Curle largely upbeat but has two big regrets after Dale peg Cobblers back

Keith Curle.Keith Curle.
Keith Curle.
Preventable equaliser frustrates Town boss

Although he was largely satisfied with what he saw from his players against Rochdale on Tuesday, there were still two big frustrations that lingered in Keith Curle's mind as he came away from Spotland with a respectable away point.

An even first-half saw Town nudge their noses in front thanks to Harry Smith's 19th-minute header before a tenacious defensive rearguard in the second 45 minutes so nearly ended with three points and a priceless clean sheet.

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But Jack Sowerby's decision to trip Dale's dangerous substitute Kwadwo Baah five minutes from time meant three points became one as Stephen Humphrys smashed the subsequent free-kick into the top corner, although goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell will feel he should have had it covered.

"It's a cheap free-kick," bemoaned Curle. "The lad they brought on over on the left-hand side is mobile and he's good on the ball and he can move people around.

"I think Michael (Harriman) showed him inside, Jack has tried having a strike for the ball but there's no need because the kid is going sideways and across the goal. There's no need to take that risk - stand your ground, stay goalside and make him do something different.

"The modern game now, if you make any sort of contact, players have the artistry to go to ground and then you're giving a cheap free-kick. It's a good strike, on target, but I'd back my goalkeeper to save that."

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The other frustration for Curle was his side's inability to make the most of their own attacking situations. Town had the height advantage at set-pieces but failed to make it count aside from Smith's goal, while one or two promising counter-attacks too easily fizzled out.

"One disappointment I have is that we didn't put the ball in their box enough when we had the opportunity," Curle added. "We tried to be over-creative and we tried to work shots.

"Just keep putting it in because we've got the big man in there and other aggressive players who want to attack the ball in the box, but it's fine margins and it's about your decision-making. We had dominance at set-pieces but we turned down chances to put them under more pressure."

All things considered though, this was another decent outing for the Cobblers who have now lost just one of their last five league games.

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"The organisation and the work-rate and the application were all there," said Curle. "The players understood their roles within the shape and accepted that we were trying to set traps for them and a couple of times we did, but when we broke we just needed that one more pass to get in.

"Credit to Rochdale, they are a decent team and handled the ball well, but they didn't open us up. You've got to be organised as a defence against them and I thought we did that very well. We also looked a potential threat had we been able to make that extra pass.

"Overall I'm very pleased with a lot of individuals because I thought they grew in confidence and grew in the understanding of what's required."