The dust barely had time to settle on Cobblers’ first win of the season and manager Dean Austin’s mind was already focused on making sure this pressure-relieving victory in East Essex is only the springboard for a successful campaign.
After four wins and just two points, Town finally turned potential into substance and a good performance into three points at the expense of Colchester United, courtesy of second-half goals from Matt Crooks and Billy Waters as the home team’s undefeated start came to an abrupt halt.
For players, fans and of course Austin, the relief at full-time was obvious but the Northampton boss knows one game and one win means little in the context of the season and there’s precious little time to be patting yourself on the back in the fast and furious world of English football.
“Our professionalism, our resilience and our play pleased me but I was pleased with everything to be honest,” said Austin after his first win as full-time Cobblers boss.
“I praised the boys at half-time because I thought they had played well and I felt we should have been in front but I said that we needed to click through the gears and step it up more.
“I felt we had more in the tank and we could do more damage to them. We just needed that bit of ruthlessness and we found it, but now we have to use this as a platform with which to move forward.
“We’ve got a hard week coming up, a hard week of training, and I’ve told the boys to forget about football and to go and disconnect for a couple of days.
“But come Tuesday morning, when we’re in for the whole week, they need to be professionally focused and looking forward to Tranmere at the weekend.”
Crooks, scorer of the all-important first goal three minutes into the second-half, was among those to be praised by Austin at full-time but he undoubtedly benefited from having the hard-running, hard-working Sam Foley as his midfield partner.
And while Colchester struggled to muster much of a threat at the other end, goalkeeper David Cornell also played a key role in this victory with two match-winning stops when the game was in the balance at 1-0, perhaps putting to bed the debate over who should be Town’s number one for the time being.
I think Saturday was big for us but it’s one game and it’s three points – that’s all it is as far as I’m concerned. We have to use it as a platform.
“I’ve not seen people talk about the goalkeeping situation,” added Austin. “At the end of the day I’ve got two very good goalkeepers to choose from.
“Lewis (Ward) has obviously come in a little late and hasn’t had as much game-time but Dai has the shirt at the minute and he’s done well in all the games.
“Crooksy is a top player. He can be anything he wants to be and he knows that and he knows what my feelings are towards him. It’s a great strike.”
Austin must have felt particularly vindicated by Waters’ points-sealing second goal which encapsulated the style of football he wants to implement. With gaps opening up as Colchester pressed, Town picked them off with some crisp passing football, culminating in an easy tap-in for Waters.
“At this level it can become a bit of a game of basketball and helter-skelter and yes, we want to close the game out, but I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not going to be one of those managers who’s going to sit back on what we have,” continued Austin.
“We’re not at our best when we do that and I need us to be at our best and us being at our best in being on the front foot.”