Hasselbaink enjoys dream start as Cobblers beat Doncaster to secure first win

Matt Crooks gave the Cobblers the lead inside 21 seconds against Doncaster Rovers
Matt Crooks gave the Cobblers the lead inside 21 seconds against Doncaster Rovers

New Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink enjoyed the perfect debut as his new side won 1-0 against Doncaster.

A goal inside 21 seconds from Matt Crooks was enough to gain Town their first three points of the season - and they were made to work hard for it.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took to the Sixfields dugout for the first time

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took to the Sixfields dugout for the first time

Much of the Cobblers crowd were eager to see how the former Dutch international would line his first Cobblers side up, and the big call from the new gaffer was a starting berth for George Smith.

The left-sided wing-back, signed from Gateshead in the summer, had barely featured under Justin Edinburgh, but was thrown in at the deep end by Hasselbaink in a more advanced role.

There was also a debut for new loan keeper Matt Ingram, a familiar face to the new boss having managed him at QPR.

A big roar emitted from the crowd as Hasselbaink emerged from the tunnel, and a bigger smile hasn’t been seen on the face of a Cobblers manager at Sixfields in some while.

Alex Revell formed part of a front three with George Smith and Chris Long

Alex Revell formed part of a front three with George Smith and Chris Long

And if the crowd were up for it, so were the Cobblers players, as they gave their new manager the perfect start.

The call to start Smith was immediately vindicated as Town released him down the left from the whistle, and he used his pace to drive into the area, hold off his man and tee up Crooks for the easiest of finishes after just 21 seconds.

Spookily, it equalled the fastest ever goal scored at Sixfields, which was netted by Sean Parrish 20 years to the day against Luton.

Town had to be alert to a quick response from Doncaster though, and when Aaron Pierre made a hash of a clearance, David Buchanan had to dive in a stop a goalbound shot from Liam Mandeville.

The first big call from Hasselbaink was to start George Smith, and he rewarded him with an assist

The first big call from Hasselbaink was to start George Smith, and he rewarded him with an assist

But that was as close as the visitors got in a first half where Town created many more chances.

The imposing Crooks looked a different animal under Hasselbaink than the one Town fans had seen in the first few weeks of the season.

Showing the position, touch and guile that made him stand out at Accrington, he had two more good chances to extend Town’s lead in the first half.

Revell, constantly running to pick off loose passes from the Rovers defence, intercepted and fed Crooks in the area, but he leant back just a bit too much and fired wide.

Matt Crooks goes close with a diving header near half-time

Matt Crooks goes close with a diving header near half-time

The second - deep into eight minutes of added time after lengthy treatment to an injured linesman - saw Long dispossess Rovers this time. The Burnley loanee whipped in a teasing ball across the area that found Crooks at the back post, but the midfielder saw his diving header whistle past the post.

It was an encouraging first half which saw the Town faithful buzzing at half-time. More energy, more attacking, more chances. Coupled with Ingram having very little to do, Hasselbaink could hardly have asked for a better start.

The second half though was more of a struggle. Town appeared to tire quite early on, and began to sank deeper. Yet while Doncaster had plenty of the ball, they weren’t really calling Matt Ingram into action.

But sensing his side needed more energy up top, Hasselbaink brought on Billy Waters, with Chris Long making way.

But it didn’t change much, as Rovers maintained their possession but did little with it. Ingram did have to be alert to race off his line and head the ball away as John Marquis bared down on goal.

And he then palmed away a stinging effort from substitute James Coppinger.

Ash Taylor sees his shot on the turn blocked

Ash Taylor sees his shot on the turn blocked

After that, Town then faced an aerial bombardment of corners and crosses as Doncaster finally threatened, with Ingram doing well to palm away a header from Tommy Rowe, before Andy Butler rose well to head over.

But the Town side look more resolute than at any other stage of this season, and they stood firm to head away every cross and block every shot - although Ingram had to pull off a wonderful late save to tip over Ben Whiteman's thunderous strike.

The Sixfields crowd's nerves were shot at this time, but the players held out to gain a crucial first win and get the Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink era up and running.

Match facts

Cobblers: Ingram, Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan (c), McWilliams, Crooks (Richards, 76), Grimes, Smith (Powell, 88), Long (Waters, 57), Revell

Subs not used: Cornell, Poole, Barnett, Kasim

Doncaster: Lawlor, Blair, Wright, Butler, Toffolo (Coppinger, 46), Kongolo, Whiteman, Rowe, Garratt (Houghton, 60), Marquis, Mandeville (May, 60).

Subs not used: Marosi, Mason, Alcock, Williams

Referee: Darren Handley

Attendance: 5,843