Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v Bristol Rovers view and player ratings: Town are masters of the grind

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL - Ishmel Demontagnac and Ben Harding celebrate the Cobblers' late winner against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL - Ishmel Demontagnac and Ben Harding celebrate the Cobblers' late winner against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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The old cliché about a good team proving their worth by winning when not playing their best has been very well used in the past two Northampton Town matches.

Against Plymouth the Cobblers were some way short of the kind of performance level they are capable of producing, and against Bristol Rovers even further away from it.

They generated almost nothing in open play in terms of attacking opportunites - neither did Rovers, it has to be said, although they were marginally better in possession.

But what this current team has is an exceptional ability when they do not have the ball, especially at home.

Defensively they were as solid as they have been all season.

Clarke Carlisle, who has had his critics, and who Aidy Boothroyd admitted looked like he ‘had his boots on the wrong feet’ in the Plymouth game, was very good and Lee Collins’ ongoing soundness at left-back means Joe Widdowson has not been missed during his suspension.

As well as their first-rate defence, the other reason for the win was the one cited by Boothroyd after the match – an ability to cause problems at set-pieces.

Steve Mildenhall in the Rovers goal had the measure of the inswinging corner, taking cross after cross even with Clive Platt breathing down his neck.

He was in no mood to make the kind of mistake Jake Cole did for Plymouth in the previous match and it was clear John Ward had done his homework in that area.

With the current Northampton side, though, teams have to deal with substantially more balls into the box than they do from other teams because of the Ben Tozer throw.

While defending corners can be practised to the nth degree in training (because the ball is always coming from the same place), the throw can come from a wide variety of angles.

It is a vital weapon.

On countless occasions in football, and especially at the lower levels, teams profit from their ability at the set-piece.

Lots of games in the past two seasons have seen Northampton compete strongly in matches only to be undone by a corner or a free-kick (think Adam Barrett).

So they have mastered that element of the game and they also seem to be well tuned in to the knack all good sides have of winning games when not playing well.

In the past two matches, the team has collected six points from 180 minutes of football that barely merited mention never mind league victory.

A 46-game season is a grind and the Cobblers are really grinding the wins out now.

Who knows where such attributes will take them this season...

Player ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

Kicking slightly off but that may have been down to the conditions. Everything else spot on ...7

BEN TOZER

No negatives at all in general play and the throw is a key piece of the team’s attacking armoury ...8

CLARKE CARLISLE

Quite possibly the best game of his second spell at the club, a vast improvement on Saturday ...8

KELVIN LANGMEAD

Wrongly awarded the goal initially but will have been happy just to collect another clean sheet ...8

LEE COLLINS

Has added steel and spite to the backline, never panics and always recovers position when he has to ...8

JAKE ROBINSON

Will look back on this game as an opportunity lost. Never really involved in the game for a long spell ...5

LEWIS HORNBY

Struggled against opponents who pressed him and was often ponderous in possession ...5

BEN HARDING

Superb technique for the goal and competed well with his opposite number on a tricky night ...6

ROY O’DONOVAN

As with Robinson, found himself isolated out wide and didn’t leave an impression on the match ...5

CLIVE PLATT

Several moments of good link-up play but faded in the second half with Akinfenwa off injured ...5

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA

Unfairly penalised for fouls – as usual – and Town’s attacking threat definitely diluted when he was substituted ...5

Substitutes:

ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC (for Akinfenwa, 46mins)

More of the sublime than the ridiculous on this occasion and actually defended pretty well ...6

LUKE GUTTRIDGE (for Robinson, 72mins)

Added a little spice and snap to midfield, giving the team some momentum towards the end ...6

JOHN JOHNSON (for Platt, 90+2mins)

Not used: Snedker, Dias, Oyeleke