It was a risky strategy for Keith Curle to publicly criticise his players in the aftermath of their recent defeat to Scunthorpe United, but his decision to do so has certainly paid dividends.
Whilst Curle was not best pleased with what he witnessed from his team when they fell by the wayside in tepid fashion at Glanford Park, sometimes it’s better to lose in such emphatic fashion than suffer a narrower but more flattering defeat that only papers over the cracks.
There was no hiding place for the Cobblers and subsequently players had no option but to accept their shortcomings and vow to improve.
And in fairness, that’s exactly what they have done.
Curle encouraged his players to ‘lay everything bare’ with one another - including himself - in the days after their loss at Scunthorpe; three games, three wins and not a single goal conceded later, it’s fair to say his harsh words have had the desired effect.
“There’s a very honest changing room and they’re able to take criticism and accept challenges, which is what we’re trying to create because that doesn’t come naturally to some people,” said the Town manager.
“Some people, when they get challenged or when they get criticised in a changing room, their natural reaction is to blame somebody and look for excuses.
“But we lay everything bare and criticise players and tell them what our demands are and I’ve got to say they’ve accepted it individually and collectively as a challenge.”
Not many at the time of Kevin van Veen’s goal 31 minutes into their defeat at Glanford Park could have predicted that Cobblers would go almost 350 minutes of football without conceding again.
After three successive shut outs, only Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers and Newport County - second, fourth and seventh respectively in Sky Bet League Two - have kept more clean sheets this season.
With the Cobblers now eighth ahead of their trip to improving Oldham Athletic, Curle’s willingness to create such an open, honest environment is reaping the rewards.
He added: “The amount of times you have a manager go into the changing room or have meetings and the manager and coaching staff walk out and the players don’t say what they would have said had the manager still been in there.
“That wasn’t the case with us. We have an open forum and when we have meetings it’s not just about me speaking to players because I need feedback.
“I need to know what they’re thinking and they need to be brave enough to say what’s on their mind, not what somebody else thinks, what they think, and that’s the honesty that has come out of it.
“They knew they hadn’t done well but they’ve now given themselves a great opportunity and a great platform and have 90, 95 minutes to do their talking.”