INTERVIEW: Crooks concentrating on getting Cobblers on the right track
There were several moments during the summer transfer window when it seemed as if Matt Crooks had played his last game for the Cobblers.
Rumoured to be on the radar of big clubs such as Bradford City and Rotherham United, you could understand it if a return to League Two , where he made a name for himself with Accrington Stanley three seasons ago, didn’t appeal to the 24-year-old.
But neither did it appeal to the Cobblers and yet the club held firm and retained his services for another year. It’s a good thing they did too as, without him, Town might be even worse off than they currently are.
Crooks, one of only three outfield players to have started every league game this season, scored the crucial opening goal at Colchester United in what remains Northampton’s only win of the campaign so far, and he continues to carry much of the creative burden.
With the transfer window long since shut, his focus is very much on the here and now.
“I’m here so it’d be stupid to look at elsewhere and seeing what else is going,” said Crooks. “I’ve got to perform, both for myself and the team.
“What happened in the summer has gone now and I’m focused on the season ahead.”
Crooks was again among Cobblers’ better performers on Saturday but, despite his best efforts, it was another disappointing and disheartening afternoon as visitors Notts County earned their first away point of the season with a goalless draw.
Not all 0-0s are dour affairs. Some, in fact, can be entertaining. Unfortunately, this one was more of the former and less of the latter as Town failed to give their faltering campaign the jolt it so desperately needs.
“It’s been a similar story throughout the season,” added Crooks. “I thought we performed better than them although we weren’t anywhere near our best.
“We still created enough chances to win the game. It got a bit scrappy at times and it wasn’t all nice, pretty football but it isn’t going to be like that in this league - you’ve got to scrap it out and I thought we did that but unfortunately we couldn’t get the win.
“I’ll be a bit moody and sulky the day after the game but Monday’s a new week and I’ll get back at it and back to training and look forward to Saturday. You’ve just got to keep going and keep believing it’ll turn good.”
Crooks was shunted across to the right side of midfield to accommodate John-Joe O’Toole in the middle but he was no less influential in Town’s attacking play, missing one of their three good chances when forcing County goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons into a fine finger-tip stop.
The Magpies stopper also denied Leon Barnett while Kevin van Veen blazed over in the 94th minute as Town’s goal troubles continued, though they at least managed to keep a first clean sheet of the season.
“The most important bit is the final third and the opposition box,” admitted Crooks. “We’ve got to make chances and make them count.
“We were good on Saturday in our own 18-yard box and around the box and we kept a clean sheet, which is a positive we can take away.
“That’s credit to the whole team and the defenders and Dai (Cornell) who made a fantastic save to keep it at 0-0.”
On playing on the right wing and his form in general this season, Crooks continued: “I did it last season against Walsall and Plymouth and it’s not a position I’m used but if the manager wants me to play there I’ll do a job.
“I probably didn’t see the ball as much as I would have done in midfield but maybe in the last couple of games I’ve dropped too deep to get possession and maybe out on the wing, higher up the field, I can affect the game.
“I thought I started the season well but I dipped a little bit and then I was terrible last week against Port Vale and I hold my hands up for that.
“I haven’t been as consistent as I’ve wanted to be, but I believe in myself and what I can do so I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep putting shifts in for the club.”
One win in nine league games has fans looking nervously over their shoulder when a promotion challenge was expected this season, but it remains early days.
Cobblers now have a crucial week coming up with Saturday’s trip to Mansfield followed by Tuesday’s visit of Bury and then another away game, at Swindon Town.
If they fail to add to their one win once those fixtures have been and gone, the alarm bells will ring loud and clear.
“We have to have confidence,” Crooks added. “It’s pointless being negative about it. Obviously you’re disappointed after the game when you lose or draw but you have to stay positive and keep going.
“We have performed well in previous games but I’d just be happy to take a poor performance or a very basic performance and get all three points.
“The pressure is there but we’ve got to be able to handle that and push forward.
“I think, because we started so well but didn’t pick up enough points, there was a lot of frustration. It builds up a bit but we’ve just got to stay positive and keep going and move on to the next game.”