Cobblers midfielder John-Joe O’Toole is hoping his winning goal in Northampton Town’s 1-0 victory over Bristol Rovers on Saturday is a sign of things to come as he seeks a fresh start at the club.
O’Toole signed for the Cobblers on a three-year deal last summer after scoring 15 goals from midfield in an impressive 2013/14 campaign with Rovers, however he struggled to replicate that form following the move to Sixfields as he managed just two goals in 42 appearances last term.
But the 26-year-old is now keen to put those troubles behind him – which resulted in him being placed on the transfer list by manager Chris Wilder in May – and make the most of a perfect start to the new campaign, though he admits consistency is the key.
Speaking after Saturday’s win, O’Toole said: “I’d like to think it’s a fresh start. Last season was a poor season for me but that’s gone now and you have to look forward.
“I just want to stay in the team, play well and get a few more goals and I’ll be happy.
“I couldn’t see this coming at the end of last season. I think everyone knows it wasn’t a great season for me personally but that’s gone now and I have to look to the future.
“Saturday is only one game – it’s a good start but I need to do it every game and get my scoring boots on because I’ve always felt I’ve had a goal in me.
“I’m feeling a lot better about myself now. The injuries seem to be behind me but we’ve got such a good squad now that you need to be at it every game otherwise someone will come in and take your place.
“I wasn’t really expecting to start on Saturday but hopefully the manager’s seen something there. I felt I did OK in pre-season but this is the business end of it now and I’ve got to keep doing well otherwise someone will take my place.”
Wilder was quick to praise O’Toole following Saturday’s win and hopes it will signal the start of a better campaign for the former Watford man.
“Last season was a poor season for me but that’s gone now and you have to look forward.”John-Joe O’Toole
The Cobblers manager said: “He scored a lot of goals down here and that was the reason myself and other managers were looking at him.
“I felt it was a brave move to put him in. We could easily have left him out but we backed him to go and do well against his former club.
“It was a difficult game for him out there but it was a great goal and he’s got the winner for us. He got a lot of stick but the bottom line is he’s walking away with the winning goal.
“Our fans gave him a great reception, our players gave him a great reception and hopefully this can kick-start and forward his career here. He has to help himself as well and if he does, he’ll be a really good player for us and that’s all I ask of all our players.”
Saturday’s goal was extra sweet for O’Toole who was making his first return to Bristol Rovers after leaving the club in acrimonious circumstances last summer.
The midfielder’s every touch was met with a chorus of boos from a vociferous home crowd, and O’Toole admitted he was unsurprised by the hostile reception.
“It was an interesting day,” he added. “It’s what I expected and it didn’t bother me too much but it’s always weird coming back to somewhere you used to play.
“The last time I was here it was one of the worst days of my football career when we were relegated in the fashion we were – it was so horrible.
“It was a strange afternoon but you’ve just got to get on with it and do as best as you can.
“I didn’t want to get involved in it too much. The manager said before the game that they’re going to try and wind you up and the crowd would get you down but you’ve got to ignore it.
“There is definitely something inside of you that eggs you on and it gives you a little bit something extra and maybe that helped.”
O’Toole’s goal came five minutes into the second half when he planted a perfectly-placed header into the bottom corner from David Buchanan’s cross.
“It was a great ball in and I just glanced it in and as soon as it came off me I knew it was in,” the Irishman continued.
“All the lads were asking me what I’d do if I scored but I didn’t really know. I can’t remember what I did, it just came naturally but it was a great feeling to quieten them down a bit because I was getting a lot of stick.
“I got a little bit frustrated early on because we started a bit slowly and they were on top but as the game went on we got into it more and most importantly we got the win in the end.
“I think we deserved it. There wasn’t a lot in the game but I felt we edged it and we’re happy with the win.
“We need to kick-on now. The manager talked about the first 10 games. We got off to an OK start last year but I think we can definitely better that this year and be up there from the start and stay up there.”