Boss Keith Curle opens up on his frustration over injuries to key Cobblers trio
Boss Keith Curle has spoken of his ongoing frustration at the injuries to key players that he feels have severely disrupted the Cobblers' start to the season.
But he admits he is looking forward to them adding to the competitive edge of the squad once they are fit and firing again.
Having decided to go for a quality not quantity approach when it came to squad building over the summer, Curle has been hit by long-term injuries to three of his main signings.
And he believes the issues that have blighted midfielders Alan McCormack and Ryan Watson as well as goalkeeper Steve Arnold have been big blows and disrupted his plans.
Between them, Arnold and McCormack have managed just 125 minutes of football this season, with McCormack damaging a hamstring in the opening day defeat to Walsall, and Arnold also pulling a hamstring 65 minutes into his debut at Port Vale the following week.
Neither have featured since.
Compared to those two, Watson has been prolific in making eight starts and one substitute appearance in all competitions, but the former Milton Keynes Dons man is now sidelined for an unspecified length of time after breaking his collarbone in the Leasing.com Trophy clash with Peterborough United a month ago.
Other summer signings Scott Wharton and Reece Hall-Johnson have also been sidelined with injuries at different times, and the Cobblers boss admitted: "It is a massive frustration.
"There is Alan McCormack, Ryan Watson and Steve Arnold, we have missed key personnel throughout the start of the season.
"But we have still been very competitive, which is what we aim to be, so imagine what it is going to be like when those players come back into it as well? We are going to have a very competitive squad.
"We are three points off the play-offs, six off the top three, so that's not a bad place to be - you don't want to get there too soon!"
The Cobblers currently sit 13th in the Sky Bet League Two table, and go into Saturday's clash with Leyton Orient on the back of a four-match unbeaten run, a run that has coincided with Curle naming an unchanged team on each occasion.
That will have to change this weekend as Jordan Turnbull is ruled out through suspension having picked up five bookings.
The former Swindon Town man has been playing in central midfield, and his absence would open the way for McCormack to step back into the fray if he is fit.
The Irishman featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly against a Cobblers youth team on Tuesday, but Curle was non-committal on when the former Luton Town man will be available again.
"Alan is getting closer," said the Cobblers boss. "He knows his own body, and sometimes you have to listen to your body, because it has a great way of telling you it is not quite ready, or indeed it is ready.
"What we are doing at the minute with Alan is that we have slightly changed his return-to-playing protocol structure.
"Rather then getting all of the minutes into him and then getting all of the data, we are doing a more football-orientated rehab with him.
"Alan needs time with the football, and time on the pitch.
"He has been training now for six days, and we need to get that to 10 days of continual training.
"He needs to be in training, training, training, day off. Training, training, training, day off. So then your body gets back into the cycle of working."
If McCormack doesn't make it, then it could be that Shaun McWilliams will drop back into a holding midfield role.