Whilst pleased with their defensive performance and the overall outcome, Cobblers boss Keith Curle has identified several areas his side must improve following Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 victory at Crawley Town.
Northampton returned home from a scrappy and low-quality game at the Broadfield Stadium with all three points courtesy of Kevin van Veen’s second-half penalty, which came moments before home striker Ollie Palmer was controversially dismissed for an elbow on Aaron Pierre.
The visitors’ defence was mostly untroubled both before and after the red card, but Curle believes his players failed to make the most of having a man advantage for the final half-hour or so, critical of their decision-making in the final third and quality on the ball in particular.
“We kept a clean sheet and kept their threat to a minimum,” he said afterwards. “On the other side of that, we need to be better with the football and our decision-making needs to be better.
“The emphasis at half-time was for them to start coming out of their shells and start expressing themselves and to make the right decisions in the right areas.
“We should have made them chase the ball. The football will move quicker than a man so you’ve got to keep the ball moving and make them move, make the pitch big and use the man advantage, which is usually in wide areas.
It’s about passing and moving the ball quickly and, to be honest, it’s something we need to improve on, not just when we have a man advantage.
“You’ve got to suck them over to one side of the pitch and then move the ball quickly to the other side and you have a natural overload, but we had centre-backs running with the ball, we had midfielders taking too many touches and that enabled them to get in and around the ball.
“It’s about passing and moving the ball quickly and, to be honest, it’s something we need to improve on, not just when we have a man advantage. We also didn’t do that when the opposition had 11 men.”
The victory lifts Cobblers up to 14th in Sky Bet League Two, still eight points away from the play-offs, but if they are to challenge for promotion this season, Curle knows there’s plenty of work to do on the back of Saturday’s disjointed display.
“We didn’t have to come away and entertain,” he added. “We tried to get people on the break and catch them in areas and we had the opportunities but our pass selection and our technique was wrong at times and that brought more pressure on.
“The back five and the goalkeeper were rarely tested. They gave us a solid platform to build on, but we have to take less touches of the ball and move the ball quickly into areas of the pitch where people can deliver passes and crosses.”