McWilliams absence explained by boss Curle

Shaun McWilliams has not featured in the matchday squad for any of the last four games
Shaun McWilliams has not featured in the matchday squad for any of the last four games

Cobblers boss Keith Curle says there are no issues with Shaun McWilliams despite leaving him out of the last four matchday squads, revealing the midfielder missed Saturday’s game at Grimsby Town with a ‘hamstring’ injury.

McWilliams, a product of the club’s youth academy, first broke into the team as an 18-year-old when Justin Edinburgh was manager two years ago and he impressed enough to become a regular thereafter, making 22 appearances for the Cobblers last season.

Even players who aren’t playing every week, they don’t sit around and sulk. They work hard because they know, when they get their opportunity, they have to hit the ground running.

An injury picked up on the opening day kept him out for the first two months of this season but he battled his way back to fitness and became a starter again at the end of October, making 14 successive starts in all competitions up until Christmas.

The 20-year-old has featured in only seven games since the turn of the year though, not even making the matchday squad in any of Northampton’s last four games as Curle has opted for a first-choice midfield of Jordan Turnbull and Sam Foley, with the likes of Timi Elsnik, Dean Bowditch, Jay Williams and Joe Powell preferred on the bench.

When asked about McWilliams at Crewe earlier in the month, Curle cited his omission as a ‘selection decision’ and he was again questioned on the issue after the midfielder was nowhere to be seen for Saturday’s trip to Grimsby, which ended goalless.

“Shaun had a slight hamstring strain for Saturday and he was unavailable,” said the Town boss. “He sustained that doing extra work and that shows the mentality and the work that goes on behind the scenes.

“Even players who aren’t playing every week, they don’t sit around and sulk. They work hard because they know, when they get their opportunity, they have to hit the ground running.

“That shows that those players are putting in the work behind the scenes.”

Foley and Turnbull were both praised by Curle for their performances at a blustery Blundell Park on Saturday as Cobblers extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

“The clean sheet is pleasing,” added Curle. “It shows a good understanding of roles and responsibilities from the back five and also then the protection in front with Jordan Turnbull and Sam Foley.

“They gave us the backbone of the team and again I thought we were solid. Grimsby have a good home record so we had to make sure they didn’t have any fluidity in their play, which I thought we did.”