Cobblers are yet to get beyond ‘page one’ of Keith Curle’s guide to football management despite their rapid progress under his guidance with the focus still on ‘winning, not entertainment’ following Saturday’s battling 2-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra.
Curle has so far taken an uncomplicated approach to his five weeks in the role, placing a clear emphasis on doing the simple things right to minimise individual errors and maximise results in an attempt to turn around Town’s stuttering form.
That has been in complete contrast to the opening 12 games of the season when then-manager Dean Austin’s bold, entertainment-first philosophy came at the expense of results as Cobblers’ attack-minded style was regularly undone by an flaky, error-prone defence, winning just once in 10 league outings.
Curle’s approach has not always made for the most attractive football and entertaining matches but his focus on substance over style has certainly paid dividends with Northampton having tasted victory five times from his eight games in charge.
The latest of those arrived in comfortable fashion on Saturday when Andy Williams’ 18th minute opener was followed by Daniel Powell’s crisp late finish to swat aside Crewe and lift Cobblers up to 15th in Sky Bet League Two, closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone.
However, despite making such impressive progress during his month at the helm, Curle will not deviate from his long-term plan as he looks to get Town back on track this season.
The best thing is that the fans are coming and seeing committed performances from players who have direction in their play and belief in what they’re trying to do.
“The best thing is that the fans are coming and seeing committed performances from players who have direction in their play and belief in what they’re trying to do,” he said.
“Supporters play a massive part in that. We’ve had to win ugly and we’ve put balls into areas where we haven’t got people running and fans can get frustrated, but there’s an understanding that it’s not about entertainment, it’s about winning.
“Once that winning mentality comes, then confidence breeds from that and then we can go on to page two and page three, but at the minute we’re very much on page one.
“I walked into a very, very welcoming environment and that’s important. Some people will say it’s easy to be welcomed when you’re winning games but that’s what I’m here to do – win games.
“You’ve got to be brave to make decisions you want to make. I’ve got very good, loyal staff and we’re creating a very honest environment whereby we get the best out of the players and they know what the minimum is on a daily basis, not just on gameday.
“We’re setting the foundations and boundaries for the players to adhere to, but still give them licence to express themselves in the right areas and I thought they did that on Saturday.”
Curle praised the impact of Powell, who put Saturday’s game to bed with his first touch when smashing into the bottom corner following good work from John-Joe O’Toole.
“He’s a great tool for us to have in the armoury,” added the Town chief. “He knows he’ll get his time to feature, as will all the forward players. I’ve been able to rotate them and get an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
“We knew he’d be a great option in the final 15 or 20 minutes and there are other players chomping at the bit to get more game-time.
“One of the things we do is that we want to get entries into the final third and then have positive reactions and positive decisions from the forward players. You’ll never hear me criticise a centre-forward for taking on a shot.”