Yes, it was ‘only’ Northampton Sileby Rangers and yes, it’s only pre-season, but the Cobblers still served up reasons for optimism ahead of the new season during Saturday’s emphatic 7-0 victory at Fernie Fields.
With eight of Keith Curle’s 11 summer signings on show and an array of young talent also given the opportunity to impress, James Heneghan picks out the main talking points from Fernie Fields...
Chris Lines looks the part
The early capture of Chris Lines from Bristol Rovers may have flown under the radar given the rush of signings since, but he could well prove one of Keith Curle’s most astute acquisitions this summer.
A terrific passer with great vision, it’s unlikely he’ll be given the time or space afforded by Sileby on Saturday but he nevertheless demonstrated his full range of passing to spot runs and pick out team-mates.
Running the show first-half, the 33-year-old, who also wore the captain’s armband, was the architect of Town’s opening goal with a wonderful clipped pass into Shaun McWilliams, one of numerous chances the experienced midfielder created.
Matty Warburton could be a gem
Signed from non-league, Matty Warburton is something of an unknown quantity at professional level but – again with the caveat of it being against lower-league opposition – the early signs were promising.
Whilst Oliver grabbed the headlines with his hat-trick, Warburton was arguably Town’s most impressive performer at Fernie Fields. His darting runs into the box and ability to pick up spaces in dangerous areas caught the eye, as did his excellent finish for Town’s sixth goal.
He also pulled off one moment of brilliance - a sensational flick and spin in the penalty box that left the defender for dead and gave him a clear sight of goal, though sadly the finish failed to match.
Jack Newell is one to watch
Much of the focus on Saturday was understandably on eight of Town’s 11 summer recruits but the performance of teenager Jack Newell in central midfield did not go unnoticed.
Newell, who only recently turned 18, earned rave reviews at Corby Town last season and here we saw why. He was neat and tidy on the ball but also strong for one so young. Called-up to the training cap in Spain, could he follow in Jay Williams’ footsteps and break into the first-team this season?
Nicky Adams hasn’t lost it
Cobblers fans are well aware of what Nicky Adams can offer and they will be pleased to discover that his crossing ability remains undiminished. He had a relatively quiet game at Fernie Fields but still served up several enticing crosses, none more so than when delivering a pinpoint ball for Oliver to head home.
If that’s a sign of things to come, Oliver and Smith, with Warburton buzzing around to pick up the pieces, will be licking their lips.
Don’t rush to write-off Oliver
Vadaine Oliver is perhaps one of the more underwhelming signings Keith Curle has made this summer but his three-goal showing at Fernie Fields, albeit against non-league opposition, suggested he has lots to offer the Cobblers.
Strong in the air but also useful with the ball at his feet, Oliver showed his aerial prowess by heading home a Nicky Adams cross for his first before producing the goal of the day with a splendid overhead-kick.
Completing the set, the 27-year-old wrapped up proceedings with a clinical first-time finish late on, capping off a crisp team team and showing everyone that he’s not at the Cobblers just to make up the numbers.
Too early to make a call on trialists
It was a surprise to see two trialists named in the team to start against Sileby, veteran forward Nathan Tyson and French midfielder Curtis Yebli.
Whilst Yebli was the more impressive of the two in central midfield, neither did enough to yet earn themselves a move to Northampton. Whether that changes in the future, time will tell.
Expect a more attractive playing style
Keith Curle’s playing style at the Cobblers attracted a lot of debate last season but he always vowed it would improve once he brought in his own players.
The signs so far suggest he will be true to his word. Having snapped up creative, possession-based players in the transfer window, such as Chris Lines, Nicky Adams and Matty Waburton, the Cobblers are sure to go about their football in different, more expansive way this season.
There were glimpses of that on Saturday too, particularly right at the death when six players were involved in a wonderful passing move that ended with Oliver slotting home for his hat-trick.
Far stiffer tests await of course, but so far, so good.