Crawley Town match-winner Tom Nichols: We had to graft for Northampton Town victory
Crawley Town had to graft for their excellent 1-0 win at promotion-chasing Northampton Town in League Two this (Saturday) afternoon.
That's the view of Reds match-winner Tom Nichols after his goal late in the first half, and a resolute defensively display, sent the three points back to West Sussex.
The 28-year-old calmly slotted past goalkeeper Liam Roberts on 41 minutes after a perfectly weighted through ball from the returning Sam Matthews.
The Cobblers peppered the Crawley goal with 17 shots, in comparison to the visitor's three, and forced 14 corners to the Reds' two.
But title-contenders Northampton couldn't find a way past the Crawley back line, as John Yems' side recorded their third consecutive league win and denied the Cobblers a fifth straight home victory.
Nichols said: "It was a good game, a tough game. They're a good side and they put us under a lot of pressure but the boys defended really well.
"A clean sheet and a win. You can't ask for any more.
"The boys defended brilliantly. If we concede a few goals it counts for nothing.
"Hats off to the whole team really. We defended as a team.
"It was a graft. They're a good side and they're at home and they put us under a lot of pressure.
"We rode our luck at times, we can't deny that. I think they did enough to score a goal or two. They hit the the crossbar a couple of times I think.
"It was a real backs to the wall defensive shift but we've come out on top and that was the aim."
Nichols' former Bristol Rovers teammate Matthews made his first league start since the opening day of the season, coming in for the injured Kwesi Appiah, and made an instant impact.
The 24-year-old laid on the assist for Nichols' goal and helped the Reds continue their winning start to 2022.
Nichols was delighted with Matthews' contribution and admitted he missed playing alongside the midfielder while he was injured.
He added: "I've missed playing with Sam. He finds little pockets and I like playing with him.
"Kwesi has been one of the standout players of the season so we did miss him at times.
"It's a shame he picked up a bit of a knock but Sam stepped in and did really well and set up the goal.
"It's good that we've got players coming into the side and making an impact."
Crawley's good run of form has coincided with a change in formation. Manager Yems has abandoned the 4-4-2 that the Reds used in the first half of the season in favour of a 3-4-3.
And the change of shape has helped Nichols, who netted his second goal in four league games in the win at Sixfields.
The striker said the change in formation has helped him regain his goalscoring touch after a tough start to the campaign.
Nichols said: "I've been enjoying it. My productivity is starting to increase again. My start to the season hasn't been good enough on a personal level.
"I'm starting to find more of the ball, I'm enjoying it and the performances are picking up.
"As a team, we're on a good little run but if we lose the next few it counts for nothing.
"The change of shape has really worked but we've got to keep working on it and keep on improving."