Big first test for new boss Graham Coughlan as ex-Mansfield Town manager Keith Curle has new-look Northampton purring again

New Mansfield Town boss Graham Coughlan's first test is a home clash with ex-Stags manager Keith Curle's play-off chasing Northampton Town tomorrow.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 6:30 am
Northampton Town manager Keith Curle
Northampton Town manager Keith Curle

The main reason behind Northampton's improvement on last season has been the big change of personnel on the playing front.

Curle signed 14 players in the summer, plus another three on free transfers, and injected the squad with experience and proven quality. He's also found a formula that works, even if the football is not always the prettiest.

As for pre-season ambitions, while a top three push looked a little optimistic at the time, most fans were hoping for a promotion challenge of some kind. The current league position and strong recent form has only strengthened those beliefs.

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For a long time fans were split over the manager. His appointment was underwhelming for many at the time and last season's bottom-half finish, whilst an improvement on what went before him, didn't do much to win supporters over.

However, although reservations remain over the style of football at times, Curle has done a fine job up until this point.

He took over a club that had just been relegated from League One and were 21st in the division below and has turned them into serious promotion contenders, something which has rightly won him the trust and belief of most supporters.

His football is direct but effective.

There's a lot of focus on set-pieces and it's proving a successful strategy thanks to the delivery of Nicky Adams and the height and size of the team.

They mostly play 3-5-2 and there's a lot of emphasis placed on the back three, who are busy but very strong and also pose a real threat at the other end, contributing 10 goals between them.

It was a very busy summer with eight players released and 14 signed.

The most notable signings included Nicky Adams, Alan McCormack and Charlie Goode, all of whom have been instrumental in their good start to the season. Long-term servants John-Joe O'Toole and David Buchanan both left.

Curle also signed ex-Stag Paul Anderson, Michael Harriman and Egli Kaja on short-term contracts after the transfer window closed.

Curle has no injury concerns ahead of training this week. Central midfielder Alan McCormack missed the win over Forest Green Rovers as a precaution and he should be fit for Saturday's game.

McCormack missed the first two months of the season through injury but it's no coincidence that Northampton's form has improved since he returned.

A calm, experienced head in the middle, offering control to the team, he is always in the right place to break up play and excellent at working his way out of tight spaces when under pressure.

Centre back Charlie Goode as made captain by Curle after signing for the club in the summer and has rewarded his manager with a string of towering displays at the back.

Powerful in the air, he doesn't shy away from a tackle and loves galloping forward with the ball too.

Wing back Nicky Adams already has 10 assists in all competitions - and most of those have come from set-pieces.

His accurate delivery into the box, coupled with Northampton's physicality, has caused chaos for opposition defences this season.