O'Toole and co must remain patient in pursuit of more game-time
Cobblers players frustrated by a lack of game-time so far this season have been promised by manager Dean Austin that chances will eventually come their way providing they remain patient and keep working hard.
With so many options to pick from in several positions, Ausin has a tricky balancing act on his hands over the course of the next few months as he looks to keep all of his players happy without compromising the team’s chances on the pitch.
One of the more surprising omissions from recent starting line-ups has been midfielder John-Joe O’Toole, who currently looks to be behind Matt Crooks and Sam Foley in the pecking order despite his influence over recent seasons and cult-like status among fans.
The 29-year-old scored a total of 30 goals over the previous three campaigns but he’s started only two of Northampton’s six matches so far this term, totalling just 204 minutes, though some of that can be put down to a minor leg injury sustained at Carlisle United.
“It’s difficult because I’ve got a fantastic squad,” said Austin following Saturday’s 2-1 win over Colchester
United. “JJ has not been at his best this year and he and I have had a conversation about it.
“He’s obviously had the problem with his ankle and I want to get him back to his best. When I can get JJ out onto the pitch at his best, he’s a big player for us.
“But he hasn’t got the shirt at the minute and, like a lot of the other boys, he’s got to wait for his moment.”
O’Toole is not the only player to be kept on the fringes so far, however, with Billy Waters, Dean Bowditch and Leon Barnett, plus others, also having to make do with mostly cameo appearances up to this point.
But Austin intends to use his whole squad during course of the season and says every player will get an opportunity to stake their claim at some point, especially with fixtures coming thick and fast over the coming weeks.
“It’s a long season and we’ll need everybody,” he added. “It works out that we have a game every four days and we’ve got a squad that I believe can handle it but people have to remain patient, especially when the team is playing OK.
“The team is playing well, very well, at the moment and barring 60 minutes the other night and 20 minutes that I wasn’t happy with away at Carlisle, from day one of pre-season on June 25, this group has been absolutely phenomenal.
“They come in every day and they very hard because those are the standards that I demand.”