Tom Reed’s report from Northampton v Southend…
Hildeberto Pereira proved an instant hit as the the Portuguese put in a peri-peri good performance in Northampton’s 3-1 win over Southend United. The Benfica schooled trickster lit up a dank January Sixfields afternoon after coming on in the 64th minute as the Cobblers dispatched Phil Brown’s Essex boys.
John-Joe O’Toole’s 19th minute opener was fortuitous after Southend defender Harry Kyprianou’s clearance cannoned into the long-locked midfielder and into the net. United’s equaliser came 7 minutes later via a pathetically awarded penalty for a Stephen McLaughlin coming together with Cobblers centre-back Ash Taylor in the box. Football hard-men from days gone by like Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris will be coughing into their morning liver and onions watching the spot-kick decision on Sky Sports with Taylor merely brushing the Southend midfielder with his chest.
If the contact was negligible, Kyprianou’s Cypriot compatriot Jason Demetriou made no mistake in planting the ball down the centre where a diving Matt Ingram once stood in the Northampton goal.
A first-half draw was about fair value for two teams tussling to get their foot on the ball and to drive into positions of interest. Northampton missed the bite of the benched Shaun McWilliams in the centre of the park with the luxury passes of Matt Grimes going awry.
Yet, strangely, given Southend are higher in the table than Town, Cobblers fans embraced the second half with enthusiasm whilst the Southend support seemed to be waiting for a collapse. A Shrimpers fan in the South Stand had been unfurling a ‘Brown Out’ banner leaving the permatanned Southed boss Phil Brown to stare wistfully at it like a scarecrow doused in Cuprinol.
The reason for the Shoe Army optimism was the improvement of the Town performance from recent weeks while the sight of wing-wizard Pereira warming up meant Northampton had a considerable plan B.
Thankfully referee Michael Salisbury did Town a big favour by awarding another penalty on the melted butter side of soft when Chris Long ran into his Southend marker in the box. Grimes fair larruped his penalty on a day when his set pieces saw a marked improvement.
Out came the ‘Brown Out’ banner while the Southend gaffer wished he could retreat into his dugout. The sight of Pereira coming on for Town would have been about as welcome for Brown as a double glazing salesman’s knock on a Sunday morning lie in and, true to expectation, the midfielder on loan from Legia Warsaw was an instant revelation.
In a whirlwind half hour, Pereira showed the technique of a Premier League player somehow marooned in League 1. Perhaps his agent told the player that he was playing in the number 1 league in England to finesse the move but there is no doubt this Portu-geezer was número um on the day. Pereira hit the bar and also set up Alex Revell for Northampton’s late third in a storming performance that should have the punters queuing at Sixfields.
Northampton and Southend have had some ding-dong matches over the years but the truth is that this wasn’t a relegation showdown as advertised. On this showing Town are too good to go down and with the right additions should find mid-table a more realistic destination.
Player focus: Shay Facey
After a nervous start where Facey prodded a back header past a flailing Ingram, the right-back never looked back. The ex-Man City youngster showed all the on-ball neatness that you would expect from someone trained at the Etihad. Facey also showed a desire to get forward as the game developed with strong bursts of pace. It was a very solid debut and also a show of intent from Hasselbaink as to the type of player he wants in his Cobblers side.