Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wants Saturday’s performance at Oxford United to become the norm for his side this season as they seek to pull further clear of the bottom four.
The Cobblers climbed out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone with an impressive and deserved 2-1 victory at Grenoble Road after first-half goals from Ash Taylor and Chris Long.
That represented a third league win on the spin – and sixth game unbeaten across three competitions – having previously beaten Gillingham and Blackpool, but it was the convincing manner of their performance on Saturday, rather than the result, that augurs so well for the future, with it arguably being their best display since their return to League One 16 months ago.
They were dominant and on top from minute one and at no point did they look in danger of losing, even when protecting a narrow lead in the closing stages, as Oxford failed to seriously test goalkeeper Matt Ingram aside from Rob Hall’s long-range effort five minutes from time.
It all added up to a hugely satisfying and encouraging afternoon’s work for Hasselbaink’s men, and the Town manager, who was particularly pleased with the ‘maturity’ of his players, now wants it to become a benchmark for the rest of the season.
“I always say that you look at the performance and the performance was very, very good and we want to keep on performing like that,” he said.
“If you keep playing like that, you will win matches, and actually we handled it very maturely when we went into half-time 2-1 ahead and then played the match out.
“We still put them on the back foot and still created chances and that’s why I’m so happy.
“We have to keep on doing the things that we’re doing well. This is no time to standstill because we’ve got a lot more matches to play.”
In the build-up to Saturday’s game, Hasselbaink had stressed the importance of staying switched on defensively and remaining compact in the face of Oxford’s patient passing game.
His players followed those instructions to a tee, bar one lapse towards the end of the first-half when Wes Thomas got the wrong side of Town’s defence and latched onto James Henry’s through ball before clinically firing home.
Incidentally, that was United’s first goal against the Cobblers in over 400 minutes of football between the sides but it could not stop a third straight home defeat in this fixture.
“I think we could have done better for their goal but that is me being really critical,” added Hasselbaink.
“For the rest of the time we were solid. They had one shot in the second-half when Matt Ingram did really well but apart from that there was nothing so it was a good team defensive performance.
I always say that you look at the performance and the performance was very, very good and we want to keep on performing like that,
“We have to keep on going and keep taking every game at a time. Now we want to concentrate on the next one and not look at what’s happened in the past - that’s gone.
“It’s now about trying to go forward and improve and improve and work on things that haven’t gone right on Saturday, which wasn’t a lot.”
Hasselbaink also reserved praise for the 1,125 Cobblers fans who had made the trip across the border to cheer their side to victory.
He added: “That’s what we like to see and that’s why we appreciate them so much.
“It’s nice to see them come in numbers to support us and it’s very important and we really appreciate them and hopefully they keep on coming and keep supporting us.”