The Cobblers remain rock bottom of the Football League after a third defeat in a row as the trend of letting things slip late on continued against a Torquay side looking good for a second successive shot at the playoffs. The fact that it took just a simple corner-header routine makes this defeat a bit more tough to take with a couple of decent chances created at the other end that on another day could have handed us a much needed three points.
Looking back to the last visit to Plainmoor, on the opening day of the season, it’s hard. Hard to look back on 18 months of lost potential. Hard to fathom how we went from promotion candidates to relegation threatened and went through three full time managers. And perhaps the hardest thing of all, is to realise that if we don’t start concentrating for the full ninety minutes of games pretty quickly then we’ll almost certainly be a non-league team come the start of the next campaign.
Perhaps frustratingly there are signs that we’re decent enough in patches. Starting this game with a five man midfield with Saido Berahino the loan striker meant it was always likely to be tight but also gave the new signing Luke Guttridge – a youth product of Torquay – a chance to pick out the type of passes that endeared him to the Claret faithful during his first spell. One such through ball put Berahino through early on but Gulls keeper Bobby Olejnik stood firm. At the other end, a welcome return for Byron Webster from injury saw him help us to a clean sheet up until the break following a first half of decent promise from the Cobblers.
The hosts would step things up after half-time and Rene Howe held of his man and forced Chris Weale into a good stop just before the hour. You got the sense that we would need to score first to get anything from the game but with fifteen minutes to go came the break through at the wrong end that would send us out to three points from League Two safety thanks to Dagenham and Redbridge’s late win over Rotherham.
It was as simple as it could have been with a deep corner nodded in at the back post by Mark Ellis, a third in four games for the defender who has said today that he is willing and ready to discuss a new contract with the club. If his side keep scrapping out victories like this one as well as Tuesday night’s similar win over Dagenham then that deal could well see him and his side progressing into League One.
For the Cobblers, it’s another game off the list and now just eighteen remain with a gap now starting to emerge. That gap needs to be closed next week as Macclesfield come to town because a week later we face a crunch trip to Dagenham themselves in what is likely to be a season defining contest.
With the transfer window closing this Tuesday there’s also likely to be more movement in and out of Sixfields but the problem could be persuading the right players to join a struggling side. That’s where we need Mr Boothroyd to use all his experience and nous of selling the potential of the club before it’s too late!