I’m not entirely sure how to start this one! By far the worst of the recent run of defeat, now four in a row, has left Gary Johnson on the brink and sent his side further away from the pre-season target of the playoffs. I started out on yesterday’s preview by urging the Cobblers fans to get behind the team no matter what their views on the management team and to an extent it sounds like the majority did just that.
But the result left a range of emotions inside them – anger, despair, dejection, I can go on. Personally I’m just feeling sad that another false dawn appears to be passing us by. I was guilty of predicting a playoff spot myself in the summer thanks to a seemingly productive summer but we again find ourselves in a battle at the wrong end of the table.
The question on everyone’s minds this morning is, ultimately, the manager though.
I’ve been trying really hard to defend Johnson over the last few games but even now my Team Positive outlook is being severely tested. Four defeats in a row is one thing but losing without any sense of organisation or spirit is another. Johnson appears to have lost a dressing room that he arguably struggled to get a hold of in the first place and when you lose at home to a fellow struggler then you know you’re in trouble.
This had all the makings of the end of a road with last season’s defeat to Burton at Sixfields signalling the end of Ian Sampson’s tenure and the same team seeing off Stuart Gray 18 months earlier. Both of those games involved a shocking start to the game and last night is comparable to both of those. Whether it will mean the end of Johnson remains to be seen.
Hereford took the lead after a rare mistake from veteran Andy Holt who gave the ball away. Tom Barkhuizan’s shot was then parried by Sam Walker and Nathan Elder pounced to net his second goal in two games. There were signs of a quick recovery as home debutant Saido Berahino tested David Cornell but by the time twenty minutes were up we were further behind.
Steven Leslie lined up a free kick in a dangerous position but his strike didn’t look like having enough to beat Walker until a huge deflection took it past the Cobblers keeper. When it rains, it pours and both literally and figuratively it was pouring down at Sixfields.
There needed to be a quick response but it took until well after the break for Berahino to finally halve the deficit from substitute Chris Arthur’s cross. But again the signs of recovery would be blown away as soon as the claret faithful took their seats. Harry Pell made it 3-1 with a good header following a Hereford break and it was effectively game over.
Whether it’s game over for Johnson is the question that’s sparked the debates through the night and this morning though. I’ve backed him and said that he needs time, nothing would come of it etc but with the side again slipping in the wrong direction it might be time to finally have a rethink.
The problem lies not only in the monetary side of things though but the question of who could possibly come in that’s got any higher credentials? Johnson was THE man to get back in March, the one who we thought was above our level and a huge coup for a club like us. We can lie no blame at the chairman for his appointment, we were all excited and talking things up once again with some even thinking that a playoff spot could be achieved in the final two or three months of last season.
What’s happened since has been close to catastrophic with occasional performances such as the Wimbledon win with ten men giving us glimpses of potential in this squad. It’s been enough to leave me questioning my views and while I won’t every advocate screaming obscenities at the man in charge of my football club I sadly think it may just be time to arrange something along the lines of ‘mutual consent.’
It’s a sad situation to be in but necessity rules that it’s time to change things. What follows needs to be a dropping in expectations for everyone, especially us supporters. If we can convince ourselves that we’re not the shoe in promotion candidates that some think we are then perhaps we might be more positive about each and every game after all!