TEAM PREVIEW: Northampton Town – Lee Harper says Town should aim for the play-offs, at least

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Despite a bright start to the season, Northampton lost every game in December and struggled to recover after a dip in form. But with some better form and another summer for Chris Wilder to build his squad, Northampton will be hoping for a top six finish rather than just a top half finish.

Last Season: League Two (12th)

Manager: Chris Wilder

 

Squad

GKs: Adam Smith, Ryan Clarke
DFs: Brendan Moloney, Evan Horwood, Zander Diamond, Sam Warburton, Ryan Cresswell, David Buchanan, Josh Lelan
MFs: John-Joe O’Toole, Chris Hackett, Lawson D’Ath, Jason Taylor, Joel Byrom, Danny Clifton
FWs: Marc Richards, Ivan Toney, Ricky Holmes, Alfie Potter, Nicky Adams

 

Transfers

In: Nicky Adams (Bury), David Buchanan (Preston North End), Josh Lelan (Derby County), Adam Smith (Leicester City), Alfie Potter (AFC Wimbledon), Ryan Clarke (Oxford United)

Out: Billy Bodin (Released), Darren Carter (Released), Lee Collins (Mansfield Town), Matt Duke (Released), Lewis Hornby (Released), Ian Morris (Released), Tom Newey (Released), Ross Perry (Released), Ben Tozer (Yeovil Town)

 

First Six: Bristol Rovers (A), Exeter City (H), Barnet (A), Plymouth Argyle (H), Accrington Stanley (A), Dagenham & Redbridge (H)

Likely Lineup: (4-4-2) Clarke – Moloney, Diamond, Cresswell, Buchanan – Holmes, O’Toole, Byrom, D’Ath – Richards, Toney

 

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A word from…Lee Harper

On needing a consistent defence in front of you It’s really important, from my experiences you had the likes of Arsenal, the great teams with Adams, Keown, Winterburn etc. It’s very difficult to get an understanding with a defender if you’re chopping and changing all the time.

The club itself hasn’t just had to replace defenders this year but they’ve had to replace a goalkeeper too, they’ve brought in Ryan Clarke from Oxford, it does a huge impact to have that understanding with your defenders, how you’re going to organise those guys in front of you and what they expect of you too.

On summer recruits and gelling together That’s very important. I remember when Colin () came in that first year, we had a go and when he added players like Sean Dyche to the team, that experience really helped no end.

So to sign experienced defenders at that level is important but you still need to have pre-season to put things together. It’s vital, the manager will have his ideas over who his two centre-backs are and what his spine will look like. It may well be there are some errors during pre-season but that’s what it’s for. The manager will decide how he wants them to play and put his ideas forward, and again what the goalkeeper wants too. Who he wants doing what from set-pieces, pre-season is vital when you’ve got all these new players coming in together.

On the highs and lows It is hard and it can be hard, but it depends on how you are individually and how you accept it. I hated losing, I’ve had so many different experiences of how people deal with it and how managers deal with it.

I left QPR the year they were relegated and that was really hard to take, I had such an affinity with the supporters there and at Northampton and it’s really difficult to take when you have that bond. Missing out on promotion too has an effect but if you can saw you’ve given it your all, prepared properly then you just have to come back and prepare for the next season.

It’s up to you to decide whether it will have an effect on you long term, things change in terms of the psychological side of things all the time. I’m sure Chris (Wilder) will have his professionals involved to be ready for the new season and make sure his squad are fit and ready.

On having a good striker Scott McGleish was our top scorer three years in a row, no matter what level you’re at everyone wants a good striker who’s going to get you 20-25 goals a season.

You won’t win games unless you score goals, if you keep clean sheets you won’t lose but strikers win you the games. You’d always want to have three wins over three draws, you want to keep it right at the other end but if you haven’t got someone who’s going to chip in with a minimum of 15 goals then that’s the difference between promotion and not even getting the play-offs.

It’s a vital cog of the team, every manager wants a strong spine and the goalkeeper and the striker are massive parts of that. Scott had a real talent, we were great mates, roommates, he had a real knack for scoring goals and they’re worth their weight in gold, these guys aren’t easy to come by.

On the new season I think the spirit of the football club and the support, the targets should always be to get out of the division. The league’s aren’t easy though, nothing’s a given and things have to click into place.

I certainly believe the club should at least be looking towards a play-off spot at the minimum but the one worry is all the new players coming and getting off to a poor start. It just puts you on the back foot and immediately puts you under pressure. If they can get off to a good start then hopefully that will set them in a good position and they can go on and have a good season.

 

The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: After finishing smack bang in mid-table last season, Northampton have made some solid signings and held on to their two strikers, with Chris Wilder at the helm Northampton have to be one of the favourites to make the step up to at least the play-offs this season.

Key Player: Marc Richards – The striker got 18 league goals last season and was one of the most prolific strikers in the league. With him in the side, fit and firing, Northampton have every chance of success this season.

One to Watch: Ivan Toney – At just 19, Toney has already established himself at the club. Each year he improves his goal tally and made his debut at just 16. Alongside Richards, Northampton have one of the best partnerships in League Two.

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