TODAY’S game at Southend is almost a miniature tale of two left-backs – one Ian Sampson hopes plays better than he has been and one he hopes has a shocker.
The Cobblers boss was furious when Peter Gilbert left pre-season training at Sixfields to sign for Southend.
It didn’t help that the full-back, who spent the final five months of last season at Northampton, had given his word he would sign a new contract only to repeatedly stall on actually putting pen to paper.
Gilbert’s opposite number Marcus Hall has been a steady performer when called upon this season, although Liam Davis has got the nod at left-back more often than not.
But Sampson feels Hall is capable of producing more than he currently is.
“I think he can do better,” said the Cobblers boss. “He’s a good player and he’s doing all right but he can be doing a bit better than he is.
“We said at half-time at Hereford that the experienced players need to stand up and be counted. Marcus is one of them, as is Dean Beckwith and Andy Holt. They all did that in the second half of that game.
“We’ll need their experience now and we’ll need as many players available as we can because we’ve been through a long run of games and we’re suffering a little bit now with injuries.”
As far as Gilbert is concerned, Sampson is not holding any grudges.
“I spoke to him briefly when they played here earlier in the season and I just wished him all the best for the rest of the season,” he said.
“He’s a good player and I wanted him to play for us this season. It’s water under the bridge and we’ve all moved on now.
“There are no ill feelings, these things happen in football. You get a bit peeved at the time but you move on and deal with it.”
Expect to see the Cobblers play in a 4-4-2 system today and for the majority of the remainder of this season.
Sampson’s side started the Hereford game in 3-5-2 at Hereford but it was quickly abandoned and will now be mothballed for the remainder of the campaign.
“I prefer 4-4-2, I think you’re more solid all over the pitch in 4-4-2 and it gives you more options than in a 3-5-2,” he said.
“I think it helps that that’s the formation the majority of players have played for the bulk of their careers.
“Most teams play 4-4-2 or a variation of it and I think there’s a reason for that. Teams very rarely play with three at the back these days.”