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Keith Curle’s jigsaw in bits after 4-0 Colchester rout

Cobblers' 3-5-2 formation goes Ker-Plunk

Cobblers were on the receiving end of a 4-0 battering by Colchester United at Sixfields yesterday. It looks like operation avoid relegation for Keith Curle’s Cobblers after the playoff chasing U’s gave Town a caning. 

Northampton fans could see the result a mile off with mysterious Curle’s favoured 3-5-2 formation leaving gaping great holes behind the Cobblers advanced wing-backs. Not that Northampton appear to have the sort of natural athletes to fit the specialist wing-back role but that didn’t stop Cobblers boss Curle from risking the 3-5-2 via Shay Facey and Jack Bridge in the pendulum positions on the flanks.

New signing Charlie Goode was draughted in to play on the right of Town centre-back three next to the less than steady Ash Taylor. The composed Jay Williams was shunted to the bench by Curle while the Shoe Army scrabbled around to find reasons for the decision.

But, Curle’s set-up appeared the most solid in the first quarter as Town’s extra man in defence and attack gave them a base from which to build. New striker signing Marvin Sordell went close on 11 minutes but the Burton Albion loanee struck wide from close range. Ex-Watford man Sordell doesn’t have a monopoly on missing however as Town’s goal threat was poor throughout and Town struggled to connect four passes together at any one time.

Colchester’s fluid 4-2-3-1 formation slowly began to find space in behind Town’s wing-backs with the standout Sammy Szmodics finding space for a cute turn and curled shot which flew just over Dai Cornell’s net. Col U boss John McGreal really began targeting Northampton’s right flank with Bridge caught upfield. Exposing Cobblers is pretty simple, work the no-man’s land behind the wing-backs, cut inside to expose Town’s unsure centre-backs then test Cornell and Bob’s your uncle.

The away side’s first goal came via a screwball scramble when Michael Mandron was allowed free rein to nod down a Ben Stevenson corner for Frank Nouble to knock home on the turn. Ex-West Ham man Nouble celebrated in front of the North stand with the kind of swagger that suggested more goals were to come.

A second arrived ten minutes after the half-time restart following loose work from a labouring John-Joe O’Toole in the Town midfield. The classy Smozdics was able to skip forwards, knock the ball round Aaron Pierre who was lost in a trivial pursuit, before teeing up Abo Eisa who swept the ball past Cornell. The goal exposed Curle’s tactics in an instant as the Sudanese winger Eisa was able to take full advantage of a space that you could steer battleships through as the exhausted Jack Bridge watched on, jealous of such a free attacking role.

“You’re gonna cry in the toilets” sang the 405 travelling U’s fans except the Northampton faithful’s tears would probably have turned instantly to ice on leaving their eyelids on a freezing day that Eskimos would consider a bit parky.

The Shoe army howled in frustration and began to leave en masse before the hour mark when Colchester’s Kane Vincent-Young was allowed a clear run at goal and a couple of stopovers before sweeping past Cornell. The Northampton stopper may as well have been waiting in the goal net to throw the ball back for the restart.

Any notion that the Cobblers are too good to go down were extinguished and replaced with the fear that they are too bad to stay up.

Col U went on to inflict that dirty delicious misery that Town fans know only too well with a 4th which came from textbook work up the wing and then a simple cross for Smozdics to slide home. 

Town fans are running out of energy to boo and full-time was met with the kind of quiet acceptance of mediocrity that has been the club’s trademark since Chris Wilder left.

Curle willl be a brave man to continue with the 3-5-2 given that it has been so fundamentally found out but has he the tactical breadth to change?

Cobblers face a lovely trip to Tranmere on Tuesday night, followed Lincoln City next weekend, the Imps will be all to eager to pummel this forlorn club into non-league. 

Cobblers lineup

Cornell

Goode Taylor Pierre

Facey O’Toole Elsnik McWilliams Bridge

Sordell Morias

Player Ratings

Cornell: 6

Goode:4

Taylor: 4

Pierre: 4

Facey: 4

O’Toole: 4

Elsnik: 5

McWilliams: 4

Bridge: 5

Sordell: 5

Morias: 5

Subs

Powell 3

A.Williams 4

Player focus: Marvin Sordell by Phil Garlick

Marvin Sordell didn’t arrive at Sixfields till 22.45 on Thursday night; half an hour later he was announced as the Cobblers’ fifth signing of the transfer window. 

Less than 48 hours later, the Burton Albion striker lined up alongside Junior Morias in Keith Curle’s latest team selection.

Sordell recently wrote a column for FourFourTwo magazine (no Keith not ThreeFiveTwo) in which he described the difficulties faced by players making deadline day moves. Such late, often desperate signings are tasked with making an immediate impact in strange surroundings, at often failing clubs. Such impact is understandably infrequent and can result in the player taking the blame for not single-handedly turning round a ship headed for the rocks.

On Saturday, against a previously out of form Colchester, Sordell was well down the list of players to blame for possibly the worst performance of the season. Admittedly he did fail to convert the couple of chances he had; fortunately for him, the teams finishing has been so bad, barely an eyelid was batted.

Sordell’s next opportunity at the start of the second-half would have tied the game at 1-1 but he could not get the ball beyond the onrushing keeper. By the time he was replaced by Andy Williams on 65 minutes, the games was gone and a fourth United goal followed soon after his departure.

The ex-Watford forward certainly has attacking quality albeit he doesn’t score bags of goals. His pace and ability may be more effective away from home playing a counter attacking role.  Whether it will be enough to arrest the slide in Northampton’s form remains to be seen.

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