Reality Check…

Ian-Henderson-Rochdale_3003588

Northampton Town 0-3 Rochdale

League Two

Tuesday, March 18th 2014

If the Cobblers were still in their honeymoon period of settling in and getting some big results under Chris Wilder before Tuesday night then we’re well and truly home and have started to unpack the dirty laundry now. Rochdale, intent on going top of League Two, came with no fear and from the first few minutes never looked back. Of course losing against a side vying for automatic promotion was nothing to really worry about on the face of it but the performance, flat and bereft of any urgency, definitely was.

Town were hoping to finally close the gap to zero points on Exeter just above them but from the moment ex Cobbler Ian Henderson put the visitors in front we never really looked like denting anything apart from adding more divots to the Sixfields pitch. Henderson scored a big fat zero goals in twenty six appearances for Town during his time here but has now notched nine this season for ‘Dale – two of those against us. This one coming from a well-placed left footed effort after he got on the end of a free kick and we were well up against it.

Fleeting efforts from the Cobblers to get forward were in vain and though Rochdale didn’t produce any clearer cut chances either you always felt like they had the better attacking prowess. Zander Diamond’s half time exit with an abdomen injury didn’t help matters with the defender taken off as a precaution ahead of more busy weeks of football in the coming weeks.

His replacement, Brennan Dickenson, had a shot saved early in the second half but Rochdale doubled their lead ten minutes into the second half when Matthew Lund headed in. There was brief hope handed to the Cobblers seconds later when Lund was sent off for a second bookable offence for ‘over celebrating’ (a rule I think is utterly ridiculous by the way) but it was still a massive ask.

The decision to reduce ‘Dale to ten man didn’t have much effect and it was they who found the extra gear when Joe Bunney raced through and sealed the victory with a very well taken shot from outside the area to beat Matt Duke to his left.

From then it was a case of just waiting for full time and hoping that no further damage would be done to an already flagging goal difference. To say that when playing against ten men shows how poor we were but full credit to Rochdale for producing a result and performance themselves to take them one step closer to League One.

Town were booed off and it all seemed like a big step back after all of the hard work of the last few weeks. One thing this should do is remind the players that they’ve still got plenty to do and should say to all supporters that we’re not just going to glide up the table from here on in. We’ve got to regroup and go again and perhaps an away game is no bad thing coming this weekend at Morecambe who themselves suffered a hammering on Tuesday night at one of our relegation rivals Accrington Stanley.

There’s simply no room for this sort of performance in the run in – we know that the group now put in place by Wilder do have something about them and now it’s about getting that fight and determination back before it’s too late.

That goes for all of us.

Still entrenched in bottom two after shaky few days…

Northampton Town 2-2 Dagenham and Redbridge

Rochdale 3-2 Northampton Town

It never rains, it pours. As storms sweep across the country this evening, the Cobblers are on their way home from a long journey north licking the wounds of a morale deflating late reversal that saw Rochdale score twice to deny us first a draw and then anything at all. At the moment it’s hard to find the words to describe what is going on as week after week goes by and the small scraps of positivity are balanced out by some silly decisions, poor tactics and individual silly moments.

Last season Town had a big problem away from home in that as soon as we conceded one goal we would go on to let in another moments later and that trend is worryingly coming back into play this time around in confidence shattering regularity. First came Oxford ten days ago and then at the weekend we were in good fettle and a goal up against Dagenham thanks to new boy Luke Norris scrambling the ball in before the Daggers turned the game around with two goals within the blink of an eye of one another.

To our credit we came back and claimed a favourable draw in that one and headed to Rochdale this evening looking to keep up the more positive aspects of recent performances. Norris, who joined from Brentford for a month last week, made it two in two games when he fired in from long range after just twenty six seconds and there was something to cling on to.

Ian Henderson, never anywhere near a high scorer in his time with us, inevitably was the man to bring the game level but having overseen that panic we were back in front when another loanee scored his second goal for the club with Stuart Dallas shooting low into the corner of the net.

So 2-1 up at half-time away from home and an unfamiliar position this season, Wimbledon aside, for the Cobblers. Unfortunately by the end of the game we were looking at all too familiar territory despite coming so, so close to bagging all three points.

The game seemed to turn on Norris being replaced as the lone striker by young Ivan Toney and while it’s completely unfair to blame Toney himself it appeared to take the steam out of Norris’ hold up play with the striker doing well in the ‘defending from the front’ role. Rochdale started to press and press and we’ve been here so many times before that it almost felt like we were waiting for the equaliser, which duly came when Michael Rose curled in a free kick that beat Matt Duke all ends up. There were questions about the wall and whether Duke had it positioned correctly and it’s details like this that are crucial to the current predicament.

Having lost the lead there was only one thing that could have made the night worse and, of course, that arrived when George Donnelly beat Duke in stoppage time. That last five minutes undid a lot of good work for the previous eighty five and will do massive damage to an already fragile Cobblers confidence, players and fans alike.

It’s three times in three games that we’ve let in goals one directly after another and it needs to be addressed. It seems that at the moment the minute we think the defence is sorted we can’t score and the minute the goals return the defence starts shipping goals again! It’s something that happens only when you’re in the thick of a dog fight at the wrong end of the table.

