Thrilled Luckassen '˜feels at home' as he savours his perfect Cobblers debut
The clock was just approaching the hour-mark of Saturday's game at Bristol Rovers when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink chose to play his trump card and send on new signing Kevin Luckassen with the task of getting his side back into the contest, but neither he, nor anyone else, could have expected what followed.
There were just 90 seconds between Luckassen’s arrival onto the pitch and his equalising goal, scored in unorthodox manner, with his first touch, as he used the back of his head to direct Brendan Moloney’s lofted cross into the bottom corner.
All players are keen to make a good first impression when they join a new club but for a striker who arrived out of the blue, especially one that has not even played in the same country before, getting off to a good start is essential.
Luckassen wasted no time doing that, and it was not just his goal that caught the eye. His sheer physical presence gave the Cobblers an extra dimension and when Town were down to 10 men for the final 15 minutes following Matt Crooks’ red card, he was key to relieving the pressure that Rovers were building in search of a winner.
Before Thursday afternoon, his name was a mystery to the vast majority of Northampton supporters and yet here he was, playing a pivotal role in earning the Cobblers a precious and potentially invaluable point in their bid to beat relegation this season.
“Of course I’m delighted and I’m very happy for the team,” he said afterwards, wearing a beaming smile. “It was a very hard-fought point but I think we deserved it for our second-half.
“The first-half was hard but in the second we did well and maybe we might have got more out of it but we’re happy with the point.
“It was a great cross and I just jumped up and managed to get it in with the back of my head. A goal’s a goal so I’m very happy!”
The 24-year-old is not fluent in English but with more goals and more displays like Saturday’s 30-minute cameo at the Memorial Stadium, he will have every opportunity to improve it, and as he settles into his new surroundings, so should his performances.
As you would expect for someone who has not played competitively for eight months, and as Hasselbaink suggested afterwards, it might take a few weeks for Luckassen to build up the match fitness to start from the off.
“I haven’t played for almost eight months now and for me, it was not just the goal. It was about more than that and I’m just happy to be back out on the pitch and to help the team,” he added.
“I just need to get my match fitness up and train hard because I haven’t played for so long but I will get there.
“The lads have been great with me and I feel at home and that makes it easier for me to settle in and play well.”
It would be understandable if Luckassen takes time to adjust to his new club and get up to full speed but time is a commodity that the Cobblers do not have much of with 10 games left to save their season.
“I hope to be fitter very soon,” continued the former Ross County man. “I need to keep training and I also need more games because training is different to games but I’ll try to get there as soon as possible.
“I’m just taking it game-by-game. The important thing is that we pick up points and go for the three points. It’s not about me, it’s abut the team.
“Of course I think we can stay up. I’ve been training with the lads for a while and I think we have a good team. There are some small things that we can better at as a team but we’re going to stay in the league, for sure.”
As someone who has played most of his football in the Czech Republic and Austria, League One is something of a culture shock for Luckassen, but that does not mean his stay at Sixfields, if all goes well, could be extended beyond the short-term deal that lasts until the end of the current campaign.
“I was surprised to see so many people for a League One game! I’m not used to it but it was nice and a good atmosphere,” he added.
“We will see what happens at the end of the season. At the moment, I want to play every game and what will happen will happen.”