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Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Frustrated Hasselbaink needs to strike the right balance at Northampton

Cobblers boss has steadied the ship

Matt Crooks (22) had an eventful day at Roots Hall
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Sky Bet League One
Southend 2       Northampton 2
Demetriou 48      Barnett 20
Wordsworth 50    Crooks 43

There is an image of Dutch coaches that they believe in a passing style of play and would rather lose their jobs than change.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, capped 27 times by Holland, does not fall into that category. Having spent ten years playing for Leeds, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Charlton and Cardiff, the recently appointed Northampton boss is basically as British as a breakfast fry-up.

It was fascinating being close up to watch Hasselbaink in his first away match as Cobblers manager - a 2-2 draw at Southend when the result was about right - as he watched on in a frustrated manner.

"I expected more from my team," said Hasselbaink after letting slip a 2-0 goal half-time lead. If anyone was going to find a winner in the second period, it was more likely to be Southend.

Hasselbaink has changed formation to a back four since replacing Justin Edinburgh and went 4-4-2 at Roots Hall with the approach clear: hit direct balls up to Alex Revell and play off the target man.

"Go long" was an early piece of advice from Hasselbaink to keeper Matt Ingram, while one defensive back-pass saw his assistant Dean Austin come out to the touchline. "Forwards, not backwards" was the message.

Hasselbaink's angst was clear almost from the first whistle and most of his focus was directed towards forwards Revell and Chris Long as the boss gesticulated wildly.

Long sensibly stayed out of ear shot, pointed towards himself and shrugged but Revell made the mistake of coming near the touchline for a throw-in.

Hasselbaink did that thing football people do with their heads and eyebrows to gesture at winning a flick-on, but Revell lost the battle. "Too easy," moaned JFH. A conversation followed when the big forward said something along the lines of "I'm trying to do it gaffer."

Shortly afterwards Southend easily played out of defence to the annoyance of Hasselbaink, who turned to the bench and asked Billy Waters to warm up. This was all in the opening 15 minutes.

Shortly after Hasselbaink left QPR, striker Conor Washington told the Belfast Telegraph: "I didn't really understand the job he wanted me to do within the team."

And that is how it felt for Revell and Long, at least in the early exchanges.

However, Cobblers soon got a foothold in the game and Leon Barnett's scrappy opener from a corner settled them down, while a lovely interchange between wide players Daniel Powell and Matt Crooks resulted in the latter doubling Northampton's advantage.

Crooks normally operates in the centre and did not look entirely comfortable playing on the right. He was at his happiest coming inside, which is where the goal came from, and Hasselbaink may need to revisit that positional choice given Crooks is widely-regarded as one of Northampton's most influential performers.

Crooks did switch centrally when Hasselbaink moved to a 4-2-3-1, although he was then sent off for a second booking for delaying a restart which didn't impress his boss.


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One mistake apart (when Anthony Wordsworth equalised), the Cobblers looked strong at centre-back where Barnett partnered Ash Taylor and the main threat came from either Powell or Crooks, while goalkeeper Ingram is top-notch at this level.

Ingram, who is on loan from QPR, made one excellent first-half save and also commanded his box well, although there is work to be done in central midfield where Northampton have injury problems with Sam Foley, John-Joe O'Toole and Shaun McWilliams sidelined.

The game bypassed Yaser Kasim and Hasselbaink's seven points from three games have been earned with six goals from only eight shots on target. That is not sustainable long term, but he has definitely steadied the ship following Edinburgh's shocking start.

Afterwards Hasselbaink said he would have taken a 0-0. I told you he wasn't very Dutch.

The opposition

Southend, winless since the opening day, looked like a team who were feeling sorry for themselves in the first half. They have a lot of injuries, were devoid of confidence and key men Wordsworth and Nile Ranger are still feeling their way back to full fitness.

The gloves - or at least the jacket in Phil Brown's case - were off in the second period and it was much more like the Southend that has made Roots Hall a horrible place for visiting teams to come.

Wordsworth and Ryan Leonard gained control of midfield, Ranger started to dominate and there were chances for Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Cox to snatch victory with headers.

They are a better side than the league table suggests but their Achilles heel for a couple of seasons has been defending set-pieces and it cost them once again. Consider backing opposition centre-backs at nice prices against them in the future.

Southend 4-4-2: Oxley; Demetriou, Ferdinand, Kyprianou, Timlin; Yearwood (Hendrie 66), Leonard, Wordsworth (McGlashan 61), McLaughlin (Robinson 76); Cox, Ranger. 

Northampton 4-4-2: Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan; Crooks, Kasim, Grimes, Powell; Revell, Long (Waters 60).


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Hasselbaink's seven points from three games have been earned with six goals from only eight shots on target
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