Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has explained the reasoning behind his team selection for Saturday’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Bristol Rovers.
The reveal of Northampton’s starting line-up an hour before kick-off on Saturday raised a few eyebrows on social media and from those inside Sixfields, in particular the decision to play both Marc Richards and Alex Revell.
The duo didn’t start together as a strike partnership as expected though, with Revell instead stationed on the right-wing and Richards playing though the middle of a front three which also included Raheem Hanley on the left.
But after Town struggled to gain a foothold in the first-half, trailing 1-0 at the break to Billy Bodin’s 37th minute goal, Hasselbaink tinkered with the formation during the interval by moving Revell alongside Richards and switching to a more direct 4-4-2.
The change in shape did nothing to halt the away side’s dominance however, as Ellis Harrison’s quick-fire double put Rovers in cruise control.
Things went from bad to worse for Northampton when Revell was shown a straight red card for an apparent elbow on Tom Broadbent, which came midway through a second-half that Rovers utterly dominated as they strolled to an emphatic victory.
When asked about his team selection, Hasselbaink revealed it was something he decided to go with after watching video footage of Rovers in action this season.
“We wanted to penetrate and get crosses in from the left into the box,” he explained.
“They have quite a lot of goals against them via crosses so we wanted them (Richards and Revell) both in the box and also get more people in the box.
“We haven’t been scoring that many goals so I wanted more players in their box, but I expected us to have more opportunities.”
It’s a tough question because I like playing with Revs and I think he likes playing with me and we do work well in training together.Marc Richards
It has previously been suggested that Revell and Richards are too similar in style to play as a front pair, a notion which the statistic seem to back up with the Cobblers winning just two of the 16 matches they have started together over the past two seasons.
Ten of those games have ended in defeat, while the duo have combined for eight goals between them when they have been in the same starting XI.
Richards was also asked about his partnership with the former MK Dons man after Saturday’s game, saying: “Maybe we are very similar. It’s a tough question because I like playing with Revs and I think he likes playing with me and we do work well in training together.
“We do look to link up and there was a close call in the second-half (on Saturday) when a cross flashed across the face of goal and he nearly got on the end of it.
“It’s little instances like that which we need to create for ourselves. People have an opinion and it’s a tough question. I don’t think it’s a question that would be asked if we were on a good run or if we were scoring goals.
“If both of us score (on Saturday), no one asks that question.”
Meanwhile, Hasselbaink also took to social media on Saturday evening to address his side’s performance and defeat earlier in the day.
He tweeted: “Apologising to the supporters is the least I can do. I’m not even going to try and excuse that performance. I never saw that coming.
“To say I’m shocked is an understatement and to say there is plenty of work to be done is probably stating the obvious.
“I just don’t know where that performance came from. We were awful in the first-half and completely collapsed in the second.
“Yes, I learned a lot about my players today, but I’m the manager and its my responsibility to look at things and put them right.”