Crooks insists Cobblers players don’t feel extra pressure running out at Sixfields

Matt Crooks in action during last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe United
Matt Crooks in action during last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe United

Matt Crooks insists the Cobblers players don’t feel any extra pressure or expectation when they take to the pitch at Sixfields.

Town entertain bitter rivals Oxford United on Saturday, desperate for a win off the back of two straight home defeats at the hands of Rochdale and Gillingham.

We need to do something about it (the home form) because the fans pay good money to come and watch the games, and we want to give them good performances and good results. Hopefully we can start doing that against Oxford on Saturday

Cobblers midfielder Matt Crooks

The loss to the Gills was the Cobblers’ ninth on home soil in the league this season, which is the most any team has suffered in Sky Bet League One.

Their home woes have been in stark contrast to their recent form on the road, with Town unbeaten on their travels in 2018, having beaten Bradford City and AFC Wimbledon, and drawn with high-flying Blackburn Rovers and Scunthorpe United.

Crooks says he can’t explain why Town have struggled at Sixfields, but says there is no phobia about playing at home among the squad.

“I don’t know why it has happened like that,” said the former Rangers man.

“It just seems our poor performances have come at home, and that is something we need to rectify.

“We need to make our home pitch and our home games something for the opposition to fear, and hopefully we can do that this weekend.”

Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was unhappy with some of the negativity from the fans in the Gillingham defeat last week, when there were plenty of moans and groans, and team was booed off at half-time.

So it a case that the players are more relaxed away from Sixfields? Crooks doesn’t think so.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” said the 23-year-old. “I feel it is a coincidence that it has been happening at home rather than the away games.

“I haven’t noticed any conversations going on in the dressing room about it, but it is something we need to have a look at.

“We need to do something about it because the fans pay good money to come and watch the games, and we want to give them good performances and good results.

“Hopefully we can start doing that against Oxford on Saturday.”

Crooks also made it clear he feels the supporters have been very patient with the players, in what has been a difficult campaign.

“Away especially, the fans have been great,” said the tall midfielder who, manager Hasselbaink revealed this week, goes by the nickname ‘The Tree’ at Sixfields.

“I didn’t realise how many fans came to watch the club away, and it has been really good.

“The home fans have supported us too, and obviously it has been a tough season, but hopefully we can make it a positive one.”

Crooks has only been at Sixfields since the summer, but he is very aware of the needle between the Cobblers and Oxford supporters.

There has always been a keen rivalry between the clubs, but it was intensified back in 2016 when then Oxford boss Michael Appleton bizarrely kept insisting his team was the best in league two - despite them finishing 13 points behind champions Cobblers.

Town have held the upper hand over Oxford in recent years, winning five of the past six meetings between the teams, including a 2-1 win at the Kassam Stadium in November.

Crooks was on the bench for that one, and when he was asked about the Cobblers-Oxford rivalrly, he joked: “I thought Accrington were the best team in the league that year...”

The former Stanley man quickly added: “No, there is a rivalry there and the fans don’t seem to get on, so it is definitely one to win, and we need the points as well.

“Hopefully we can go out and do that.”

Oxford will be backed by a travelling army of 1,400 fans so there will be a crackling atmosphere inside Sixfields, so does Crooks enjoy the build-up to these big matches?

“Leading up to the week of these games there is a bit more to it, the fans get in and pack the stadium, and you can hear that little more noise,” he said.

“There is a bit more edge to the game, and you really want to win it.”