In-form O'Toole credits manager Edinburgh for his Cobblers goal rush
Seven goals in his past seven games... five of those goals directly securing three wins and a draw... it's fair to say John-Joe O'Toole has been pretty crucial to the Cobblers in the past few weeks.
The midfielder was rewarded for his fantastic February with a nomination for the Sky Bet League One player of the month award this week, after scoring six times for Town in the month, although he was somewhat surprisingly overlooked in favour of Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp.
O’Toole’s hot streak continued into the month of March as he scored the winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Charlton Athletic, and it could be argued that the reigning Cobblers player of the year is producing his best form since he joined the club from Bristol Rovers in 2014.
Even before his recent goal rush, O’Toole had been a key man for Town for much of this season, but his form has definitely taken a turn for the better since the arrival of Justin Edinburgh.
And the player admits the new manager has played a huge role in his improvement.
“I think a lot of credit has to go to the manager,” said O’Toole, when asked what has been the secret to his hot streak in front of goal.
“When he came in, within a couple of games he called me in and asked me what my favourite position would be, or how I wanted to go about things.
“I said to him that I had been playing a little bit deeper, and I would rather be pushing on and trying to score goals.
“Since then I have done alright goalscoring wise, so a lot of credit would have to go to the manager for that, but I think there has been a change in everything.
“It has been a lot different, and has benefitted me, so hopefully it can continue and I can score a few more goals.”
O’Toole scored 12 goals in the Cobblers’ charge to the league two title last season, and he has now matched that tally this time around, and there are still 10 games remaining.
In his career to date, O’Toole’s best return in a season was the 15 he netted for Bristol Rovers in the campaign before signing on at Sixfields, and when asked if he could top that over the next couple of months, he said: “I can only try.
“Hopefully I can, and I suppose there are enough games left to exceed that total. So fingers crossed.”
Even if he doesn’t better that 15-goal target, O’Toole’s recent form has rubber-stamped his claim to be the big fans’ favourite at Sixfields.
There is no doubt the Cobblers supporters love the 28-year-old, and are desperate for him to sign a new contract that will see him stay at the club beyond the end of the season.
As it stands, O’Toole will be a free agent in July, but Edinburgh has stated he wants to keep him, and O’Toole has intimated he wants to stay.
So hopefully his future will all be sorted out in the next few weeks, but O’Toole doesn’t have to look too far back to a time when he thought he never had any sort of future at the Cobblers.
Town travel to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, and it was the corresponding fixture last season where his rebirth as a Cobblers player began.
An exasperated Chris Wilder had at that time made it pretty clear there was no future at the club for a player he had lost faith in.
O’Toole had been transfer-listed and made available for loan, but then, thanks to suspension and injury, Wilder had to play him in the league clash at Kingsmeadow at the end of September.
And O’Toole took his chance.
He scored in the 1-1 draw, kept his place for the following game, and never looked back, going on to become a lynchpin of Wilder’s midfield.
“I remember that game, and it is strange how it works out,” said O’Toole.
“I managed to get in the team somehow, through suspensions and whatnot, and I think I owe Jason Taylor a few drinks for getting sent off! I don’t know how, but it just gradually happened, I kept my place, and here we are.”
After a patchy start to this season, with previous manager Rob Page clearly having doubts about the player, O’Toole is again the main man.
His goal against the Addicks eased the pressure on the Cobblers following last Tuesday’s home defeat against Oldham, and O’Toole said: “Tuesday night was a kick in the teeth, especially with Oldham down there with us, but Saturday’s win has put a bit of space between us and that end of the table.
“We are still not clear of it, but it is a step in the right direction and it was a massive three points for us at the weekend which stands us in good stead. Things are looking up.
“We now need to kick on again, and get another three points on Saturday.”
O’Toole is well aware that is easier said than done, with Wimbledon three places and four points above the Cobblers having enjoyed a good season.
“We need to build on Saturday, but it will be a tough game because Wimbledon are doing alright,” said the Londoner.
“They have probably outdone a few people’s expectations, and all credit to them, they are where they are for a reason. We need to go there and make sure we get some sort of result, but I don’t see why we can’t win.”
O’Toole also took time out to praise his central midfield partner Matt Taylor.
The pair have been ever-presents in the team since Edinburgh took charge of the team, and O’Toole says having such an experienced professional alongside him is a huge help.
“Matty is a good lad, and a good pro,” said the Cobblers top scorer.
“His career speaks for itself, and he adds a lot to the group.
“He has assisted me with a few goals this season, so I owe him a lot for that.
“Matt is good to play with, he knows the game, and he is always encouraging me to get forward like he did on Saturday.
“He’s trying to take credit for my goal against Charlton, and getting into me, but he is a good player.”