Wilder expects Cobblers striker Richards to return before end of season

ON HIS WAY BACK - Cobblers striker Marc Richards
ON HIS WAY BACK - Cobblers striker Marc Richards

Cobblers boss Chris Wilder has confirmed he is expecting top scorer Marc Richards to be back in action before the end of the season.

Richards, who was this week voted the 13th best player in the Football League in a poll in FourFourTwo magazine, has not played for Town since a second-half substitute appearance in the 1-0 win over Portsmouth on March 3.

He underwent an operation on his Achilles following that game, and has spent the last month wearing a protective boot.

But Wilder revealed that the Cobblers’ 17-goal top scorer is now out of the boot, and working on getting himself fit and well for the run-in to the end of the season.

“We are hopeful, and it will be a massive boost if we can get Rico back before the end of the season,” said Wilder. “But with Achilles injuries, they can’t be rushed and he has to see the time out.

“He is doing work and will be eyeing games up at the end of the season, and if we are still in the hunt for the play-offs, it would be a massive boost to have him back amongst us.”

Until then, on-loan younster James Gray is set to continue leading the Town attacking line with Ivan Toney continuing to be used as an impact substitute.

Gray, who will start in Friday’s Sky Bet League Two match at AFC Wimbledon, scored his first goal for the Cobblers in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Luton Town, and Wilder is hoping the match-winning strike will be the first of many from the Northern Ireland Under-21 international.

“James is a young player, and we took a punt on him,” said the Town boss.

“We looked around and there wasn’t much, which is no disrespect to James because we fancied taking him.

We are hopeful, and it will be a massive boost if we can get Rico back before the end of the season

Cobblers boss Chris Wilder

“Sometimes you are out of favour at a club, and he has come here and endeared himself to our supporters with his commitment, his endeavour and work-rate.

“But as always for him and other strikers, he will always be judged on goals and has got himself into good positions, and been a little bit unfortunate in that a couple of chances he has had, goalkeepers have made good saves.

“We are delighted that he scored, and I think you saw the reaction from everybody on Saturday when they got round him. He is a popular boy and we are delighted he is up and running.”