Cobblers boss Page confident Zakuani and Nyatanga will form solid defensive partnership

Cobblers boss Rob Page is backing Gaby Zakuani and Lewin Nyatanga to form a strong central defensive partnership following the news that Zander Diamond will be out of action for up to six weeks.

Monday, 21st November 2016, 4:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd November 2016, 12:27 pm
Lewin Nyatanga and Adam Smith discuss Peterborough's last-gasp winner at Sixfields on Saturday (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

The Scotsman suffered a fractured cheekbone in Saturday's 1-0 derby defeat to Peterborough United at Sixfields, and could be sidelined until the new year.

Diamond has started every Sky Bet League One match this season, partnering either Zakuani or Nyatanga in all bar one of the games, with all three playing on one occasion in the 3-0 loss to Posh at London Road.

With the former Aberdeen man out of the picture, Page will turn to Nyatanga, who is on loan from Barsnley, and summer signing Zakuani for Tuesday's trip to high-flying Bradford City.

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Gaby Zakuani in action against Peterborough on Saturday

The final few agonising seconds aside, the pair looked to have forged an immediate understanding against Posh, after Zakuani replaced Diamond midway through the first half.

"I thought Gaby was outstanding when he came on on Saturday," said Page. "The first two tackles he made in the first minute he was on the pitch summed it up, and I thought he was excellent.

"It is an opportunity now for Gaby and Lewin to put a stamp on the partnership, and on paper it looks good.

"It looked good on Saturday up until the last 30 seconds of the game, and because of Zander's injury it is something we have to do, but by no means can you call it second best.

Cobblers boss Rob Page

"Lewin has experience in the championship having come from a championship team, and Gaby has had a lot of experience.

"You talk about having characters in your team and Gaby is certainly one of them, and I am looking forward to seeing them work together.

"Lewin has played at international level as well as in the championship and he is a calming influence on the pitch as well, and Gaby is what I call a warrior.

"He will head balls away, he will clear his lines, and he has been excellent for us since signing.

Gaby Zakuani in action against Peterborough on Saturday

"There is enough experience at the back with Buchs (Dave Buchanan) and Brendan (Moloney), who was excellent on Saturday, to manage games for us."

The on-field managing of games is something Page has not been too happy with in the past few weeks, with last-gasp goals seeing his team lose to Gillingham and Peterborough on successive Saturdays.

In his post-match interview on Saturday, Page was unhappy with goalkeeer Adam Smith as well as his central defenders following Chris Forrester's last-gasp winner for Posh, and he hasn't changed his mind.

Speaking on Monday morning, Page was asked about his criticism of Smith, and he said: "I stand by what I said on Saturday.

Cobblers boss Rob Page

"In vital positions on the pitch I think that when called upon you need to come and deal with it. There was more than enough space in front of him (Smith) to come and collect.

"I look at the centre-halves, I look at the goalkeeper, and I think we could have dealt with that cross."

It was a painful defeat to the old enemy, the second in a little over a month, and Page admitted it was tough to come to terms with.

"It is still difficult to take, and the last two weeks have been difficult results to take," said the Cobblers boss.

"To get beaten in both games in 90-plus minutes is deeply disappointing, and it was a local derby on Saturday that adds to it, and it was a disappointing weekend.

"I thought their keeper made the best saves, and I don't think Adam Smith had a lot to do throughout the game.

"Their keeper has had to make two great saves, one from Matty Taylor's free-kick which is going into the top corner, and one with his feet, and outside of that they didn't really threaten.

"We created the better chances, so it was a frustrating afternoon, and one ball goes in the box in the 92nd-minute ends up going in the goal and we lose the game.

"So in the last two matches we should have potentially had another two points on the board, and we have come away with nothing."

The Cobblers will be without Diamond for Tuesday's trip to Valley Parade, while JJ Hooper is again likely to be missing due to his thigh strain. Page has no other injury concerns.