Edinburgh sees encouraging signs but admits Cobblers need more ‘mental strength’ to remedy defensive frailty

MUCH TO PONDER: Justin Edinburgh and assistant David Kerslake on the touchline during Saturday's defeat to MK Dons. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
MUCH TO PONDER: Justin Edinburgh and assistant David Kerslake on the touchline during Saturday's defeat to MK Dons. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds

By his own admission, it was not the ideal start. But even so, Justin Edinburgh insisted he saw enough positives in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat at Milton Keynes Dons to come away feeling confident that his new side have ‘got what it takes’ to turn their fortunes around.

Injuries to two key men and a damaging opening defeat at a nearby rival, Edinburgh’s first 10 days as the new Cobblers boss have proved quite the baptism of fire.

And with Northampton now on a run of 11 defeats in 13 and down to 18th in League One, one thing is for sure; you certainly can’t accuse the former Gillingham manager of shirking a challenge.

“It’s not the start I wanted,” he admitted. “You don’t want to be conceding five goals because that’s not going to win us football matches, or even get us points.

“Offensively I see some encouragement, and I see a spirited group of players which shows me that they’ve got what it takes to put this right.

“On the other side, I know there’s a lot of work to do.

“You want to win away games but we’ve got to make sure our home form improves and we have to make sure that starts on Saturday.”

After shipping five goals in back-to-back away games and now with the third worst defensive record in League One, Edinburgh’s most urgent priority is to shore up a leaky defence that has kept just one clean sheet in 20 league games.

And whilst scoring goals may not be as much of a problem, it’s that defensive vulnerability which will put the Cobblers in relegation danger.

“It has to improve, it has to,” said Edinburgh. “That’s a fact. I’m here for a reason - the form haven’t been good enough and we have to stop the habit of losing.

I think, in our box and defending our box, there’s got to be a lot more mental strength to make sure that ball doesn’t go in the box first and then if it does, we get enough bodies around the ball to stop the shots.

“It’s a difficult one. It’s not as easy as just saying ‘do it’ but I take encouragement of a lot of the general play throughout the middle third, throughout the front third and the full-backs.

“But I think, in our box and defending our box, there’s got to be a lot more mental strength to make sure that ball doesn’t go in the box first and then if it does, we get enough bodies around the ball to stop the shots.

“We’re talking about a penalty, which was disappointing, and a deflected shot. I think the first goal came against the run of play and there’s loads to work on, that’s for sure.”

Edinburgh’s task has been made all the more difficult by the loss of two key attackers to injury.

After Sam Hoskins, arguably Northampton’s best player this season, was ruled out for the remainder of campaign due to knee ligament damage sustained in training, Alex Revell was forced off on Saturday with a calf injury.

“First and foremost it’s a blow for the boy, as well as for the group and for the fans and for everyone connected with the club,” said Edinburgh on Hoskins’ injury.

“Then after that it didn’t get any better with Alex Revell having to come off early in the first-half with a calf injury and that’s disappointing but something we have to accept and get on with.

“We knew where we were before the game but it was obviously disrupting to lose Revs so early in the game because I thought him and Rico were causing a lot of problems.

“We were getting runners off and it’s a disappointing and frustrating afternoon in some aspects, but pleasing in others.

“We’re hoping Revs isn’t too bad. The physio is working on his leg and we’ll have to assess that.”