One step forward, two steps back…

Northampton Town 4-5 Accrington Stanley

League Two

Saturday, September 20th 2014

We should have known not to get complacent…after the hammering of Hartlepool United on Tuesday night we were perhaps in too deep with our optimism. Accrington Stanley at home looked to be the perfect follow up with the chance to leap even further up the table but once again football kicks us right in the teeth in bizarre manner with the visitors making the most of slack defending and the Cobblers unable to make up for it despite more goals in the ‘For’ column.

Some of the goals that Stanley scored were straight out of the dark days … indeed even a couple of the slips were out of the same drawer as the last time nine goals were scored in one game at Sixfields, the 7-2 defeat by Shrewsbury in 2011. It obviously wasn’t as bad as that overall but the shakiness of our defensive work is threatening to put pay to any dreams of finishing in the top seven. All the joy of Tuesday was wiped away by an Accrington side with new direction thanks to the reappointment of John Coleman earlier this week.

Big questions have to be asked about some key positions here. Matt Duke’s injury has hit us more than anticipated. Jordan Archer just doesn’t seem to have a command over his area that Duke does. It’s not completely down to the on loan keeper but a big voice from the back is a key part of defensive organisation and understanding. In front of him, Zander Diamond’s presence was missed too but there’s more pressing issues in the full back position with Gregor Robertson and Danny Alfei getting caught out far too often – indeed both at the same time when they both went for the same ball to let in John O’Sullivan for the crucial third goal of the game after Marc Richards had headed in to cancel out Rob Atkinson’s opener.

If anyone thought that Rico’s latest goal, his seventh in five games, was about to kick start another comfortable game then they were sorely wrong. Stanley followed up O’Sullivan’s strike with a third before the break when Atkinson’s header went in via the post and Archer.

It got no better after half-time as O’Sullivan found space yet again on the right, cut inside and had all the time in the world to fire into the top corner from close range, beating three of four static Cobblers defenders to fire in and stun Sixfields even further. Substitute Ivan Toney scrambled in for 4-2 but the three goal cushion was restored a few minutes later when Sean Maguire got on the end of a knock down to poke in past Archer.

The Cobblers wouldn’t be the Cobblers this season without a bit of late drama but Toney’s second – a header from a Kaid Mohammed cross – and Darren Carter’s 90th minute effort weren’t enough and Accrington held firm for an afternoon they’ll remember for quite some time. Unfortunately, so will we.

Chris Wilder has promised changes for next week’s trip to Morecambe and it doesn’t have to just be personnel changes…when you’re defending at this level it needs to be from the front and full backs have to be protected. Chris Hackett and Mohammed are going to have to change mind sets a little and make sure they’re not leaving the man behind them all at sea – we’re not good enough in that area and teams are going to start to recognise that as we go further into the season. Kevin Ellison will be one man licking his lips ahead of next week’s game at Morecambe and Wilder has a big job on his hands to make sure this sort of madness doesn’t happen again.

With two steps firmly back after all of that, some big readjustments are needed in the coming days.

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