‘A marked improvement’ was the buzz phrase coming out of Sixfields at the end of a tough assignment with a Rotherham United side still trying to get back into the top half of the table and also struggling with high expectations. The standards were indeed low enough for this marked improvement to be questioned with the obvious ‘well it couldn’t have been much worse’ but with the welcoming back of Bayo Akinfenwa and the welcoming in of Derek Niven we could at least stand some ground in the physical side of the game, something that’s been missing in the last few weeks.
Niven made his home debut, thrust straight into the starting line-up, and by all accounts had a good first showing in what could have been another disaster at Sixfields had the opening couple of minutes’ form carried on.
The game had barely begun when Sam Walker threw the ball straight onto the head of a Millers player and the ensuing break earned the lead thanks to Gareth Evans’ well taken left footed effort, low past the Chelsea loanee.
There wasn’t a worse situation for us to be in at this point with the nightmare scenario in front of the Cobblers of being a goal down early on and low on confidence.
But credit to Gary Johnson’s men, we fought back and Michael Jacobs’ quick feet when he received the ball back from his own corner created a chance when he flashed the ball across goal but no-one was on hand to get the vital touch.
There was to be an equaliser though with Lewis Young getting on the end of an Akinfenwa pass to send in a cross that didn’t look the most dangerous ball in the world but that caused visiting keeper Conrad Logan somehow palmed into his own net. It was a break that we so desperately needed and there would be more fortune on our side in the second half.
Niven was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball off the line in a key moment of the second 45, hooking it away just in time. Niven had a claim for a penalty later on as well but it might have been harsh on Rotherham had it been given with both sides creating half chances but never really looking like deserving all three points.
The closest we would come is a Bayo header from Young’s cross that Logan palmed onto the cross bar but it was all square at the end with the Cobblers picking up a third home draw of the season.
That’s only one win in eight home games for Town this season and that has to improve over the coming weeks if we’re to get anywhere near to the improvement in league position that Gary Johnson needs. For Rotherham it was a tenth game without a win and they drop to 14th in the table as two clubs punching below their weight cancelled each other out but showed signs that there may still be hope of recovery.