When a lot of the talk during and after a game is about events off the pitch then you know it’s been a bit of a shocker. The post-match comments from Gary Johnson and subsequent rumours will reverberate perhaps more than the score line from a poor game that saw Morecambe rise to second in the table with the help of the Cobblers defence.
To the game first then and Town had to reshape immediately with the injury to Jake Robinson during the warm up so Bas Savage replaced him in attack alongside Bayo Akinfenwa. Lewis Young was again preferred to Michael Jacobs in midfield whilst at the back Ashley Westwood was still not fit enough to return so Kelvin Langmead remained in place.
Savage was later to be named man of the match perhaps on the back of his two first half chances, one of which was blocked on the line but that was pretty much as good as it got for the Cobblers for the entire game. Morecambe would go on to make the most of two defensive errors to score the two decisive goals before the break.
Byron Webster held the ball up for too long and Danny Carlton robbed him on the goal line. Webster was trying to see the ball out for a goal kick but lost concentration to allow Carlton in to set up perennial Town tormentor Phil Jevons for a fine volley and the opener. Paul Turnbull’s silly hand ball led to Morecambe’s second with a penalty given for the midfielder’s offence with Lawrence Wilson coolly despatching it.
That’s when the rumour mill went into full rotation with Gary Johnson not appearing straight away in the second half and when he did he would just sit on the bench and leave Andy Holt and David Lee to take charge of proceedings. There was an apparent exchange of words between Johnson and a Cobblers fan before half time that was given as one of the reasons for his sitting back in the shadows whilst some even said that he’d been sacked or resigned at the break!
Obviously Johnson is going nowhere but you would still expect any manager to want to put aside any problems with the crowd and get involved in the potential fight back. The signal to the players from him sitting in the dugout and not getting involved is not one of leadership and not one that you would want to see from your manager.
This talk took over the second half with the football on the pitch looking no better with Bayo and John Johnson heading over in our best chances to get back in the game. But it was Morecambe, happy to soak up some pressure, who would comfortably complete their fourth straight league win and go home delighted with their afternoon’s work.
There was more to come, unfortunately, from our side of things. Johnson came out and said that Shaun Harrad, one of our most prized assets, “may have to seek pastures new.”
No reason was given for it as far as I know but surely there’s more to it than we’re hearing. Harrad is one of the better striker in this division and we’re crying out for him to return and put things right at the front end of the pitch. But he’s now being told he can look for a new club? To me this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard as a Cobblers fan and that’s saying something!
Whatever issues Johnson has with Harrad in the background should be irrelevant when you think of what he adds to the squad. Leon McKenzie suggested on Twitter that he knew Harrad and knows he’s not any sort of a disruptive character, that he could be leaving in a similar way in which McKenzie left himself in the summer.
There seems no logic apart from Johnson’s stubbornness as to why this is happening and why we’re looking at exiting the transfer window without our more productive striking threat. No real answers have been given and even if there is a replacement lined up, who can possibly come in to match Harrad’s natural goal scoring instinct at this level?
If we’re about to let him go for not much more than we paid for him in January it would represent one of the craziest decisions by a Cobblers boss for many a year.
Add to that the clear signs of dressing room unrest then there’s plenty to be worried about as the first month of the season comes to an end. I don’t want to start ‘Johnson out’ campaigns but just want some real answers rather than everything being glossed over with a simple statement that Harrad will need to look elsewhere for employment.
We need Tuesday’s JPT First Round game with Huddersfield like a hole in the head now but it has to be done and we somehow have to rally and get behind the players on the pitch, leaving the off field actions to the management, praying that the right decision be made.
The next few days leading up to the end of the window are going to take place in our typical soap opera style and there’s a lot of issues to be sorted by the time we travel to Southend next Saturday. We can only try to remain positive in our support, for no matter what happens off the pitch we know that we’re the only real constant in the history of our club, something that will not be cast aside no matter what goes on in the hallowed halls of Sixfields!