Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v York view and player ratings: Town have to rediscover spark, and quickly

THAT'S THAT - York's Matt Blair puts in the cross which was diverted into his own net by Cobblers defender John Johnson to make it 2-0 at Sixfields (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
THAT'S THAT - York's Matt Blair puts in the cross which was diverted into his own net by Cobblers defender John Johnson to make it 2-0 at Sixfields (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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If we’re being brutally honest, the Cobblers engine has been running on fumes for some time now. On Saturday, against York City, it spluttered to a stop.

Northampton might have got something at Bradford City and Cheltenham Town in their two preceding games but the simple fact of the matter is that they did not.

And arguably they were fortunate to win the two that went before that too - Roy O’Donovan provided the sole moment of class in a squeaky 1-0 win over Torquay six days after a similarly edgy win over an Oxford side that came on strongly in the second half and were only kept at bay by a superb Lee Nicholls display.

Before that was a well-earned draw at Morecambe and a 2-0 win over Accrington on March 9 that might represent the last time the team produced a strong all-round performance.

During that run, when the team won matches, it was suggested that they were doing so by virtue of being a strong side; the implication being that when the team found their next gear they would start to beat teams and play well.

What has happened is that the team has found the next gear but it has been a shift downwards. Rather than grow as a team and improve performance levels, the standard has reduced.

Undoubtedly, elements of the team’s tactical game plan have been worked out by opposition scouts.

Chris Hackett is very rarely seen without at least two defenders breathing down his neck and even the effect of the fabled Ben Tozer throw, once an unstoppable weapon, has been diluted.

Key players are out of form or out injured. Adebayo Akinfenwa’s goal drought goes on - he had 14 goals by the second Saturday of December and should be well past the 20-mark by this stage. Instead he has hit the back of the net just three times since.

And the team is undoubtedly missing Kelvin Langmead.

He has become the talisman for the side that Akinfenwa once was but as well as his leadership qualities he is also a very good defender.

Lee Collins is a perfectly competent replacement but does not have the ‘right place, right time’ qualities when it comes to those last-ditch goalmouth scrambles.

Northampton could hardly have chosen a worse time to hit a rough patch of form - if they do now miss out on automatic promotion (as is looking increasingly likely) they will have to settle for the play-offs and they will go into them out of form, cold and with no momentum.

Such a finish would represent progress on the past couple of years. The team was staring into the non-league abyss 12 months ago and have made big strides since.

But it was all in the team’s own hands just a couple of games ago, they could have gone straight up by concerning themselves only with their own results.

And now anything else will feel like a disappointment.

The engine needs a jump start and it needs one soon. Or it’s back to the league two drawing board again in the summer.

Jeff’s ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

A couple of uncharacteristic slips but more good than bad ...6

JOHN JOHNSON

An afternoon to forget for the defender and one capped with an own goal ...4

CLARKE CARLISLE

Has been in excellent form lately but this was a return to his more unsteady form ...5

LEE COLLINS

The team’s best outfield performer for the second week in a row; played with power and precision ...6

JOE WIDDOWSON

Dealt with the impressive Blair well enough and managed to avoid a booking ...6

CHRIS HACKETT

Seemed to be struggling through injury but had two or three bright moments ...6

BEN HARDING

The game passed him by for long spells and needs to do something to rediscover his spark ...4

BEN TOZER

Was part of an underused midfield but can be relatively happy with his overall contribution ...5

JAKE ROBINSON

Saw a good shot superbly saved by Ingham in the closing stages of the first half, which was as good as it got ...5

ROY O’DONOVAN

Work rate as impressive as ever and grew into the contest but really should have scored his one good chance ...5

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA

Not really his day once again, although he did produce a very good save from Ingham with a headed opportunity ...5

Substitutes:

LUKE GUTTRIDGE (for Hackett, 63mins)

Seemed like the answer at the time and increased the tempo to a degree ...5

CLIVE PLATT (for Widdowson, 76mins)

DAVID MOYO (for Robinson, 85mins)

Not used: Snedker, Hornby, Cameron, Dias