Saturday, October 12th 2013
Josh Low collects the ball inside the Oxford penalty area, brings it down and produces one of the calmest goals of the season over the flagging Billy Turley. Amidst a sea of claret and a noise not heard in an away end containing Cobblers fans for quite some time, the delicate finish seemed almost poetic. Low’s goal made it 3-0 on the day to a rampant and upward surging Town side who went on to clinch promotion to League One the following week. Thousands of Cobblers fans had made the journey to the Kassam Stadium and all went home delirious in the knowledge that we were a win away from promotion.
It’s becoming almost a tradition to lose at the Kassam Stadium since that glorious day in 2006 and since Oxford returned to the Football League. The memories of what was a pivotal day in our last promotion season are memories that will be with anyone who was there every time they enter the home of the U’s. But, now, the teams are at opposite ends of League Two and after Saturday’s reverse it’s now four defeats in a row to Oxford on their ground.
The U’s are, of course, big hitters in League Two this season and a loss at the Kassam will get lost in the shuffle if we can bookend it with a home win over Dagenham and Redbridge next weekend. The corner is not turned full yet despite the success at AFC Wimbledon and in terms of competing with the best that League Two has to offer we’re miles away.
The qualms about having a good enough squad together from the start of the season still wrangle with Cobblers fans and on this evidence there’s not a lot of argument against Aidy Boothroyd needing to dip into the loan or free transfer system to dig out a striker again. Roy O’Donovan does his utmost to dig it out for the team but unless he’s working off a big target man he won’t be effective.
Another early sign that this may not be our day was the replacement of injured left-back Joe Widdowson with not-a-left-back-on-any-day-of-the-week Ben Tozer. Against a different side he may have survived but to Oxford it would have been like a red rag to a bull. Chris Hackett being out injured didn’t help either and the Cobblers were in trouble before a ball was even kicked.
To the side’s credit, though, they did hold out well and looked dangerous intermittently with Darren Carter and Kevin Amankwaah going close. But a minute from the break it all started to go wrong and, as is usually the case in away defeats, it was two goals in quick succession that ended our hopes for the afternoon. First, James Constable got on the end of a flick on from big Dave Kitson and finished well to give his side the lead. If that wasn’t bad enough, almost straight from the kick off the home side were given a dubious penalty through Tozer’s trip to the goal scorer.
Danny Rose stepped up and converted for 2-0 and it was always going to be a long, long way back for a Cobblers side low on confidence when they go behind.
Ivan Toney boosted the forward line by replacing Lee Collins at half-time but his couple of efforts did little to come close to getting us back in the game. It was a case of the hosts knowing that they’d done enough and Town left with yet another Kassam Stadium defeat to add to a long line of them that’s starting to build up disturbingly.
It leaves us still stuck in the bottom two, though I feel a lot more confident of escape than I did a few weeks ago. We’ve had a disaster of a start but there is still plenty of time to turn things around even before Christmas and if we can find another ball retainer up front from the midst of football’s outcasts then there can be hope at least if nothing else.
Let’s just try and avoid Oxford away in the FA Cup shall we?