Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wants to see more consistency from ‘Championship player’ Matt Crooks after the midfielder played a starring role in Saturday’s 3-1 win at AFC Wimbledon.
The signing of Crooks generated much excitement in the summer after his exploits at Accrington Stanley but, having struggled for a season at Rangers, he’s touched those heights only in patches during his first campaign at Sixfields.
On Saturday, though, the 24-year-old produced arguably his best performance in a Northampton shirt as they bounced back to winning ways with a well-deserved three points at Kingsmeadow.
Crooks’ marauding runs from deep were a feature of the game throughout and two of his many charges up field led to second-half goals following Matt Grimes’ early penalty and Deji Oshilaja’s equaliser. Firstly, he applied a crisp finish to John-Joe O’Toole’s cutback to restore Town’s lead on 62 minutes before he started the move which led to Daniel Powell’s points-sealing third.
Crooks has been something of an enigma for the Cobblers this season but if Hasselbaink can find a way to coax the best out of him on a regular basis, Town’s chances of survival will dramatically improve.
“If you go to a place like Wimbledon, you know you have to dig deep and you have to show character and have personality, otherwise you’ll struggle because it’s a very tough place to play,” said Hasselbaink.
“That’s what we are looking for from Matt. I thought he was very energetic and had a lot of energy all game.
“If you look at him and you see what he can do, you would think he’s a Championship player.”
Crooks was far from the only player to impress on Saturday with O’Toole involved in all three goals and Ash Taylor a rock at the back, although new signing Kevin van Veen, on his full Cobblers debut, was limited to a bit-part role
It was the first league game that Chris Long had not started since October, such as been his importance, but Hasselbaink plans to mix things up depending on the opposition and other circumstances, with Everton loanee Boris Mathis also an option if and when required.
“I’ve got three out-and-out strikers and one who can play half-half and also play in midfield as well as a second striker,” added Hasselbaink.
“We needed that extra physicality on Saturday so that’s why we played two bigger ones up front although Kevin is very mobile.
“You will see matches and times when Kevin plays with Chris or one of those two are on their own but for this particular match we felt we needed to bigger lads up front because of the players Wimbledon have and I thought Kevin did OK in patches.
“He’s a very gifted player and I think he’s still getting to know his team-mates so he will grow and we want to make him better at scoring more goals but also providing goals and he’s a big asset for us.”