It’s increasingly frustrating as a football fan and in particular as a Cobblers fan when your team threatens to hit new heights, fires on every cylinder possible but then are suddenly halted and early dreams fade away even before the first leaves of Autumn hit the deck. Mid-table obscurity, at the end of the day, isn’t such a bad thing after last season’s brush with relegation but the twitches appear because we’re no longer the underdog and know full well that there’s a good side in there somewhere.
Saturday’s defeat at Cheltenham Town made it back to back league defeats for Chris Wilder ahead of his date with former club Oxford United on Tuesday night and a few things need to change if he’s to come through another big Sixfields night unscathed. What’s stopping us at the moment is the combination that comes when injuries severely throw the plans for a starting eleven.
There’s something very wrong when we get situations like this one – players are pulling up in training, getting injured in warm ups and constantly suffering setbacks en route to recoveries. We almost have a full starting eleven that’s been out of the side for a good amount of time and finding any sort of consistency in those circumstances is nigh on impossible.
So it came to pass that Town were beaten at Whaddon Road despite a couple of glimpses that we might just scrape something from the game. It’s that closeness that makes it that bit more difficult to analyse. If we were losing 5 or 6-0 every week we’d clearly know what was going wrong but with narrow defeats it means Wilder would be even more tempted to make minor tweaks to arrest certain problems.
I can’t name most of the eleven that will turn out against Oxford and they’ll visit with a spring in their step from winning a big game at the weekend against Tranmere Rovers. They’ll also likely play up to stop us from getting any foot hold in the game as well as trying to pry on our weaknesses from set plays.
Saturday’s goals were mainly products of needless free kicks given away and not enough urgency or organisation of the back five. We cannot keep relying on the attacking options at our disposal to keep us a step ahead of the opposition because most sides in this division will know how to frustrate and force free kicks and corners that they know they can threaten with.
At the very top we’re clearly missing Marc Richards’ presence and experience. Alex Nicholls is still working his way back and Ivan Toney is still a bit hit and miss as he grows into his boots more and more. There’s a chance that Emile Sinclair may be back soon to carry some of the burden and to insert a bit of experience in that’s lacking since Rico’s injury.
There’s plenty of nerves starting to build around the club ahead of two games that just about count as derbies. The Luton away fixture is going to ignite a red hot atmosphere on Saturday so we really have to get it right on Tuesday night to avoid going to Kenilworth Road with any added pressure.
It’s cranking up and we have to cling on, step up and rise to this latest challenge.