Hard-working Cobblers trio win plaudits from boss Curle
Keith Curle admits he was Andy Williams' 'biggest critic' last season but the Cobblers boss had only good things to say about his in-form striker after Saturday's 2-0 victory over Newport County.
Despite finishing last season as Town's top scorer with 12 goals in all competitions, Williams was rarely an automatic starter for Curle and regularly had to make do with a place on the bench, particularly after the turn of the year.
His future at the club was not assured over the summer, particularly after the arrivals of Harry Smith and Vadaine Oliver pushed him further down the pecking order, but with neither player establishing themselves in the team, Williams was back leading the line at Swindon Town last month for his first league start of the campaign.
He scored the only goal of the game that night to earn Town's first win of the season and the 33-year-old has not looked back, starting all four league games since and taking his tally to four goals for the campaign, including the opener against Newport on Saturday.
"I've got to say I was probably Andy Williams' biggest critic last season and I've gone out and spent money on a centre-forward and I've also brought another centre-forward in," said Curle.
"But we're trying to create competition and Andy Williams knows if he doesn't pull his weight and if he doesn't work his socks off, he loses that starting slot and that's the type of competition we want.
"He accepts the challenge week in, week out and he was excellent (against Newport) and worked his socks off.
"The players who want to get into the team know that as well. Harry Smith was out there doing extra work (after full-time) because he wants to be leading the line and that's the type of competition we want.
"It's the same type of competition you have with the goalkeeping situation because you want your number two to do more because he wants to be number one and then you want your number one to do likewise because he wants to stay there.
"That's the type of competition we're trying to create. We need that competitive edge and there's a team mentality developing from within the squad and I think that's important."
Williams was not the only one to win plaudits for their performance on Saturday though as several players contributed to an excellent victory over second-placed Newport.
"Chris Lines came into his own and enjoyed himself," Curle added. "He earned the right to play and if you get Chris Lines operating in the final third, he can open doors because he's got composure - and then the finish from Sam Hoskins, he deserves that.
"He got three assists in the last home game and not many people would have made the box there but Hoskins will and he'll put himself in there.
"Nicky Adams and Sam Hoskins were instrumental in our shape. Wide players can normally play outside the competitive game but they're in the mix and that gives us a platform and then we go and play."