Saturday, August 25th 2012
After the drama on Tuesday night, it was back to Sixfields this afternoon and with the optimism flowing around the ground there was always likely to be a sting waiting in the tail of the Shrimpers, who are often a side who come again to spoil our fun every now and then.
Southend are perennial nuisances for the Cobblers and tore us apart here last season in a 5-2 thrashing that took the wind out of Aidy Boothroyd’s first positive run with his new side. And though they didn’t completely ruin our start to the season, their last second equaliser in front of the North Stand deflated most inside Sixfields enough for it to feel like a defeat.
The Cobblers had twice come from behind and were leading for the first time in the game, 3-2, when the killer blow struck deep into stoppage time. It was the culmination of a frustrating afternoon that shone a torch on defensive lapses that weren’t so apparent on Tuesday night. That, as Boothroyd admitted, could be a good thing in the long term as he plots his way through League Two.
The visitors were far from full strength and given their gutsy show won’t be far off the pace one big front players like Barry Corr and Freddy Eastwood return to their line-up.
After a disappointing first half where neither side got going or created much of note, barring a Chris Hackett run and cross that Alex Nicholls connected with but diverted wide, Southend took the lead following a mistake from David Artell on the far side. Britt Assombalonga nipped in and finished well to put his side in front.
Town needed some inspiration and no man epitomises that word more that Bayo Akinfenwa. The big man departed the bench, replacing Luke Guttridge, and immediately made his impact. After a flick on from Clive Platt in the area, Bayo turned and fired the ball into the net and suddenly there was a new belief in the Cobblers side.
As we streamed forward, gaps were exposed at the other end and Southend carved out a second goal with Kane Ferdinand stroking home and we had a job on once again.
Just second later, though, and Chris Hackett’s free kick was only parried away by Southend keeper Cameron Belford and Artell was on hand to power the ball home. Game on again!
It was anyone’s game from then on in and you could see either side snatching it after that flood of goals. It was the Cobblers who were to go in front for the first time with six minutes to go, though, as a short corner was whipped in, re-delivered by Kelvin Langmead and headed in by Alex Nicholls for his third goal in three home games this season.
With Town on the brink of another unlikely victory, Southend ruined it again. In the past it’s been Adam Barrett scoring winners or equalisers against us but this time it was left to a lookalike in the form of Ryan Cresswell. Cresswell was pushed up front late on by Paul Sturrock and the move had the desired effect as he scrambled in the killer equaliser after four minutes of stoppage time.
It’s hard to take on the face of it but we need to stay realistic and patient. The fine lines that divide football is so thin and had we won 3-2, something that could easily have happened, we would have all been jumping around again. As it is, I heard moans and groans as I left Sixfields and it felt like a Sixfields sized bubble had been burst.
Aidy is doing a good job though from what I’ve seen in these two games. It’s never going to please anyone but five points from three games is a decent start given our expectations this season. The ‘hoof ball’ tactics that people keep shouting at is part and parcel of the Boothroyd approach and I’m afraid for those purists it’s something you will have to get used to. No, it’s not pretty but it’s got results so far and has visibly made us a lot harder to beat. With a team in transition that’s the first steps in my eyes. We can start trying to play once we’ve established a firm base and that’s what is being formed as we speak.
After the game, Bayo, speaking to Radio Northampton had a very ‘what will be, will be’ attitude when questioned on his future. To me, this was another game that proved his worth both on and off the pitch. The man is a gentleman, a team player and someone who gives us something that no-one else in most League Two squads gives anyone else. Selling him would be a big mistake in my opinion. You feel lifted whenever he’s on the pitch and know that a goal might be around the corner. You feel like you know him and that’s a rare thing in a player these days. I can think of no-one else who would come close to replacing the big man and I really hope that he is still a Cobbler at this time next week once the transfer window has past.
Elsewhere, it was a bit of an odd performance and very bitty. The midfield seems odd to me and the only part of the team that doesn’t seem to be functioning to its full potential. Chris Hackett is crying out to be an out and out winger whilst Luke Guttridge is far more effective coming forward than when he holds himself back.
Still, two draws, a win and a cup upset isn’t a bad way to start is it?
That’s the end of my mini break back in Northampton but I’m consoling myself with the fact that I can see us live this Thursday on Sky against Wolves. Two days later we make the long trip to Plymouth so I expect a bit of a shake up to the starting line-up for the cup game (most likely from both sides). It’s an awkward time coming right before a long away trip but we can’t argue with the television revenue and the chance to make it through another round.
I know which I’d rather win as a Cobblers fan (ten points for correctly guessing the game at Home Park) and if we can come away with three points there I would be mightily impressed and would even be calling this drama filled opening month of the season a, wait for it, success!