Cobblers boss Chris Wilder has heaped praise on central defender Rod McDonald ahead of the weekend clash with Mansfield Town at Sixfields.
Plucked out of non-League football in the summer, McDonald was brought to Northampton to learn his trade, with Wilder seeing huge potentional in the former Hereford United and AFC Telford player.
It’s probably fair to say the 23-year-old was brought to the club to act as a back-up to Ryan Cresswell and Zander Diamond, but injuries suffered by both of those players led to McDonald getting more game time than he may have anticipated.
Overall, McDonald performed well, but he did struggle at times after being effectively thrown in at the deep end, before being sidelined with an injury of his own.
That led to Wilder bringing in Shaun Brisley on loan from Peterborough United and he was a solid performer, until he suffered a medial ligament injury to a knee early in the match with Stevenage last month.
McDonald, who hadn’t played for five weeks, was suddenly thrown into the fray on a wet and windy afternoon at Sixfields, and hasn’t looked back since.
He enjoyed his best game in a Cobblers shirt in last weekend’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena, and is performing so well that he is likely to keep his place alongside Zander Diamond this weekend, even though Ryan Cresswell is fit and available again.
“Rod has had to play in a couple of big games,” said Town boss Wilder. “He played in the Newcastle game and he was outstanding, and on Saturday I thought the two centre-halves were really good, backed up by two really good performances either side of them.
“Rod, in age, is a little bit older, but in terms of experience and Football League experience, he is still a baby, and he is getting used to different challenges.
“I even thought when he got pitched into the game against Stevenage he did well.
“To come on as a centre-half in a game like that, with the weather as it was and the ball swirling about all over the place.
“They were difficult conditions, and when it is like that it is sometimes difficult to pick the pace of the game up, but he did.
“He followed that up with a decent performance at Newport, where I don’t think he was at fault for either of the goals, and I thought he was outstanding at Coventry.”
Another defender to catch the eye at Coventry was right-back Brendan Moloney.
The Irishman was making his first appearance of the season after undergoing a knee operation in the summer, and was up against the Sky Blues’ best player in Jacob Murphy.
It would have been no surprise if Moloney had been rusty, and struggled for fitness, but he was arguably the Cobblers’ best player and Wilder branded his performance ‘incredible’.
“The whole back four were tremendous at Coventry,” said Wilder. “But for Brendan Moloney to produce a performance like that, from not even playing any pre-season games, is quite incredible.
“He was up against their best player as well.
“He did get a little bit of protection at times from Lawson D’Ath and the midfield, but when he was defending one-v-one he was outstanding.”