It would have been perfectly understandable for Chris Wilder to look back on Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Newport as two points dropped having seen his side throw away a 2-0 lead, but instead the Cobblers boss used it as an opportunity to illustrate just how far Northampton have progressed under his stewardship.
In Wilder’s first season two terms ago, the Cobblers required a nail-biting final day victory over Oxford United to survive relegation by the skin of their teeth, but fast forward 18 months and they now find themselves gunning for promotion at the other end of the League Two table - and all while battling against mounting off-field woes.
And rather than focus on his obvious disappointment from seeing his side surrender a 2-0 advantage to draw 2-2 at Newport, Wilder felt the game was more of an indication of just how much Northampton have developed and one which his young players can learn from.
He said: “We’ve made great strides and I think Saturday’s game shows how far we’ve come.
“We’ve come from a team that 18 months ago was looking out of the league to now being disappointed to not get a win away from home that could have put us second or third.
“Yes, we can be disappointed but let’s look at the bigger picture on the pitch and with the players we have who are giving everything for the football club.
“It’s been a long month and there’s been a lot of games in there and a lot of travelling so it’s been an outstanding effort from us.
“If you see the position we are in the league table, it’s great and I still think there’s more to come.
“It’s a group which has been put together for the first year and they’re still learning and hopefully they’ll learn game management, especially the younger boys because that’s part and parcel of the game.
“You can’t always be thinking that it’s all about when we’ve got the ball - you have to make the right decisions and switch on in important parts of the game.
“But it’s a long old season and it’s league two football and we’ve got a result on the road at a team which has won their last two and maybe 12 months ago we might have come away with a loss, but we haven’t.
“We’re just a bit disappointed that we didn’t make use of the fantastic position we put ourselves in because it would have been a big three points for us.”
On reflection, Wilder felt Saturday’s draw was a fair result despite Northampton racing into a 2-0 lead inside half an hour before Newport, who employed a 3-5-2 formation, fought back to earn a share of the spoils.
“Their first goal was the turning point in the game because it gave them a big lift,” Wilder added afterwards.
“We started great, we moved the ball about and we looked as if we could really go and punish them and we were really on top, but a draw was a fair result and it keeps us going and keeps us in there nicely.
“It was a cagey second half which could have gone either way. We didn’t look as sharp at the top of the pitch as we have done recently but we got ourselves into good positions.
“When you have one system playing against another system in football, they might have an advantage in one area and we have the advantage in another and it comes down to what happens in those periods - whether they punish you when they’ve got the advantage of if we punish them when we’ve got the advantage.”
Wilder used up all three substitutes early in the second half but only one was enforced with Joel Byrom picking up a back problem.
“Joel’s back stiffened up at half-time and he was struggling to get about the park,” continued Wilder.
“I didn’t think Dom (Calvert-Lewin) had the best of games but this is a young 18-year-old footballer and you can’t expect 18-year-old footballers to turn it on and play at their absolute max week in week out so he’s learning the game.
“Sam Hoskins is also learning the game and got a great goal but this is a new group and it’s a young group.”
Prior to the game, Wilder was once again forced to shake up his defence after Shaun Brisley was sent back to his parent club Peterborough United with a knee injury and Ryan Cresswell failed to recover from a groin injury in time.
That meant Rod McDonald came in for his first start for two months, partnering Zander Diamond at centre-back.
Wilder added: “We’ve had to make changes again. Rodders has gone in and Zander has had to play.
“We would love to have had the same back four because results and having a good foundation is built on consistency of selection.
“The same two full-backs have played but yet again the centre-halve parings have been mixed up.
“But that’s not the reason we’ve not won here. We’ve not won because we just switched off in that important period.”