Boss Page urges Cobblers fringe players to take their chance in Checkatrade Trophy
Cobblers boss Rob Page wants players given a rare first team chance in Tuesday's Checkatrade EFL Trophy clash with West Ham United Under-21s to grab it with both hands.
Town host the Hammers youngsters in the final group game of the revised tournament, and it is a game with nothing riding on it as far as the clubs are concerned, with neither side able to qualify for the knockout stages.
Page will be making as many changes as competition rules allow (he has to pick five players who were involved in the previous game), and it means plenty of players short of first-team minutes will find themselves in the matchday 18.
The likes of Aaron Phillips, Joel Byrom, Emmanuel Sonupe, Alfie Potter, Harry Beautyman and goalkeeper David Cornell have all regularly been on the bench so far this season and are likely to be involved, the fit-again Raheem Hanley could feature, and there could also be a very rare Sixfields chance for two players who were key men in the club’s Sky Bet League Two title success last season.
Midfielder Lawson D’Ath and central defender Rod McDonald were regulars for previous boss Chris Wilder, but have barely featured this season, with midfielder D’Ath making one start - in the 3-0 Checkatrade defeat to Wycombe - and three substitute appearances, while central defender McDonald has played just one game, the 3-1 Checkatrade loss at Coventry.
“We will look at it, and once we know exactly who is eligible and who is fit, then we will go from there,” said the Cobblers boss, when asked if D’Ath and McDonald would be playing.
“They are two players that will certainly be involved in the 18. but whether they start or not we will have to have a look at it.”
It can’t have been easy for the duo to have found themselves sidelined this season following the euphoria of that league two title success, but Page says the players’ attitude has been spot on, and that they, and the other players not featuring regularly, just have to be patient.
“Their attitude has been exceptional, as has the attitude of every single player in the dressing room,” said the Cobblers manager.
“That is why the club did so well last season, and that is why we have kept the majority of players that we believe will be able to compete at this level, and we have to remember we have come up a level to league one.
“The players that we have brought in, the likes of Gaby Zakuani, Alex Revell, Matty Taylor, that is the quality of player that we need to compete at this level and to push us on.
“So it is no disrespect to them why they are out of the team, it’s just we have come up a level, and if they keep training like they are training they will eventually get their opportunity.
“When they do, it will be over to them to take it.”
It will be an experimental Cobblers team that takes to the field against the Hammers, but Page says the system the team plays won’t be changing.
“The game against West Ham will be a good test,” said Page.
“It is different opposition, a different team for us to face, but it is about us keeping our form going.
“We are playing a formation at the moment that is working for us from an attacking point of view because we are scoring goals by doing it, so we will have a look at that and probably keep that the same.
“The personnel will be different, but it is about what we do.”