Northampton Town 1-2 Exeter City
Saturday, September 14th 2013
There are often at least one or two teams every week that feature strongly on radio phone ins and the like with the phrase “it was just one of those days”. For the Cobblers, one of those days (i.e. a game where you have so many chances only to inevitably lose at the death) came at exactly the wrong time and when we needed it the least.
It beggars belief how we managed to come away from Saturday’s game with no points with Exeter delighted at their smash and grab raid. I hold nothing against the Grecians for their tactics and when it comes down to it, they took their chances and we simply didn’t but it makes it no easier to comprehend how we’re not sitting here on seven points and instead are stuck on four.
Town had come out of the blocks on fire early on with a front two of Clive Platt, rejuvenated after last week’s goal, and Jacob Blyth with Roy O’Donovan switching to the left wing in place of the unfortunate Danny Emerton who dropped to the bench. We really took the game to the visitors and were rewarded after just five minutes when Platt took the ball down well and lobbed it into the path of Blyth. The Leicester loanee raced onto it and coolly slotted in past Artur Krysiak in the City goal.
It was no more than we deserved and the slick passing and movement created plenty more. Chris Hackett was back in the sort of form that saw him light up League Two last season and linked up well with former Exeter man Kevin Amankwaah on the right hand side. It was from an Amankwaah cross that Blyth almost made it two minutes after the goal before Platt scrambled the ball onto the bar in yet another big chance.
It was at this point that I started to think we might regret not taking the big chances and so it was that Exeter equalised from a corner ten minutes from the break when Scot Bennett got on the end of a corner to scrappily level things up completely against the run of play.
A big flash point came just before the break when Blyth was caught in the area by Bennett with a challenge that would have undoubtedly been punished with a free kick anywhere else on the pitch but that was waved on by referee Rob Lewis. Even so, we’d shown enough craft and guile before City’s equaliser to make us believe that this was the day that we would kick on from the slumber at the wrong end of the table.
How wrong we were.
On the hour came another huge opportunity when Joe Widdowson collected the ball on the left hand side and swung in a fine cross that Platt looked every bit like scoring from but he somehow managed to head the ball over the bar and into the North Stand. Platt admitted after the game that he should have scored and he was spot on. It was to be a key turning point.
The inevitable moment looked to have passed with a minute to go when former Cobbler Sam Parkin raced through and rounded Matt Duke but his shot was cleared brilliantly by Lee Collins. Again we were wrong if we thought that we were saved. In stoppage time, substitute David Wheeler collected the ball on the right and put in a pin point cross that was agonisingly headed in by John O’ Flynn, himself having just come off the bench.
That was that and Exeter had claimed a stunning victory and their first ever win at Sixfields in front of a stunned crowd of just over 4,000. It will do nothing to encourage more to come back through the turnstiles but we somehow have to take some positives from the way we played.
The shape of the team looked good, particularly in the first half with Chris Hackett’s return to form adding a dimension to the side so lacking so far. Platt and Blyth up front seemed to have a good understanding and could yet form a good partnership if given time to flourish with the Exeter centre halves standing off them for the long balls up top.
It still niggles that we failed to take the chances, though, and we’re still missing the leadership of Kelvin Langmead at the back. In the middle of the park I still haven’t seen enough from Darren Carter to convince me that he’s the answer whilst Gary Deegan came good only in spells and needs to show his bite and experience throughout rather than just in patches.
To say this was a frustrating afternoon is perhaps the understatement of our season so far. It’s one of those that could well have seen us go in 3-0 up at half-time and maybe with the luck and good form towards the end of last season at Sixfields it could well have happened.
At the end of the day we have no more points than we started with, though, and having ‘one of those days’ just doesn’t seem to cut it when you’re stuck at the wrong end of the table. We need to channel the positives from this match and move forwards to Mansfield next week and yet another attempt at ending this dismal away form.
One day this will all come together…