This pretty much summed up the Cobblers’ entire season in one afternoon up north. A decent enough show of potential early on followed by a stunner of a ray of hope and then an eventual collapse almost as quickly. The trip to Valley Parade to face one of our rivals at the wrong end of the table signalled a good chance to get back to winning ways but after Michael Jacobs had scored one of our best goals of this season we fell into all too familiar territory of falling under pressure.
The fact that Gary Johnson was happy with what he called a ‘marked improvement’ rounded the day off in all too familiar fashion as well with the Cobblers boss still glossing over the defeat by stating, in effect, that this was better. After the horror show at Port Vale it couldn’t possibly have been worse in all fairness.
Saido Berahino was handed a debut for Town with Kelvin Langmead playing in an advanced forward role to support him and Andy Holt returning to centre back. Despite having the welcome return of Holt, you still didn’t look at our team sheet with a great deal of confidence but we did get to half-time with something to build on. The shocker in the first half at Vale Park meant that it was absolutely vital we held firm at Bradford.
Michael Bryan hit the Cobblers’ cross bar in the best effort from either side but it was Jacobs that lit the game up just before the hour with a rasping shot into the top corner that proved that he still can produce moments of magic. At nineteen years old it’s harsh that he’s getting some stick from some sections of support and even if he’s not the finished package yet he can still give us moments like that.
It was unfortunately undone quicker than the travelling fans took to sit back down as Andy Holt was harshly adjudged to have handballed inside the area and Craig Fagan blasted in the spot kick. James Hanson’s header from a Kyel Reid cross completely turned things around just moments later to complete the turn around and leave us deflated once again despite that moment of hope!
A late chance for substitute Jake Robinson was all we conjured up but the striker is still in the hunt for a first goal for the club. The old Sixfields curse has had its way with Robinson and I still think he should be being used more than he is despite not scoring yet. Confidence begins by earning a first team spot and I honestly still believe that he’s talented enough to overcome a barren run and kick on in the next stage of the season.
The problem is that so many are out of form, out of confidence and playing with heads down rather than enforcing the game on our opponents. The loss of Bayo and Arron Davies are massive but we need others to stand up and be counted otherwise it just becomes an excuse until one or both of them return.
It’s over to Sixfields now to get us going with six of our next nine league games coming at home, starting with a real Tuesday night slog against fellow strugglers Hereford United on Tuesday. They picked up a home win against another seasoned struggler, Barnet, on Saturday so won’t exactly be ‘there for the taking’.
It’s likely to be a small crowd, especially with the opposition not being known to pack out the South Stand so those who are there need to go in with an attitude that shows pride and not with flames being readied for any mistake on or off the pitch.
It’s a crucial stage of the season and one in which we can, in theory, turn things around. Belief, confidence and pride is needed from players, fans and management alike if we’re to avoid another season of worry and more previews of relegation battles.