Saturday, December 14th 2013
I don’t know about you but if I had three Christmas wishes for the Cobblers this year, near the top would be the ability to take a penalty. It’s three missed from three now this season with the latest one still lost somewhere in Greater Manchester air space following Chris Hackett’s wild attempt with this game locked at 1-1 just before half time. Football is full of ‘what if’ moments and, though we won’t know just yet how significant it could have been had the ball found the goal net and not Auntie Nettie’s back yard, it’s bound to come up at the end of the season if we’re a point away from our new realistic target of finishing in the top twenty.
Frustrating at that was, though, this seemed a much improved away performance and was one in which we showed some character for a change rather than just accepting the usual fate of defeat on our travels. How we could have done with this type of battling show a week ago at Grimsby or at (Insert most League Two teams here). Rather than sit back and go for a draw there was more intent about the Cobblers on Saturday and we come away thinking that it’s not a lucky escape but one in which we could easily have won.
Bury were all about impressing new boss David Flitcroft and things were looking like they were going to script for him when they were awarded a penalty which Daniel Nardiello, a recent loan acquisition from Rotherham United, duly converted. Take note Cobblers. It wasn’t long before Town were back in things and I felt a little taken aback even when we drew level.
Hackett was the provider of the ball in and Bury defender Dean Howell was feeling charitable enough to head into his own net and to bring us back to parity. Try as he might, it was never going to match the gloriousness of Andy Parrish’s own goal for the Shakers against us in 2006 but we’ll take it – hey, if no-one else is going to score away from home for the Cobblers then we may as well enlist some help!
There was a frantic ending to the half with Matt Duke pulling of an excellent save from Nardiello before Izale McLeod was brought down by the wonderfully named William Edjenguele for the big moment in the game. Hackett, though, preferred to aim for a passing seagull rather than the goal so it remained 1-1 for half-time.
The second half was tight and tense and could genuinely have gone either way, again proving the thin line that we tread in this relegation battle. Chances fell at both end with Duke again denying Nardiello and McLeod being foiled by Brian Jensen in the Bury goal. With a minute left on the clock, Mathias Doumbe found himself in a glorious position but shot wide of the mark when it looked like he was slotting in the winner and then substitute Roy O’Donovan had claims for a third penalty of the game in stoppage time.
With our previous spot kick efforts this season, though, there would have been no guarantees at all about the outcome even if referee Mr Miller had given it. A point a piece it was, then, and still no escape from the drop zone with one game left before Christmas. This slow improvement is taking its time to show itself in league positions and it shows just how difficult it is to get out of trouble from a dodgy start to the season.
Bury appear to be going back in the right direction and perhaps it was actually a good time to play them as David Flitcroft is still looking at the squad left behind to him – rather that than face them after a January of tweaks that should get them out of the troubled pack themselves.
Wycombe at home is up next and with some sense of momentum returning to Sixfields again we may yet be in for some long awaited Christmas cheer. So long as Santa sends everyone instructions on penalty taking we may be able to boost that points tally by a few come the New Year!