can have an influence on the manager’s decision during the week by how they train and how they conduct themselves.

“I’ve got six at the minute which pick themselves and there’s others that are up for grabs and it means people like D’Ath and Byrom are going to get their opportunity and then the rest is up to them.”