Northampton Town 3 Portsmouth 1 - Jeremy Casey’s review, player ratings and video

GREAT START - Chris Long slides home the Cobblers' first goal in the win over Portsmouth (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
GREAT START - Chris Long slides home the Cobblers' first goal in the win over Portsmouth (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

As first weeks in a new job go, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s has been pretty much perfect.

Two matches, four goals scored, two wins secured, and a team that was bottom of Sky Bet League One and pointless after the first four games of the season, now sitting fairly pretty in 17th place.

It is of course early days, and Hasselbaink has been dealt a good hand for his opening fixtures with two home dates against newly-promoted sides finding their feet at this level, but there is no doubting the positive impact the Dutchman has had.

This team suddenly has belief, with the players seemingly in no doubt what their jobs are, and a structure to the play that hasn’t always been evident to date this season.

And with confidence boosted following Saturday’s first win of the season against Doncaster Rovers, the Cobblers were in good spirits going into Tuesday night’s clash with Portsmouth.

After a scrappy start, Town showed their ruthless side as they opened up a deserved 2-0 lead in the first 35 minutes.

The first goal was a lovely team move that ended with Chris Long latching on to a though ball from Shaun McWilliams and slotted home to score his first goal for the club, while the second was a Matt Crooks header from a pinpoint Matt Grimes free-kick.

Yes, the ball deflected on off pompey defender Matt Clarke on the line, but Crooks will claim it.

Town had seemingly shrugged off the loss of the increasingly influential Shaun McWilliams due to a foot injury midway through the first half, and they were worthy of their half-time lead, but the second half was to prove a much sterner test.

And the next 45 minutes proved to a point just what a difference Hasselbaink has already made.

Frustratingly, sloppy defending - with both Yaser Kasim and Dave Buchanan unable to clear their lines when they probably should have done - allowed Portsmouth a lifeline as Matt Kennedy smashed the ball home just four minutes into the second half.

That sparked a concerted spell of pressure from a rampant Pompey side, and many Town fans will have been fearing the worst.

They will have seen teams dominate the Cobblers in the second half of matches under both Rob Page and Justin Edinburgh, and claw their way back into matches before claiming inevitable victories with late goals.

It was a game the Cobblers probably would have lost any time in the past year - but not this time.

This team suddenly has belief, with the players seemingly in no doubt what their jobs are, and a structure to the play that hasn’t always been evident to date this season

Jeremy Casey

The Town defence lived dangerously but stayed tight and held firm, getting in blocks and tackles, and crucially restricting space for the visiting attack.

So much so, that in the main Pompey were restricted to long-range strikes which the impressive Matt Ingram proved a match for.

Hasselbaink also played his part, seeing his team was struggling and making an early switch as he took off George Smith - who failed to replicate his performance levels from the weekend - and replaced him with Daniel Powell, who provided an extra physical presence, and an extra attacking option.

Town held firm despite the Pompey pressure, and started to make attacking progress of their own again, and when the chance came to extend their lead they did it, with Long hammering home in the 70th minute.

It was clinical, and capped off a show of resilience that has all too often been lacking in the past 12 months or so.

Again Pompey came back, with Ingram still being kept very busy, but they never once sliced the Town defence open, and they could find no way through the claret and white wall as Town claimed a second welcome win in the space of three days.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but it was encouraging.

After the game Hasselbaink spoke of his delight with his players’ commitment, and their first half performance, but he was under no illusions that things have to still improve massively to avoid the team having to soak up so much pressure in matches in the future.

He was out on the training pitches with his squad on Wednesday morning at Moulton College to continue the process of doing just that.

Town have had a great week, no doubt about that, but Hasselbaink knows more testing times lay ahead, and that starts with trips to Southend United and Wigan Athletic in the next seven days.

Player raings

Matthew Ingram - made a string of excellent finger-tip saves as Pompey peppered his goal with shots. Looks the real deal - 8

Brendan Moloney - still not quite back to his rampaging best, but looks much more comfortable as an orthodox right-back. Had an assist for the third goal too - 7

Ash Taylor - strong performance from the central defender, although his heart would have been in his mouth when he headed Jamal Lowe’s cross against his own post in the first half - 7

Aaron Pierre - looks to be forming a strong partnership with Taylor. Made some strong challenges and timely blocks - 7

David Buchanan - like Moloney, he looks so much more comfortable as a straight left-back. Was up against the lively Lowe and did well, making a couple of crucial last-gasp tackles too - 7

Matt Crooks - playing wide on the right, Crooks was again influential, playing a part in Chris Long’s opening goal and scoring the second himself - 7

Shaun McWillams - the teenager’s match was ended by injury, but by then he had already had a key influence, setting up Long for the opener with a turn of pace to glide past his man and then come up with a neat through ball - 6

Matt Grimes - adds a touch of class to the Cobblers midfield. Busy, full of energy, and excellent in dead-ball situations, he was involved in most good things Town did - 8

George Smith - after his excellent debut on Saturday, the 21-year-old struggled to assert himself on this game. Worked hard and gave the team defensive solidity - 6

Chris Long - was provided with two chances in the match, and clinically took them both. Showed excellent movement for his first goal, and worked his socks off too - 8

Alex Revell - as always, the centre forward gave his all and hassled and harried the Pompey defence. Was part of the link-up play for the first goal, and his nuisance value led to the second - 6

Substitutes

Kasim (for McWilliams, 29 mins) - showed some neat touches, and got stuck into his defensive duties in the second half - 6

Powell (for Smith, 57 mins) - provided a much-needed attacking outlet, and turned in a good defensive shift as well - 6

Richards (for Revell, 77 mins)

Northampton Town v Portsmouth
SkyBet League 1
Sixfields
12/09/17 NNL-170913-102931009

Northampton Town v Portsmouth SkyBet League 1 Sixfields 12/09/17 NNL-170913-102931009