FEATURE: Fit-again Arnold has eyes on Cornell's spot after return from 'horrendous' injury
Although it was refreshing to see the Cobblers make such light work of non-league opposition in the FA Cup last weekend, the 3-0 victory at Chippenham Town did come with one downside for goalkeeper Steve Arnold.
Because his side were so professional and so efficient in easing into round two of the competition, sweeping aside the spirited but outgunned Bluebirds with three first-half goals, Arnold was reduced to a spectator for the most part.
As he goes toe-to-toe with rival David Arnold for Town's number one spot, he couldn't fully demonstrate to manager Keith Curle why he should be first-choice between the sticks.
“These games are always hard and it’s that old saying about the magic of the FA Cup but we did our work in the first-half to make sure we got through,” said Arnold afterwards.
“That was one of the messages from us as players – to treat it like any other game and I think we did that.
“We went 3-0 up at half-time and that certainly helped us going into the second-half.
“We got the job done in the first-half and to get the third goal just before half-time was vital because if it’s 2-0 with 10 minutes to go and they score one of their chances, who knows what might happen?”
The television cameras headed to Hardenhuish Park hoping for an upset but they were left disappointed as the Cobblers made quick work of a potential banana skin.
Harry Smith’s headed opener set them on their way before Vadaine Oliver opened his account for the club with a well-taken brace, while another disciplined defensive showing meant Arnold faced only two shots on target all game.
“They were spot on,” he added. “All three of them are absolute giants at the back and they’re always on it when balls come into the box.
“It’s a pleasure to play behind them because they make my job so much easier and the less I’m facing the better.
“Chippenham gave it a right good go towards the end but we were professional enough to see out the win and keep a clean sheet as well.”
Over the past two months, Arnold has been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch Cornell push his cause to be Cobblers’ permanent first-choice goalkeeper.
“It was nice to get back involved with the boys on Sunday because it’s as hard as anything to be out injured and having to watch the lads play,” said Arnold.
“But they’ve been on fire recently and Dai’s been on fire. He’s had three or four clean sheets in the last few weeks and my job is to push him all the way for that shirt.”
Explaining his injury lay-off, the 30-year-old added: “It was a tear in my tendon.
“I made the save against (Tom) Pope, the Port Vale striker, and I just knew straightaway that something bad had happened.
“It felt horrendous and it showed a tear, which isn’t great! It means you have to stay out a little longer but I’m back fitter than I was before and now I’ve just got to crack on and push forwards.”
And although he was reduced to a watching brief for most of Sunday’s tie, a clean sheet and a routine FA Cup victory more than satisfied Cobblers’ imposing goalkeeper, who now wants a more regular place in the team.
“I have no idea what the manager is thinking but Dai’s been really good,” he continued. “I’ll be doing my very best in training to push him and hopefully that’ll get the best out of him as well.”