Hasselbaink criticises referee for Crooks red but praises his side's second-half improvement

Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had mixed emotions after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers as he praised his side's character for grinding out a battling point while also criticising their disappointing first-half performance.

Saturday, 10th March 2018, 5:14 pm
Updated Saturday, 10th March 2018, 6:24 pm
POINT GAINED: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was happy to come away from Bristol Rovers with a 1-1 draw. Picture by Sharon Lucey

Rovers dominated much of the opening 45 minutes and deservedly led at the break through Kyle Bennett's 34th minute close-range finish but Northampton hit back after half-time.

New signing Kevin Luckassen was introduced and he made an immediate impact, heading home an equaliser 90 seconds into his Cobblers career, and the visitors might have then gone on to win the game had the referee not harshly sent off Matt Crooks for a second bookable offence.

Down to 10 men, Town inevitably found themselves on the back foot for the remaining 15 minutes as Rovers pushed for a winner but they kept their hosts at bay to return home with an important point, one which keeps them hovering just above the bottom four.

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"There were plenty of positives to take away from the second-half but I wasn't happy with the first-half," said Hasselbaink afterwards.

"It's a point gained, especially if you look at the first-half when we were second best. In the second-half, we matched them and played a lot better and scored a very good goal.

"It's not easy to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men but we battled hard and contained them really well. The back four didn't give chances away even at the end when we had one man less."

Town made a bright start to Saturday's game but once Chris Long missed two early chances, twice denied by home goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, Rovers took control and threatened to put their visitors out of sight by half-time.

"We were sitting too much of them and we didn't press them," added Hasselbaink. "We were just walking and the intensity was not there and their influential players were able to get on the ball and pick out other players.

"When their goalkeeper had the ball our first thought was to take four steps back instead of one step forward and trying to contain them as far away from our goal. Instead, we stepped back and that makes it harder to stop people.

"We lost the ball was way to quick and way too often. When you come to this place, you have to keep the ball."

Hasselabink was also far from impressed with the display of referee Eddie Ilderton who gave Crooks his third red card of the season, meaning the midfielder must now serve a three-game suspension.

"The red card killed our game because we wanted to push forward a little bit more and that was obviously squashed because we went down to 10 men and we had to change tactics and change formation," continued Hasselbaink.

"At that point, we had two out-and-out strikers on the pitch and two really attacking midfielders but I had to change it because we needed to get a foothold in the game and contain them.

"I don't often comment on the referee but I thought he was poor today. If he was going to give Crooks the yellow card for the first one, then he has to give one for the foul on Gboly (Ariyibi) who was running into the box because it was a more dangerous foul.

"I thought he was poor and he was intimated by the crowd. There were too many incidents that the referee could have resolved differently but he didn't."