O'Toole and Smith are the pick of the bunch for Cobblers boss Page
Cobblers boss Rob Page singled out the performances of several individuals after Saturday's 4-0 win over Southend United, in particular the returning John-Joe O'Toole and goalkeeper Adam Smith.
Prior to Saturday, O’Toole had not started a game since his suspension against Milton Keynes Dons with Northampton notching back-to-back wins in his time out of the team.
But Page decided the visit of Southend was right time to recall last season’s Player of the Year, and it proved a wise move as O’Toole produced an excellent display in midfield, which included scoring the all important first goal that set up a 4-0 victory.
“I’m pleased with John-Joe’s performance,” said Page afterwards.
“He had a frustrating start to the season. It’s hard for any player to get suspended so early in the season and then he’s out of the team and we get two wins back-to-back.
“He’s then got to be patient to get back into the team but on Saturday, from a physical point of view, I thought it was the right time to get him back in and thankfully it was the right decision.
“The stadium erupted with John-Joe O’Toole’s song when I brought him on against Man United so we know he’s a big part of the team and a big part of the football club.
“He was outstanding and player of the season last season and it’s been a frustrating start for him by his standards, but we know there’s a player in him when he produces performances like that.”
Page also had no hesitation in selecting Smith after the goalkeeper’s forgettable night against Manchester United just three days earlier.
And once again the Northampton manager got it spot on with Smith producing an error-free performance.
Page added: “I said in front of the boys that I want men in that changing room and I want characters.
“That was a test for him on Saturday because he knows he had a disappointing evening on Wednesday by his standards.
“But the test was bouncing back from that and I thought he was outstanding on Saturday which shows true character for a young lad who’s had a couple of tough days.
“To go and give a performance like that is credit to him.
“I told him he was playing on Friday. I’ve had games like that where you just want to the ground to open up because you’ve made a mistake that’s cost the boys and it hurts.
“I knew how he’d be feeling but what you want as a player is an opportunity to go and put it right. It would have been harsh to leave him out and not give him that chance, and he certainly put it right on Saturday.”
Smith and O’Toole weren’t the only players to be singled out by Page, though, with Alex Revell, Paul Anderson and Sam Hoskins also receiving praise.
“Ando’s been excellent since he’s come in,” he added. “You play him both sides and he can play as a 10 and I thought he delivered some great balls into the box with his left foot, his weaker side.
“That’s what we asked the wide men to do – get balls in the box – and overall he deserved his goal because it was a solid performance and I was pleased to get him back into the starting line-up.”
Revell netted his sixth goal of the season against the Shrimpers when scoring a third penalty in four games, while Hoskins backed up his Man of the Match display against United with another good showing.
Page continued: “We knew Revs would score goals and then there’s everything else he brings to the team, both on and off the pitch.
“He’s a model professional and he’s one of the fittest lads I’ve ever worked with and I think the fans recognise that too because they’ve taken to him and there’s plenty more goals in him.
“Sam defensively puts a shift in but we know the attributes he’s got with his pace and power. He’ll frighten any defender at this level and he proved it again on Saturday.
“He showed it against Man United too. There’s not many who can out-pace their players and now it’s down to him to continue that.”
Saturday’s emphatic victory catapults Cobblers up to fifth in Sky Bet League One, but Page knows it’s still very early days, warning: “We’ve had a good start to the season, but that’s all it is and it counts for nothing at this moment in time.
“There’s loads of points to play for and we’re already concentrating on the next game.”