Cooper 'tried to catch Cobblers out' with corner gamble, but Curle's bold approach pays off

There was an intriguing tactical aspect to Saturday's game between the Cobblers and Forest Green Rovers but it did not come from open play, rather it was at set-piece situations, in particular corner kicks.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 3:32 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 3:33 pm
Sam Hoskins glances just wide from a corner. Picture: Pete Norton

Town manager Keith Curle has always taken a somewhat risky approach to attacking corners and often sends most, if not all, of his players into the box, regardless of how many opposition men are left up the pitch.

The Cobblers are strong at set-pieces and Rovers boss Mark Cooper tried to counteract that threat by keeping four players in attacking positions when the hosts had a corner, but that strategy backfired for the game's decisive moment after 44 minutes.

Leaving so many players outside of the penalty area meant space opened up in the six-yard box and a combination of Sam Hoskins, Charlie Goode and visiting defender Matt Mills turned Nicky Adams' corner into the net.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Cooper defended his approach afterwards though, saying: "We know they're good on set-pieces and it was a scruffy one but we've got to defend it better.

"The goal didn't come from that (leaving men forward), it came from a scruffy near post mishit.

"We tried to counteract them because they put a lot of players in the box so we put players in half positions to catch them out."

Curle, meanwhile, kept faith with throwing men in the box and leaving his side vulnerable to the counter-attack, and the final scoreline fully vindicated his approach.

He said: "Last season, if the opposition left two up from our corner, there were screams from behind me that we should have three back because that's what the fans had been used to seeing.

"But on Saturday Forest Green left four up from our corners and we stuck to our guns and stuck to our beliefs and we've left one back.

"There was silence behind me because supporters think 'he must know what he's doing!' and then we went and scored from a set-piece when they've vacated the areas that we know we can exploit.

"That's where our relationship is growing and the trust and the belief in what we're trying to do is growing. We're nowhere near the finished article and we're work in progress but the supporters appreciate that and understand that."