Cobblers 0-0 Crawley was number 3576 in the all-time Cobblers most boring games but still boring as hell, writes Tom Reed.
If the game was a colour it would be beige, if it was a pizza topping it’d be cheese and if it was a crisp flavour it’d be plain.
The National Association Of Librarians left their annual jolly to Sixfields at half-time for more exciting times playing with the microfiche back at head office.
If the Cobblers had been allowed to try and hit the net in an empty stadium after the game they’d still be there now, hoofing the ball into the Wrefords Transport yard on Edgar Mobbs way and tripping over their shoelaces. You could feel the hair follicles of those in attendance turning grey,
This is a team with no direction or identity in a club struggling with similar issues. Keith Curle’s 3-5-2 philosophy was torn a new one by Colchester United and not his answer appears to be Sam Hoskins up front alone.
The squat Hoskins is many things but he’s not a player to lead the line. Behind him were a stodgy mix of Cobblers most sturdy players: Reliable, physically present but not creative enough to make any impact on a game that people pay to watch.
When you struggle against a team with 123 away fans as Crawley did, you have problems.
4-2-3-1, a go to for Chris Wilder was tried by an ill at ease Curle, with unconvincing results.
Town’s I-Follow subscribers won’t get much for their money in their highlights package, not that they will want to rewatch this game that will be locked away in the vast archive of dull Cobblers matches. Essentially, Crawley were the better counter-attacking team in terms of cohesive play with the unit Ollie Palmer actually being a man to play off up top for the reds. The ball didn’t touch the grass much on a gloomy day at Sixfields and a John-Joe O’Toole spooned effort from a Jack Bridge cross was about as much as Town could muster. O’Toole, a shadow of his former self, hit sky instead of a large goal-shaped target.
Earlier Crawley’s Joe McNerney had seen a goal-bound looping header blocked on the line by David Buchanan with Town again looking shaky at the back.
Down the road, Northampton Saints were romping to an entertaining 67-17 victory over Sale and the early kick-off time at Franklins Gardens proved a good ruse in keeping Cobblers fans in the stadium. Only a long queue of Land-Rovers kept the shoe army from leaving in swathes with Town struggling to score in a month of Sundays.
Crawley boss Gabrielle Cioffi, formerly Gianfranco Zola’s right hand man at Birmingham City was left frustrated after referee Nick Kinsely turned down a late penalty appeal when Aaron Pierre looked to have tripped Palmer in the box. No penalty was given which was fair enough for a game undeserving of any goals.
Town are still ten points from the drop-zone and approaching safety but in that cruel Cobblers way, not guaranteed their league status. If they scrape up, Curle might consider dropping many of his current crop as their appear few to base a team around. Only Morgan Roberts and Jay Williams could make the bench out of Northampton’s star under-18 side.
Question marks remain on the ability of Curle to go further than a stabilising job of retaining Northampton’s League 2 while the supporters trust’s call for change at a stagnant club become all the more difficult to ignore.
Player focus: Sam Hoskins by Phil Garlick
Having been the 2 goal hero of the Cobblers’ victory at Tranmere, “Fireman” Sam Hoskins was given his third consecutive start as a lone striker. The embers of that surprise match-winning performance are all but extinguished and Hoskins once again failed to spark life into a game that was never going to be one for the purists.
It’s Hoskins’ pace that gives him the edge and to that extent he is more suited to a counter-attacking offensive game. Against Crawley, that was not the game plan and he was left to feed off scraps.
Countless long balls were easily won by the impressive McNerney. It was almost as if Cobblers were deliberately looking to compete for second-phase ball. When Sam did get opportunities down the channels, he could do no more than win a couple of first-half corners.
The introduction of Williams late on may have given him some much needed aerial reinforcement but instead it saw him moved out to the right. His final contribution was to take a booking for the team in front of the East stand shell when stopping a threatening break.
Ultimately this damp squib confirmed the rebirth at Tranmere was no more than a false alarm.