Jak's the lad - midfielder McCourt set for Cobblers recall at Shrewsbury
Jak McCourt is set to return to the Cobblers midfield for Saturday's trip to Shrewsbury Town.
The 21-year-old was ruled out of Tuesday night’s trip to Peterborough United due to suspension following his sending off for two yellow cards against Millwall last weekend.
The Liverpudlian’s presence was sorely missed in the middle of the park as the Cobblers were thumped 3-0 by Posh, and he is set to go straight back into the team.
Fellow central midfielder Matt Taylor is still missing as he serves the last leg of his three-match ban for his dismissal at Scunthorpe United, and manager Rob Page must now decide whether to recall John-Joe O’Toole to play alongside McCourt, or to give Joel Byrom another chance.
With O’Toole and Harry Beautyman being dropped in midweek, Byrom made his first league start of the season at London Road but it proved to be a short-lived return as he was taken off at half-time.
The former Preston man had picked up a yellow card in the opening 45 minutes, and Page admitted Byrom was withdrawn to ensure he didn’t become the fourth man to see red for Town in as many matches.
“I thought Joel did okay, and I thought he was growing into the game as well,” said Page, who made a surprise by switching to an untried 3-5-2 formation for the derby, with Byrom partnered by Paul Anderson and Sam Hoskins in the middle.
“When we utilised him and got him on the ball, he drove through the middle of the park, but the booking was frustrating for him.
“I think Rico gives the ball away and Joel feels he has to go and commit to the tackle, and he gets a booking for it.
“Having seen what had happened to us on Saturday when I kicked myself for not taking Jak McCourt off and risking the sending off, I couldn’t put us at risk of that again.
“So that was a bit harsh on Joel, but I explained myself to him at half-time and my reasons for it, and he understands.”
As well as what personnel to select, Page also must decide whether to stick with the 3-5-2 formation he tried at Peterborough, or revert to the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 systems that have been mainly utilised this season.
Page said it was ‘something he would have to think about’, but didn’t rule out going the same way as he did against Posh against bottom-of-the-table Shrews.
The Cobblers have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the weekend, where they are set to come up against former striker Ivan Toney, who is on loan at Shrewsbury from Newcastle United this season.
Toney has scored three times so far this campaign - and picked up eight yellow cards and a red in just 13 appearances!
Shrews also have former Cobblers midfielder Gary Deegan in their squad, and ex-Town loanee Matt Sadler.