Keith Curle has explained how he went about masterminding Saturday’s win over Oldham Athletic when the Cobblers effectively played the entirety of the second-half without a striker following Sam Foley’s red card before half-time.
With over 10 minutes of stoppage-time across both halves, Curle’s side had to make do with a man less for the best part of an hour as Foley controversially saw red late in the first period, giving Northampton a tough task to protect their two-goal half-time lead handed to them by John-Joe O’Toole’s header and a penalty form Kevin van Veen.
The work-rate, the willingness to work and the attention to detail of our players made their play predictable and 20 or 25 minutes into the second-half we had the best chances of catching them on the break.
But with Hakeem Odoffin on for Jack Bridge at the break and Curle switching to a 4-5-0 formation as van Veen and Sam Hoskins moved to wide positions, Town stood firm in the face of heavy Oldham pressure, breached only once through Robert Hunt’s messy goal 19 minutes from time.
The Cobblers survived a tense ending to register a fourth win in five games and end Oldham’s 10-match unbeaten away league run, which dated back to the end of last season.
“I’ve faced being a man down as a manager and a player and you’ve got to try and keep two up, one in each channel, and block up the midfield with the wide men showing play inside,” explained Curle.
“Let them have spare men but let them be centre-backs because at this level centre-backs get it and kick it and put it into areas and we were able to fill those areas.
“The work-rate, the willingness to work and the attention to detail of our players made their play predictable and 20 or 25 minutes into the second-half we had the best chances of catching them on the break.
“Dai wasn’t really tested. They put a few hopeful balls into the box but I thought our two centre-backs, Aaron Pierre and Jordan Turnbull, were excellent and that was aided by the work being done in front of them by the midfield three and the wide guys as well.
“The full-backs made Oldham’s play easier to deal with. It was hopeful balls into the box
“You usually find that if you go a man down, teams find it easier to find pockets and get behind you but if you can keep play in front of you and make it predictable, it makes it a lot easier for the centre-backs.”