Tom Reed runs the rule over Cobblers 0-1 defeat to Dons…
Cobblers failed to score for the 6th game running in a 1-0 defeat to AFC Wimbledon with another toothless display that will have dentists scurrying to Sixfields. Northampton couldn’t hit a cows’ backside with a thousand banjos such is their goalless streak which stretches back a month. The club’s goal of the month competition compilers will be pulling their hair out while second from bottom boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink eyes the League table with angst.
The Dons match provided a great chance for Town to rack up goals and points with the South London club themselves in the relegation zone after failing to score in their past 4 League outings. Yet, an injury ravaged Cobblers side could not match Wimbledon in the basics and a single goal for the away side was all that was needed to push Town aside.
The depths of Town’s injury crisis was glaring as Hasselbaink fielded a less-than-match-fit Lewis McGugan in a less-than-ideal left-wing berth with Sam Hoskins and Billy Waters trying to find a striking route through the middle. But the Sixfields crowd found too many Town players off the pace as Brendan Moloney toiled at right-back, McGugan lacked first touch sharpness and Hoskins looked every inch a player still recovering from a serious injury. The heralded brand of Hasselbaink high pressing disappeared.
It was telling that the biggest cheer of the game came for a bashful looking John-Joe O’Toole, merely warming up on the touchline but still raising the roof, another player who has been a long term absentee. Perhaps it was a welcome distraction for the shoe army faithful given a dire game in which both sides rarely threatened each other’s goals.
The Dons, in Villarreal yellow, had their own injury problems and were shorn of Ghana striker Kwesi Appiah but they still set about Northampton with organised aplomb. It was, simply, a greater will to win by Wimbledon’s Harry Forrester which saw him collect a through ball, hold off Shaun McWilliams and plant a shot with intent past Matt Ingram on the hour mark .
Sod’s law too that Forrester had been with the Cobblers as a lad and the Milton Keynes born attacker piled on the misery for the claret and whites.
Yet, Town had a prime chance to equalise moments later when Ash Taylor sent a teasing low cross across the Wimbledon goal-line with not a Northampton player savvy enough to finish. The calls to recall goal-hungry prospects Leon Lobjoit and Joe Iaciofano will grow louder given it is exactly the sort of wing-work vigour and goal poaching instinct which Cobblers lack. If there are better options then great let the fans see them but if not, beggars can’t be choosers.
Cobblers were given the luxury of 5 minutes added time but the goal remained a far flung concept rather than something to be regularly breached during the game. Wimbledon were more than happy to mop up the continuous long-balls from Town’s unsteady defence and left the field victorious after a solid team effort. Northampton had improved from the 6-0 rout V Bristol Rovers but that’s not saying much.
Town wouldn’t have scored if playing through the night at an empty Sixfields with no opposition. The ground would have reverberated with the sound of balls pinging off posts while revellers leaving restaurants on the hill behind would have been sent diving for cover.
Player focus: Lewis McGugan by @phil_garlick
Former Forest, Watford and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Lewis McGugan started his first league game for the Cobblers; his first start in 2 years having not featured at all last season. His signing provided fans with some optimism having viewed his goal compilations online. Seen as a similar player to O’Toole, McGugan potentially provides midfield bite and a threat in front of goal. Little of that was on show v Wimbledon however and he looked like he hadn’t played for 5 years.
Stuck out on the left of a midfield four, McGugan provided a scarce attacking threat and looked short of pace when required to track back. He managed one glimpse of his potential early in the second half, when tackling and pirouetting away into space. Soon after, a left-foot cross was gathered by the keeper with a lack of finishing threat from our pint-sized strike force. Eventually McGugan was replaced by Dean Bowditch on 66 minutes and time will tell if he can regain the form of his younger days at Forest.