>Aldershot Town 2-1 Northampton Town
Tuesday, 24th November 2009
I’m not usually one to use clichés but the oldest one in the book, “it’s a game of two halves” could never be more apt than when used to describe last night’s game. Comfortably in front at half time and for the most part dealing with the windy conditions at the Recreation Ground, a combination of misfortune, shoddy refereeing and a lack of pace (again) at the back cost us not only a win but all the points in this one.
I’d made the late decision to head to Aldershot, adamant that I wouldn’t be tempted before the game before a change of heart in the build up and there I was alongside long time wing man and honorary Cobbler Jamie as we drove north from our Southampton starting point. Our record of going to Tuesday night games was terrible with shuddering memories of trips to Millwall (team bus is late turning up = no warm up time = 2-0 defeat) and Yeovil (a half hour walk to the ground from the city actually turning out to be an hour = us missing the kick off and the Cobblers losing to a last minute winner) so it was with slight trepidation that we joined forces for this. Surely nothing could go wrong…
Well at least we weren’t late. Arriving in very good time and seemingly parking within two seconds of the ground it looked like we’d be in the “away bar” advertised by some websites in no time. Two problems arose here: a) there was no away bar and b) it seemed there was no way in to the ground itself, with the floodlights towering over us but fences and woodland making it anyone’s guess as to how to get in. It was like a scene from a low budget horror film as we tried to find the way in, with night well and truly set in and no signs as to how to enter the forbidden land of the Recreation Ground.
Eventually the entrance was found and still there was plenty of time for a pint or two. So the Tuesday night curse was hanging over us but it was bearable because we now knew the way in and had plenty of time to spare. Lovely.
The small band of Cobblers fans greeted us as we made it just in time for kick off and the more vocal of which were positioned out in the elements to the side of the pitch so we took a place there as the game got under way. It didn’t take us long to settle and Adebayo Akinfenwa tested the home keeper with a couple of early headers.
The big man was causing all the danger and he was the one to set up the opening goal of the night as he held of a defender before playing in Luke Guttridge who ran onto the through ball to neatly finish low into the net.
You got the feeling that we needed to take advantage of the early pressure and Steve Guinan was close to extending the lead minutes later as he nearly got on the end of Luke Rodgers’ cross. Guttridge and Andy Holt had a chance a piece before half time came around but we couldn’t add to the score despite a strong showing.
The second half began well for the Cobblers in that we didn’t seem to be troubled early on. Akinfenwa was taken off as his injury saw him replaced by Gary Mulligan. The Shots started to build momentum with our main goal threat out of action and John Halls brought a fine save from Chris Dunn with an effort that looked bound for the top corner.
As we counted down the clock, out of nowhere it all started to go wrong. The turning point came with ten minutes to go as Paul Rodgers was adjudged to have brought down his man inside the area when it looked clear as day that the challenge took place outside the box and Scott Donnelly stepped up. There was momentary jubilation as Dunn saved but the referee pointed to the spot again for encroachment and we had to prepare ourselves again. This time Donnelly made no mistake and beat Dunn powerfully to give the home side an equaliser.
It was to get so much worse. With the game on a knife edge, the home side sealed all three points. A through ball looked safe as Chris McCready chased it but it appears that he pulled a hamstring on the chase and Marvin Morgan nipped in, beat Kanyuka and fired past Dunn to win the game and complete a second half of despair for the Cobblers.
Andy Holt’s desperate late volley was the closest we came to a last ditch rescuer but it was too late and all the points were lost when it looked so good up to the hour mark. Whether the penalty should or shouldn’t have been given doesn’t matter, whether someone encroached or not doesn’t matter, the fact is that we let it slip and have to face up to that fact and ask ourselves why it happened.
This was another example of how much work is needed if we’re to turn things around this season. January can certainly not come soon enough and Sammo will be desperate to bring in his own players after inheriting some of Stuart Gray’s summer signings that are, in all honesty, not good enough to match the ambitions that make our current league position very hard to take.