Jack Bridge has not had it easy since signing for the Cobblers a little over 12 months ago, but against Carlisle United on Saturday, he illustrated why Dean Austin was so keen to bring him to the club.
Austin, assistant boss at the time, persuaded then-manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to take a chance on the 23-year-old, who had become an outcast at previous club Southend United, during last year’s January transfer window.
It took a while for Bridge to get a game for the Cobblers – not until after Hasselbaink’s sacking in April did he eventually feature – and even under Austin and then Keith Curle, his opportunities have been limited. When he has played, it’s often been out of position.
But with Matt Crooks sold and Town in need of creativity, Bridge was given the nod in his favoured number 10 position for Saturday’s visit of Carlisle, stationed behind Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams and in front of Sam Foley and Shaun McWilliams.
He grasped the opportunity with both hands. Even before he scored twice and set up another in a dazzling second-half performance, he was well on course to being named man of the match.
“It was a great afternoon,” said the midfielder. “On a personal note it was good to get two goals and an assist but from the team’s point of view, the clean sheet and to win 3-0 made it a great day for us.
I’m happy to play anywhere for the team, whether it’s out wide or in the centre, but I feel I’m able to affect the game more in the middle of the pitch.
“It’s a good response. As a team we back ourselves because we know we’re good enough to compete against any team at this level and I think we showed that against Carlisle.”
Players will always talk of putting the team before themselves but there can be no doubt that Bridge was the standout performer on Saturday, netting Town’s first two, teeing up the third and generally buzzing about in the free role.
“I’m pleased with my performance and it’s always nice to affect the game in that way because that’s what I base my football on - when I play, I want to influence the result and I did that on Saturday,” he added.
“It was important for us to get the goal early in the second-half because it kicked us on for the rest of the game. It was good work from Shay (Facey), a great ball in and then Hosko made a nuisance of himself and the ball fell to me and I was able to put it into the net.
“The second goal was down the same side and Sam (Foley) set it up to me and again I finished it off. I’m not sure how I did it but the ball went in which is the main thing!
“I might have got my hat-trick too but he (Daniel Powell) was a step ahead of me and it was probably easier for him to take on the shot. Obviously I was looking to get on the end of it but Powelly was unlucky not to score.”