Cobblers put in a textbook terrible Northampton Town performance in throwing away a 1-0 lead against 10 man Port Vale. Keith Curle’s side looked to be in command after Sam Hoskins had tapped home a 5th minute opener but didn’t seem too bothered about notching a follow up.
Vale, with off-field strife between fans and the club’s owners, had been looking over the shoulders at relegation and were there for the taking but were allowed to gradually overwhelm Town for a single goal victory.
Curle went back to the old routine with multiple team changes as midfielder Jack Bridge and Shaun McWilliams were brought back in from the cold on a warm Spring day at Sixfields. This appeared to have worked straight off the bat as Bridge curled in a nice cross from an East Stand corner that Hoskins was able to the prod home from 5 yards.
Disjointed Town however, struggle with the next steps in producing comprehensive performances and allowed Vale to play around them. Opposition teams come to Sixfields knowing they can outplay a direct Town outfit and even an unconfident Vale side were cocksure they could create chances.
Cobblers had a decent chance to double their lead on 33 minutes when the diminutive Bridge went in on goal following a cute one-two with Marvin Sordell. Yet, Bridge could only skew wide from 10 yards.Bridge is probably Town’s most technical player in a team that is simply not comfortable on the ball. Curle’s style at present is an attritional percentage game that is far from easy on the eye and reliant on punts into the box and pin-ball knock downs that someone will hopefully finish.
Stewards in the stands had to watch their backs for stray kicks from Dai Cornell in the Cobblers goal and shins into touch from the likes of Hoskins who weren’t having their best days.
Town’s two forwards Sordell and Andy Williams looked far from being able to contribute by connecting ball with net.
Sixfields currently makes the town’s morgue seen like a happening nitespot, mainly because the fans know that some sort of calamity is never far away. That duly came within the space of 2 minutes at the end of the first-half when Port Vale skipper Leon Legge was dismissed for pulling back Williams before David Worrall was allowed a 1 on 1 to slot past Cornell for the equaliser.
Former Millwall man Worrell made the most of unsure David Buchanan defending to stroll towards Cornell and slide the ball home in front of the North Stand. Worrell is the kind of aggressive, ball carrying winger that Town have struggled to recruit and made sure that the first-half finished to a chorus of boos from the home faithful.
The second-half played out with everyone from a Cobblers perspective wishing the Summer break would come pronto.
Curle responded by taking off forward Andy Williams for midfielder Dean Bowditch while Vale gaffer John Askey went like for like in swapping Ricky Miller for club legend striker Tom Pope.
Pope, on 99 goals, was all set up to complete the tonne at Sixfields and did so when Charlie Goode fouled Christian Montano in the box. “Feed the Pope and he will score” chanted the away fans and Pope did so, albeit unconvincingly via a spot kick down the middle which Cornell parried but could not prevent from dribbling over the line.The trademark Sixfields groan, which may as well be piped over the tannoy was heard to full effect as Vale saw out a deserved win. Cobblers train twice a week on the Sixfields pitch so it is some achievement to play as strangers.
Another rebuilding job seems on the cards for Keith Curle who demolished his players in the post-match interview saying he doesn’t trust his players to “pass the ball”. Realistically, a rebuild will put the Cobblers back another couple of seasons.
Town fans meanwhile who payed £24 from the privilege will have wished they stayed in the beer garden.
Pass pass, hoof and pass pass diagonal will not convince many to re-purchase season tickets.
Player focus: Jack Bridge by Phil Garlick
Jack Bridge made his first start in almost a month. Replacing West Ham loanee Joe Powell, he was stuck out on the left in front of the East Stand shell. It was from an early corner on the left that he combined with David Buchanan to deliver a right footed cross for Sam Hoskins to open the scoring.
Jack is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players in the current squad but unfortunately that is no great accolade. Against Carlisle he proved a genuine threat from a more central position at it was a surging run through the middle that nearly doubled the Cobblers lead.
Picking the ball up on half-way he played a one-two with Sordell on the edge of the box before shooting wide of the near post. Like the rest of the team, he posed little threat in the second half, managing only one real delivery of note that evaded a NTFC head at the far post.
It would be interesting to see in a three behind Andy Williams but nobody knows how Curle will arrange his jigsaw going forwards.
Player focus: Ricky Miller by Aiden Boyer
As an ex-Peterborough United man, Ricky Miller came into this game knowing there could be pressure from home fans, particularly behind the goal.
As the game kicked in, Miller became more effective and was getting on the end of a few balls forward, but his efforts were either straight at goalkeeper David Cornell or over the bar, much to the entertainment of the North Stand.
The second half was a different story for Miller. He certainly seemed more motivated and was able to be a bigger threat to the Cobblers defenders and Cornell in goal. He often drifted beyond the Cobblers defensive line before moving back onside and looked for any pot shots at goal he could.
With approximately 20 minutes left, Miller was replaced by Vale’s fan favourite Tom Pope, and the away supporters showed their appreciation for a good shift from the number 10, something a fair few of the Northampton players could’ve learned from.