Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Northampton Town
Saturday, November 3rd 2013
100 games, almost two years and more twists than even we, as the long suffering Cobblers faithful, could comprehend and we’ve come full circle. Saturday’s late defeat at Plymouth Argyle, who scored in the last knockings for the second weekend in a row to nick a game 1-0, sent Town back to the foot of the entire Football League.
Aidy Boothroyd picked up the Cobblers job while we were in free fall and third from bottom and now faces the fight of his career to keep hold of a reign that is quickly slipping away from him. It would always take a disastrous summer and start to this season to make us question the man who took us to only our third ever Wembley appearance but I’m afraid that it’s looking like an embarrassment at Bishop’s Stortford in front of a baying nation next Saturday would be the straw that would break this particular camel’s back.
Argyle will have been well aware of the Cobblers’ defensive frailties late in games this season but they too have trouble and before last weekend had gone on a run of eight without a win, all the time struggling to find the net. The Pilgrims are, in fact, the lowest scoring League Two side and Town could be forgiven for sensing that they could get back on track at Home Park.
And we did start brightly enough with Chris Hackett shooting wide and Mathias Doumbe twice heading over the bar from corners on his old stomping ground. The Pilgrims grew more and more into the game, though and by the break were well back into a stride that was arguably broken by the half-time whistle. Former Cobblers loanee Jamie Reckord had the best of their efforts, tipped over by Matt Duke.
The second half saw a similar pattern emerge with Town on top early on. Luke Norris went close from a tight angle before Hackett was denied a penalty by the ever consistent Mr Kettle. Plymouth again hit back and regained the momentum that saw them end the first forty five minutes strongly. Reuben Reid and Lewis Allesandra forced Duke into two more fine saves and without the ever reliable keeper we could well have been down and out again.
Just as we thought we had grabbed a point that would have at least put to bed some worries of late defeats the almost inevitable break through occurred. Luke Young found Allesandra in the area and this time the midfielder made no mistake to net the only goal of the game in the ninetieth minute – the second time in consecutive away games in which that particular disaster has nailed us into the mire.
It leaves the Cobblers, and Boothroyd, in a tumultuous position ahead of the trip to Conference South Bishop’s Stortford next Sunday. Boothroyd has come out saying that heads will roll and he will know that they will need to be rolling all over the dressing room or else it’s his that will be on the chopping block.
It’s always going to come back to the summer recruitment policy. Decent signings on paper like Gary Deegan and Darren Carter have simply not lived up to their billing. What should have been a midfield that bettered last season’s pairing of Luke Guttridge and Ben Harding have ended up being players that aren’t up for the fight for whatever reason. When you look at ‘characters’ in the game you have to see something in them other than past glories, particularly if they’re coming into a competitive and combative division.
It doesn’t end there, of course, and the backlash of not replacing Bayo with another holding front man, someone to take the pressure off the back four, is still reverberating around the place. Clive Platt and Jacob Blyth’s respective injuries haven’t helped but you would have expected more nous from an experienced head like Boothroyd.
At the back, it’s taken numerous position switches and free transfer grabbing to get something resembling order resumed following Kelvin Langmead’s summer injury. How we miss the man we once thought would be the first out the door when Gary Johnson departed. You have to feel for Matt Duke who has only very, very rarely matched those in front of him in terms of culpability.
For all of this, I still think that it’s going to take defeat at Bishop’s Stortford for Boothroyd to be sacked. I have no will whatsoever for that to happen and don’t understand anyone who WANTS us to lose there so that Boothroyd gets closer to the chop. I hate writing about defeats as much as you all hate reading about them and I’m desperate for this to be turned around. There’s no guarantee at all that things will get better with another new manager and we have to support wholesale changes on the pitch first and foremost.
I can see some ‘do or die’ tactics coming into play next Sunday. Ben Tozer could well come back in to midfield – as much as I don’t like him in that role he at least brings some sort of steadiness and experience of last season’s run to the playoffs. The very fact that Ishmel Demontagnac could be called upon shows how dire our need it and perhaps he’ll be the wild card to get Boothroyd out of this mess. We have to wait and see if the services of Luke Norris and Stuart Dallas can even be called upon as Brentford decide whether or not to grant permission for them to play in the cup.
It’s officially a relegation battle and the dark times are well and truly back. After what will be a nervy afternoon next weekend we’re facing a fight to survive for the third time in four seasons and the characters need to show now or forever be associated with something that doesn’t bear thinking about.