John-Joe O’Toole’s recent resurgence in goalscoring form has come as no surprise to Cobblers assistant boss Dave Kerslake.
Following the appointment of Justin Edinburgh in mid-January, O’Toole has motored into top form having endured a mixed campaign up to that point under previous manager Rob Page.
The supporters’ player of the year as the Cobblers powered to the Sky Bet League Two last season, O’Toole showed glimpses of his best form in the first six months of this campaign, but also found himself in and out of the side as the team struggled for form.
But the arrival of Edinburgh seems to have revitalised the former Bristol Rovers man, who has been back to his very best in recent weeks.
He has scored four goals in his past three games, and this week helped the team to back-to-back wins for the first time since October as Chesterfield and then Swindon Town were swept aside at Sixfields, O’Toole netting three of the Cobblers’ five goals.
The 28-year-old’s form has not been a surprise to Kerslake though, who previously worked with O’Toole when he was a youngster at Watford, and could tell even then he had something a little special about him.
I worked with John-Joe when he was a kid at Watford when he first started, and he was always going to be a talentCobblers assistant boss David Kerslake
“I worked with John-Joe when he was a kid at Watford when he first started, and he was always going to be a talent,” said Kerslake, who was assistant manager to Malky Mackay at Vicarage Road.
“You look at him and his stats will tell you he has had a really good season, and he looks like he has found an extra spring in his step over the past month or so, so they tell me.
“He is certainly somebody that, in this division, I would think most teams would look at him and say they would rather have him in their side that come up against him.
“He is a good player, he retains possession, he can beak up play, but it is a major, major factor if you are a goalscorer as well as he is.”
O’Toole will be a key man at Southend United this weekend, returning to a club where he spent a brief spell on loan the season before last, with then Town boss Chris Wilder sending him out to get match fitness.
His stay at Roots Hall wasn’t a successful one, but Southend boss Phil Brown has always been an admirer of the player, and will be hoping his team can keep the Cobblers talisman quiet.
Kerslake knows the Cobblers are going to be in for a tough afternoon at Southend, but he says he and everybody at Sixfields believe they can return home with some reward this weekend.
“It will be a tough game for us, Phil Brown always has his teams well organised and they will be hard working and physical, but I think we can match that and try and go beyond it,” said Kerslake.
“Momentum will be the key word for us because we are in a decent bit of form, there is a good bounce about the place, the players are feeling confident, and I don’t think there is any reason why we can’t go there and do well.
“The manager will take the team and do the shape on Friday, and we will prepare as well as we can, because we feel we can go there and get something.”
Former Cobblers loan man Simon Cox is the Blues’ top scorer and is the obvious dangerman having scored six times in the past nine games, and Kerslake added; “We will have a look at it.
“There will be a gameplan and Simon Cox will definitely come into that gameplan because we know he is a major threat. But we will are going there looking to come away with something.”