Matt Grimes has often polarised opinion during the course of his loan spell at Sixfields but the reaction to his performance against Bury on Saturday was universally positive, with no-one more impressed than Cobblers caretaker boss Dean Austin.
Grimes created two of Northampton’s three goals in a vital 3-2 victory against the rock-bottom, now-relegated Shakers, crossing for Ash Taylor’s sixth-minute opener and then producing an inch-perfect through pass to find Sam Hoskins, whose first-time finish restored Town’s advantage shortly after the half-hour mark.
Despite Bury twice levelling through Peter Clarke and then Danny Mayor, Taylor snatched a dramatic late winner to keep Cobblers’ slender hopes of survival alive but while Town’s skipper scored twice, it was Grimes who earned most of the plaudits.
The 22-year-old, currently on-loan from Swansea City having signed for the Premier League club from Exeter for almost £2million in 2015, has impressed in glimpses this season but, much like the team, he’s struggled for consistency, although his two assists on Saturday took his tally for the campaign to 10; only four players in the whole division have more.
“I thought Matt Grimes was fantastic,” said Austin afterwards. “I’m really pleased for him because he’s come in for some stick.
“As a midfield player, this boy has the lot, he really does. Unfortunately, at times, he overdoes it because he wants to play and he wants someone to play with all the time, but on Saturday he was very good.
“I spoke with the midfield players on Thursday about certain things in terms where I thought we got undone tactically at Blackpool and for me, as in what I asked him to do, he played the absolute masterclass of a holding midfield position.”
Grimes unquestionably benefited from playing alongside the hard-working, tough-tackling Shaun McWilliams who did much of the ugly work while his midfield partner pulled the strings, even if his youthful exuberance occasionally got the better of him.
McWilliams’ tenacity and driving run forward started the attack which led to the corner from which Taylor opened the scoring, but though his performance caught the eye of Austin, his place in the team is far from guaranteed.
“I was delighted with Shaun McWilliams, I thought he was brilliant,” said Austin. “He’s got quite a tasty knock on his foot and I could see him flagging a little bit but I just thought, you know what, I’m going to throw caution to the wind.
As a midfield player, this boy has the lot, he really does. Unfortunately, at times, he overdoes it because he wants to play and he wants someone to play with all the time, but on Saturday he was very good.Dean Austin on Matt Grimes
“I’ve said to the boys that I won’t just be picking the team on a Saturday. He (McWilliams has done what he’s done (against Bury) and now he’s got a hard Monday to Friday and he’s got to prove to me that he’s worthy of the shirt and he’s going to go for it.
“That’s what I’m thinking about with him but it’s the same with all of them.”