Rochdale flew to the top of League Two thanks to this result and we look up with envy whilst looking over at shoulder at Accrington who, with their first win of the season, closed the gap to two points to make us nervy about hitting rock bottom once more.

It really isn’t making for good reading at the moment and thirteen games in is probably enough to say that we’re in a relegation battle this season. At best, it looks like we’ll be fighting for scraps in mid-table and the mistakes that still stem back to the summer transfer activity, in my opinion, are going to end up costing us a second shot at promotion under Boothroyd.

It won’t get any better by simply replacing the manager because it simply means someone else comes in, gets his own ideas and still the best we can realistically hope for is top half. Boothroyd has perhaps the biggest few months in his career coming up and we are the ship that he’s steering. Short term loans won’t get him out of trouble by themselves though and results have to be ground out by whatever means necessary as the tough winter starts to kick in.

Cheltenham Town come to Sixfields on Saturday to give us an untimely reminder of happier times when we were celebrating a trip to Wembley at their expense back in May. How times can change so quickly…

Home front stands firm as ‘Dale are beaten

Bayo...penalty

Bayo…penalty

Northampton Town 3-1 Rochdale

League Two

Saturday, February 9th 2013

And so it goes on. The pattern of the Cobblers’ season continues to remain intact with another home win balancing out the away defeats at Gillingham and Rotherham United, putting us back into the top seven for the time being. It’s getting almost predictable week by week as form at Sixfields mysteriously disguises some poor results on our travels.

Not that the home support will be complaining. With the attendance creeping above the 5,000 mark and expectations rising Town produced yet another home success to keep us at least on track for having a go at the playoffs over the next few weeks. The big turning point will come for Aidy Boothroyd’s men when one set of results, home or away, changes. Lose at home and suddenly there’s nothing to keep us in the hunt but win away, or even pick up the odd draw, and there’s a chance that the dreams of finishing the season a little later than most could become a reality.

This win was typical of some of those home wins that we’ve come to rely on with a quick fire response to the visitor’s equaliser the key turning point in a tight contest. In a closely fought first half, Clive Platt’s header from a Chris Hackett cross had put the Cobblers in front but ‘Dale were right back in the game on the hour mark thanks to Jason Kennedy’s equaliser.

Cue the big moment in the game as the action went straight to the other end as Kelvin Langmead claimed the final touch from a scrambled spell in front of goal to put us straight back in front. The seal was placed on the victory when Town won a penalty after Hackett was fouled and Bayo Akinfenwa got back in the goals by slotting in the spot kick.

And so it was that the Cobblers rose back into sixth place and the fortress remains standing for another couple of weeks. Away days at Southend and Wimbledon are next up and it can’t be stated highly enough that we’re desperate to get something from each of those games and at least stay in the mix by the time Plymouth Argyle visit in the next test of the home resistance.

This season began with the type of performance we now need away from home, a solid draw at Rochdale and looking back now I don’t think any of us would have sniffed at sixth place come the time when the teams met again. Now’s the time to put it right again on the road…

Calm steps forward as Town claim Spotland point

Rochdale 0-0 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, 18th August 2012

And so to another league opener. The official opening day of the season after Tuesday night’s cup upset against Cardiff City brought about a solid point against a side expected to be among the challengers for at least a playoff place. That, couple with a clean sheet and a dogged performance, means that we come away much more satisfied then we have done in the last few years following first league outings.

It was the fourth consecutive season in which the Cobblers had failed to score on the opening day and the third big kick off in those four seasons that have ended with a blank score sheet. But this would arguably be considered the most pleasing in terms of both result and overall outlook following the game. The fact that we came away from Spotland, a difficult place to go for most League Two sides this season, having got off the mark in the league and also held firm at the back means that the first week of 2012/13 can be called a success ahead of Tuesday night’s visit from title favourites Rotherham United.

It won’t go in the ‘classics’ folder for either side but both should come out feeling pretty good about the road ahead. ‘Dale shaded it in terms of chances with a post struck in the first half by home striker Ashley Grimes in their best effort of the game. Lee Nicholls, coming in for young Dean Snedker in goal for his full debut, did well to keep out the other Rochdale forward Dele Adebola, before Town started to build their own attacking prowess.

The big chance of the game fell to Alex Nicholls who was looking to add to Tuesday’s match winner but his header was off target this time.

So that was about that as the final twenty minutes produced no onslaught or real chances with both sides happy to start the season with a point. Dale will continue their tricky start with trips to Chesterfield and Torquay in the coming seven days with the Cobblers hosting Rotherham and Southend United.

All in all, it was just great to see the Tweets, messages of support, photos and general excitement building up to 3 o’clock today as football fever kicked in for good. The dry run of the League Cup was exciting but you can’t beat the 3-5pm period of a Saturday afternoon with scores rolling in and stories being written all across the country.

For the Cobblers, this early chapter of 2012/13: The Novel will go down as a promising start. When I look back on this in a year’s time I hope I’m reliving the start of something positive.

Happy Football Season to you all!