Momentum key for Curle as entertaining Cobblers give fans their money's worth - verdict, reaction and highlights

Keith Curle
Keith Curle

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Cobblers' red-hot run of form in recent times has been the entertainment their games have provided, particularly over these past few weeks.

A total of 66 shots were taken for and against across their two league wins against Crewe Alexandra and Grimsby Town and that tally swelled by another 30 during Sunday's largely comfortable, but not always tension-free, 3-1 victory over Notts County in the FA Cup.

The two sides shared 15 attempts apiece at the PTS but while the non-league Magpies failed to make the most of their openings, Cobblers were again in ruthless mood as they combined deadly delivery with clinical finishing to make pleasant progress into round three of the FA Cup, just the second time they've achieved that feat in 14 years.

That's now 96 shots in just three games. Why so many? Well, as opposed to his more cautious approach on the road, at home manager Keith Curle is giving his players the licence and freedom to regularly venture into opposition territory.

With Charlie Goode, Jordan Turnbull and Scott Wharton almost left to their own devices at the back, and with the ever-classy Alan McCormack offering robust protection, every other player has the freedom to get forward. In turn, the Cobblers have so many options and so much variety in attack, even if it occasionally leaves them vulnerable at the other end.

Add in their lethal threat from set-pieces and you have a potent team capable of scoring goals in every game, something which is reflected in the scoring charts.

Six players having netted at least four goals this season and, what's more, of the outfield players to start on Sunday, only Alan McCormack and Paul Anderson have yet to find the net.

Cobblers have now won seven of their last eight games across two different competitions and all seven of those victories have been by at least two goals. Even in the one they didn't win - at Oldham last month - they led 2-0 with five minutes to play.

Having also won their last five at home, optimism and excitement is beginning to build as we head towards the festive period.

"Momentum is key for us but the principles of gaining that momentum are the same," said Curle after his side's FA Cup victory.

"We've simplified everything we're trying to do and we're working on the simple things and taking pride in doing those simple things well.

"There's still work to do but the players have to take the credit because their attitude, their application and their focus inside the changing room has given us a good platform to work from."

One of many pleasing aspects for Curle on Sunday was that two strikers - Vadaine Oliver and Harry Smith - were again on target.

Oliver now has four in four games and Smith has five for the campaign, one behind leading scorer Andy Williams.

"Andy Williams put in a good performance as well and he was a goal threat," Curle added. "We wanted competition and we've got that.

"The best thing for me is that we can play any one of those strikers, or any two, in any combination because they all have a good understanding of what's required.

"Ultimately, we want them to be a goal threat and to score goals but there are other fundamentals that we want in their play that we're working on so there's a good understanding as to how we use that focal point."