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Northampton Town FC have gone three games without a goal, a run which spans over 330 minutes of football.
After a good start to life under Hasselbaink, picking up 7 points from the first 3 games, the honeymoon period appears to over for Hasselbaink and reality appears to have hit home, with Northampton now winless and goalless in the last three games. So, what is the issue for the cobblers?
One issue is the fact that the striking options available for Hasselbaink aren’t as sharp as they used to be, possibly due to their age. The main strikers used so far this season have been Alex Revell, aged 33, and Marc Richards, aged 35. Although experience is a great factor to have, the option of quick counter attacking football is out of the question due to the lack of raw pace possessed by the pair. Furthermore, the natural finishing quality possessed by the pair may have gone, as both were responsible for missing golden chances in the home defeat to Bradford City.
The pair are still essential for the cobblers however, as Marc Richards’ natural leadership, inspiration and goal scoring record makes him a vital asset for the club. Similarly, Alex Revell possesses excellent aerial prowess and always leaves everything on the pitch, again making him an essential part of the side.
In fact, Revell’s aerial ability has perhaps not been utilised enough, constituting another issue for the club. In a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation used by Hasselbaink, Alex Revell has been used as the main striker in a target man role. The style of play Revell thrives on is high balls, and his ability to win a header is second to none, however as a lone forward, there has been no-one around him to benefit from his flick-ones and knock-downs, meaning his effectiveness is rapidly reduced.
In Hasselbaink first three games, Matt Crooks and Chris Long did benefit from this and scored goals. However, Crooks has been suspended and is now injured, and Long has been shifted to play out wide recently.
With the cobblers also possessing the likes of Long, Billy Waters and Sam Hoskins, one of these would certainly benefit in a role alongside Revell or Richards.
This brings another issue to light, which is the lack of natural width available for Hasselbaink. Daniel Powell is perhaps the only winger at the club, and even he is arguably more effective in a central role. As a result, Long, Waters and Hoskins are used in the wide areas, along with full backs George Smith and Raheem Hanley. This lack of natural width also reduces the ability to play counter attacking football, and reduces the number of crosses which are swung in for likes of Revell, Richards and Crooks to thrive on.
As a result of the lack of width, Hasselbaink has arguably been forced to use a lone striker system, and this has perhaps led to the lack of goals.
Other attacking options available for the cobblers are youngsters Leon Lobjoit and Joe Iacofano, who have been sent out on months loans to Corby Town and Chesham United respectively, with Hasselbaink stating they need to learn how to play ‘mens’ football.
On the plus side however, Hasselbaink has sharpened up the club’s defence and made Northampton incredibly hard to beat, and it’s taken wonder strikes by Wigan and Bradford to beat the club in recent games, and a clean sheet was kept away at MK Dons.
Of course, Hasselbaink is still learning about his players and is also exploring the possibility of out of contract players, and the more time cobblers spend on the training ground sharpening up in front of goals the more chance there is of things turning around.
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