Curle praises 'professional' Martin and 'exciting' Chukwuemeka

Duo were part of hard-fought win at Shrewsbury

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:48 pm
Caleb Chukwuemeka holds off Joe Martin during a first-team versus youth team training match in pre-season.

Keith Curle has praised defender Joe Martin for seizing his opportunity when it came along following his impressive display against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.

A raft of injuries meant the left-back was drafted in at centre-half for the League One fixture and he produced a fine performance alongside Cian Bolger as Cobblers collected their first three points of the season.

"Joe has kept himself fit and has good mental strength and he's an excellent professional," said Curle. "We switched to a back four very late in the day on Saturday and it suited Joe even though he wasn't playing in his natural left-back position.

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"He's learning and developing and understanding how to play as the left-sided centre-back because that allows Joseph Mills to get forward into a more attacking role.

"Where our first goal came from, it was Joseph Mills crossing from the dead-ball line and that's because he's got confidence in Joe behind him who can defend in wide areas as a centre-back. That's down to how we play and how we're developing and also because of his natural attributes as a left-back."

Martin had started just two league games in 2020 prior to Town's trip to New Meadow.

"I don't think it's been a case of Joe being out of favour," Curle added. "It's more a case of him suffering from the switch in formation last season and the attacking threat we wanted in the wide areas on the left side.

"He's got the flexibility and the professional standards that are required. You can play Joe at left-back, on the left side of a three or on the left side of a two and that's invaluable.

"Having that versatility is important and when he gets his opportunity, he's got to take it and I thought he was almost faultless on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Caleb Chukwuemeka hadn't played a professional game at the start of September but he's featured in all of the last three fixtures, coming off the bench against Wimbledon and Shrewsbury and starting at Bristol City in the EFL Cup.

"Caleb has got an unpredictability about him and he can be unorthodox at times," said Curle. "What we're trying to do is get the fundamentals in place in his play without taking away that excitement and that freedom in his play.

"Part of his foundation within his play is that he's allowed to express himself but he also needs to work on retaining possession and keeping the ball. But when you turn and you're facing the goal, go and play."