It was 14 months and a loan spell at Cambridge United in the making, but Billy Waters ensured his first Cobblers goal was well worth the wait.
His part in it was relatively simple, adding the final touch to a wonderfully crafted team move, but the timing of his stoppage-time strike at Colchester United on Saturday could hardly have been more important as he rubber-stamped Town’s long-awaited first win of the season.
Despite their best efforts to make needlessly hard work of the win courtesy of Aaron Pierre’s subsequent own goal even deeper into added time, Waters’ goal, plus Matt Crooks’ fizzing finish earlier in the half, gave Cobblers three points that were as deserved as they were overdue.
“They all count! Sometimes those are the hardest ones to score because you’ve got to be there,” Waters said.
“Coming on at 1-0 my main aim was to help the team defensively but a player like me is always going to be sniffing and hoping you get a chance and in the end the goal proved important because they got one back.
“I’m buzzing to score and when you open your account for the season and get your first goal, you like to think you can go on a bit of a run.”
I’m buzzing to score and when you open your account for the season and get your first goal, you like to think you can go on a bit of a runCobblers attacker Billy Waters
For Waters, the goal was a double dose of relief.
Not only did it secure a much-needed win, it also belatedly opened his account for the club more than a year on from joining.
“That’s what I’m about with my game – getting goals – and obviously last season I didn’t manage to do that,” admitted the 23-year-old, who did score twice in 18 appearances on loan at Cambridge last season.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard every day and wait for my chance to get on the pitch and play as much as I can because that’s the main aim.
“I was very frustrated last season because I think I made about 17 or so appearances for Northampton before going on loan to Cambridge, but I’ve put that behind me and this is now a new season.”
It could be argued the Cobblers played worse at Colchester on Saturday than they did in either the draw with Cambridge or the defeat to Lincoln, but on this occasion they got the job done and while it was perhaps not their most fluent performance, it was certainly their most complete.
And for a team who have promised so much and delivered so little in the previous four games, the three points were ultimately all that mattered.
Waters added: “It’s been a long time coming this season but the lads have deserved the win with how we’ve played.
“We’ve been a bit unlucky so to finally get that first win is good for the morale and hopefully we can get some momentum now and start being the team we know we can be in this league.”
Results have been disappointing but the performances, by and large, have not.
Town’s tally of 74 shots so far this season – the highest of any league two team after five games – is 33 more than at the same stage 12 months ago.
Waters continued: “We’ve dominated a lot of the games and we’ve played well in those games.
“We’ve played some great football and it’s not as if we’ve lost or drawn through a lack of chances.
“We’ve created a lot and it’s just about being ruthless and sticking the ball in the net and also being better defensively as a whole team and we did both of those on Saturday.
“I thought the lads played really well and it was an excellent performance. Even watching it in the first-half, we were opening them up and looked the better team.”
The win temporarily relieves the pressure after a sticky start, not least for manager Dean Austin who would have felt especially vindicated by Waters’ well-worked goal.
It encapsulated the type of football he wants his team to play: crisp, purposeful and incisive.
As Colchester’s desperation grew, the gaps widened and Town gleefully exposed them through Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams who teed up Waters.
Waters’ talent and work ethic would make him a guaranteed starter for most league two clubs but such are the options at Austin’s disposal, he’s so far had to make do with cameo appearances in the league and one start in the Carabao Cup at Wycombe.
“I’m frustrated not to be playing much so far this season but it’s still early days and to get my third appearance and to get a goal is brilliant for me,” Waters said.
“That’s all you can think about doing when you come off the bench.
“Junior (Morias) and Kev (van Veen) were class so it’s not easy with the competition we’ve got here, but it’s just about working hard and the main thing is the boys got all three points.”
For Austin, keeping every member of his squad happy without compromising the team’s chances on the pitch is a tricky balancing act.
“He talks to me a lot,” revealed Waters. “He’s a good coach and he’s looking to improve me and I’m always listening because every player can improve.
As a manager, if you’re not playing certain people it’s hard to keep them happy because as a footballer you want to be playing games, but he’s spoken to me a lot and tried to help me.
“He’s always telling me to be ready and as a player you’ve just got to mentally wait for your chance, stay level-headed and sometimes frustration is a good thing in this game. You can bottle it up and then unleash it when you get given your chance.”