Hot competition is bringing the best out of Cobblers' strike trio
Keith Curle believes the keen competition for places is bringing the best out of the Cobblers' trio of strikers.
Vadaine Oliver, Andy Williams and Harry Smith are all vying to lead the line for Town, with Oliver and Williams the current combination that Keith Curle is going with.
With Curle opting for two front men instead of the one he has utilised for most of the campaign, they have started the past two games which have resulted in a 4-1 win over Crewe Alexandra and Saturday's 2-0 win over Grimsby Town at the PTS Academy Stadium.
Oliver scored his first Sky Bet League Two goal for the club against the Mariners, off the back of his man-of-the-match role in the previous week's win over the Railwaymen.
The former Morecambe man also scored twice in the FA Cup first round win at Chippenham Town, and is now making it hard for Curle to leave him out of the starting line-up, having spent most of the first three months of the campaign as a substitute.
Williams is currently the club's leading scorer with six goals - all in the league - while Harry Smith has also netted four times.
The trio have all been in and out of the team, dependent on how Curle wants to attack a particular opposition, and the manager believes the fact they are having to fight for a start is keeping them on their toes.
"I am pleased for Vadaine, but I think him, Andy Williams and Harry Smith are all good players," said Curle, after being asked about Oliver breaking his League duck at the weekend.
"I think it's the competition we have got, and they know they will all get game time.
"The one, or the ones, who aren't starting are frustrated and disappointed, but the pleasing thing is they are showing that in the right way.
"They are showing that by driving on those that are playing, knowing that they will also get an opportunity.
"Then they need to be right, not only physically, but mentally as well."
Saturday's win was hard-fought for the Cobblers, who had to withstand an early flurry of attacks from Grimsby, but then assumed control of the match once Oliver had fired them 2-0 ahead four minutes before half-time.
There were a couple of scares after the interval, but overall it was a half that Town dominated, and Curle was pleased with his side's professionalism.
"I thought we were professional and had a good understanding about distances," said the Cobblers boss.
"Grimsby had a few little skirmishes which you are going to get when you have players of the quality of James Hanson and Matt Green up front.
"They are going to create things, and then when they went 2-0 down they can go a little bit more gung-ho, be a little bit more adventurous and gamble a little bit more.
"But we stuck to it, and we were able to put people in the right places at the right times."
The Cobblers now have a free week before they host National League side Notts County in the FA Cup second round at the PTS next Sunday (ko 2pm).
The Magpies were beaten 2-1 at Aldershot on Saturday, and they have another league game on Tuesday night when they host Borehamwood at Meadow Lane.