Hasselbaink hoping Spotland fightback will spark Cobblers season into life
Boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is hoping the Cobblers can build on Tuesday night's dramatic fightback at Rochdale and finally kick-start their spluttering Sky Bet League One campaign into life.
Town claimed a precious point from the midweek trip to Spotland, battling back from 2-0 down with 20 minutes remaining to claim a 2-2 draw.
It may have been even better for the Cobblers as they were also awarded a last-minute penalty that could have seen them win it, but John-Joe O’Toole’s spot kick was well saved by Dale keeper Josh Lillis, and honours were even.
But it still ended up being a night of positives for Hasselbaink and his beleaguered squad.
The Cobblers scored their first league goals in more than six matches and close to 700 minutes, with Ash Taylor’s opener the first strike since Matt Crooks netted at Southend United a month earlier on September 16.
Town called a halt to a run of three straight league defeats, and claimed their first point since the 0-0 draw at Milton Keynes Dons on September 26.
They kept the gap between them and fifth-from-bottom Dale to four points, and they also saw the return of striker Chris Long to action after three weeks on the sidelines, and an influential cameo from O’Toole, who must now be nearing a first start of the season.
The Cobblers now face another huge game on Saturday when they travel to Gillingham, who are just one place and two points above them in the league one table, and Hasselbaink is urging his players to build on their late rally at Spotland.
“I hope we can turn it around but I just look at this performance and try to build from this,” said the Town boss.
“We’ve got another difficult game on Saturday but Tuesday was the most important one because we don’t want to look too far ahead and we want to take it game by game.
“We could get Chris Long on the pitch and that helps because we can play from an out-and-out striker, and I thought Billy (Waters) was magnificent.
“He played really well and he caused them problems and I think this was a performance that we now are going to try and build from and hopefully we can kick-on.
“It must help our spirit and help our belief and we now keep on going.”
The availability of Long was a big plus for Hasselbaink, with the Burnley loan man not featuring since he suffered a hamstring strain in the first half of the 1-0 defeat to Bradford City on September 23.
The 23-year-old gives the Cobblers much-needed mobility and spark in attack, and Hasselbaink is now confident the player is injury free.
“Chris is fine,” said the Town manager. “It was always going to be 70, 75 minutes. I don’t want to risk him too much because I want to keep him on the pitch as much as possible.
“If I can get 75 minutes out of him as we did on Tuesday, that means he is getting stronger and hopefully he can build on it and play 90 minutes.
“That’s the same for John-Joe O’Toole.”
Both Long and O’Toole could be in line for starts at the Priestfield, while Hasselbaink’s attacking options are set to be boosted further with the return to fitness of skipper Marc Richards, who has missed the past two games with a slight thigh strain.
Alex Revell is still unavailable for the trip to Kent, as he serves the final match of the three-game ban picked up for his sending off against Bristol Rovers, while out injured are Aaron Phillips (thigh), Leon Barnett (Achilles) and Crooks (knee).
There is also a doubt over Lewis McGugan, who was not involved in the squad at Rochdale on Tuesday.