Chris Wilder praised his side’s flexibility after Friday’s 3-0 friendly win over Sheffield FC – a game that the Cobblers boss described as Town’s “toughest test” of pre-season.
Northampton struggled to get going in an evenly-matched first half as the teams went in level at the break, but Wilder opted for a more direct approach after half-time and it quickly paid off with Marc Richards putting the visitors ahead on the hour-mark before one of two ‘unnamed’ trialists made it 2-0.
Ricky Holmes then capped off an excellent evening’s work for Town when he marked his return from injury with an emphatic finish late on.
“Physically and mentally I think that was possibly our toughest game of pre-season,” said Wilder afterwards.
“I thought the opposition caused us problems that we’ve not really encountered in other games – they were lively, they were competitive and they wanted to win.
“We were off the pace in the first half but we got our act together. They sat a lot deeper than many teams have done against us in pre-season and the pitch was slow so it was difficult to move the ball about.
“We changed the tactics a little bit at half-time and went a bit more direct and that’s something we’re going to have do sometimes because we’ll need to be flexible in terms of how we go about trying to get results and solving problems and I thought we did that second half.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Wilder’s men, especially in the first half when Sheffield’s pace up front caused problems highlighted by John Lufudu and James Gregory who both got behind the visitors’ high line only to be thwarted by an Cobblers goalkeeper Ryan Clarke.
Wilder added: “We sometimes have to set our line a little bit deeper but because we had a lot of the ball on the halfway line we were always open to a counter-attack.
“And the pitch was slow so we didn’t move the ball as well and as quick as we could have but we did in the second half and they didn’t really cause us any problems in the second half.
“In the end we looked comfortable winners but for quite a period of the game it wasn’t comfortable.”
Wilder was also delighted to welcome back Holmes following the striker’s frustrating time with injuries during pre-season.
He added: “I think he’ll get a bit of stick for the one he missed but he shut a few of the boys up on the bench by smashing home.
“It was great to see him back out there and he’ll be a big player for us. He was a big player last year and hopefully he can have a decent week this week.
“It was a good test for everybody tonight and that’s something we wanted in pre-season.”