“If you tolerate this, then your children will be next” sang The Manic Street Preachers. Such a phrase could also be apt for the football on offer at Sixfields this season. Yes the Cobblers eventually came out on top in a 3-1 win against one of the league’s current crisis clubs but it was another turgid affair, writes Phil Garlick.
It was pre-season friendly weather and with the Easter Fun Fair still looming above the ground, it was a surprise nearly 5,000 fans opted for the not so fun fare on offer in the still part-built stadium.
The Manic’s song was about the Spanish civil war and in particular, volunteers fighting fascists. On Friday, players across the country were supporting the PFA’s #enough campaign for football authorities and social media to do more to combat racism. The PFA aren’t, of course, shooting fascists, their campaign involves players abstaining from social media for a day.
And so to the match between safely mid table town and relegation threatened Macclesfield. Nobody can have been expecting a classic however some were still drunk on Champions League extravaganza. Hopes that the fearless flowing Ajax style would have found its way to Northampton were dashed as the Cobblers took little time to launch their aerial assault in a 3-5-2 formation.
The problem being, the target was often Morias who was conceding at least a foot in height to whichever defender he chose to tussle with. His strike partner, Daniel Powell had a little more success but who could have predicted a Morias/Powell partnership?
With Curle, fans have become familiar with changing formations and team selections week in and week out. The players often seem less familiar, often giving the impression they don’t know what they’re doing. This was Illustrated in the first half by Dean Bowditch seeking direction from Curle when taking a free-kick in the opposition half.
Of further concern was the set up at attacking corners. The new training ground moves have caught the eye recently with players lining up on the edge of the box before fanning out in formation. The problem at the first three of these was Macclesfield sent two players up to half way where they were marked by a lone defender. The predictable happened and the Cobblers were lucky to survive a fast break as a result of poor execution from the third worst side in the division.
Having survived it was the Cobblers who took the lead on 25 minutes. The quietly impressive 18 year-old Scott Pollock, released Turnbull who drove forward towards the box where his cross was sweetly volleyed into the corner by Bowditch. It was a rare moment of quality for the Sixfields faithful who knew all too well an equaliser could soon follow.
Having had a goal ruled out for offside, the visitors levelled the score on 38 minutes. A long ball from their own half sailed between and beyond Pierre and Turnbull to allow Harry Smith to lift the ball over Cornell. Story of the season, just when it looks like the Cobblers will dominate they return to square one. The half-time discussions were appropriately dour.
The second half was not much easier on the eye but at least it resulted in a win. Both goals were the result of poor defending rather than Cobblers’ creativity. Daniel Powell regained the lead when gratefully latching onto an under hit header from a Macclesfield defender on 54 minutes. Powell was again involved in the third goal as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes. The Nicky Adams lookalike, Elliott Durrell, was dispossessed by Powell who drew the keeper before squaring unselfishly for Morias to turn into an empty net.
The Cobblers produced a standard win against a relegation threatened side with off-field problems. A protest march is planned by Macclesfield Town fans on Monday against the Silkmen’s owners after what they call being “treated as second class citizens”.
Not that Cobblers are without off-field problems of their own after the Supporters’ Trust statement this week over growing concerns over the East Stand development.
Curle’s problem is that there is still little creativity or spark in his current Cobblers eleven. Too often they are slow and rehearsed. It’ll be a busy summer as Curle tries to create a team that can win more often. Especially so at Sixfields where they have now only beaten one of the nine side below them in the table. Yeovil will give them an opportunity to double that total next Saturday.
It will be a must win game for both sides, Yeovil trying to avoid the drop, Cobblers trying to sell season tickets.