Northampton Town 2-3 Cheltenham Town
Saturday, December 8th 2012
The Cobblers’ home form in recent weeks meant that a game against a genuine promotion challenger in Cheltenham Town wasn’t as daunting as it might have been a year ago. Exeter, Port Vale, Wycombe and Morecambe have all been swept aside with goals flowing and confidence growing with each Sixfields encounter. So when we took another two goal lead against the Rubies on Saturday afternoon it was easy to get back into the mind-set that this was to be another comfortable afternoon.
But unlike previous visitors, Cheltenham took their chances. Their organised and well drilled approach meant that they differentiated themselves from the rest of the pack and were able to fight back to record an impressive victory that stunned a Town side that were perhaps to expectant of the opposition to not have a response.
Bayo’s latest goal came just inside the second minute with a Billy Jones own goal (another one in the Cobblers’ tally to come from a Ben Tozer long throw) putting us into what has become a usual tone of a lead at home. The difference was that this time our visitors were made of sterner stuff and as soon as Darren Carter had found space to make it 2-1 it always looked like a game that could slip from our grasp.
Three minutes later and Chris Zebroski had headed in an equaliser and it was well and truly game on with Cheltenham turning the tide in their own favour as the half came to an end. The fact that they were taking their chances was enough to worry the home support and you got the feeling that the second half would be a difficult one.
And indeed it was. As the Cobblers fluffed chances, mainly through Akinfenwa who had earlier netted the latest in a long line of goals against Cheltenham and who hit the bar from close range, the Rubies were holding firm and waiting for the key break away. Substitute Darryl Duffy, a perennial annoyance of Town, broke clear with ten minutes to go and finished brilliantly to seal all three points with his fifth goal in three games against us. He had scored twice in each fixture last season and is looking like being their equivalent to Akinfenwa’s presence against them.
So a disappointing day but a message to ourselves that there’s still work to be done if we’re to reach the level set by teams like Cheltenham. Aidy Boothroyd rightly said that the game would be a yardstick for his side’s progress and it proved to be just that. It’s not a bad thing, though, and this group will learn a lot from it in terms of making sure chances go in and ensuring that defensively we’re right on the ball, especially when we lead a game by a couple of goals.
There’s another week’s break now before we visit Torquay next weekend, another tester as Christmas gets ever closer. If we can take some of the lessons from the last couple of weeks then the defeats won’t be in vain.