Jefferson Lake’s Exeter v Cobblers view and player ratings: Quality lacking in Town show

BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE - Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls shows his disappointment following Saturday's defeat at Exeter (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE - Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls shows his disappointment following Saturday's defeat at Exeter (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

Although he only had one shot on target during the loss at Exeter City, Roy O’Donovan was bang on the mark when discussing Saturday’s game.

“We didn’t get the ball into Platty and Bayo with enough quality,” was the Irishman’s frank and entirely accurate assessment of the 90 minutes of play at St James’ Park.

“When we get it into them with quality, to their feet, it means they can bring the midfield and the wingers into play and give us a base to build from.”

In all honesty, Northampton have been struggling with this facet of the game for the past three matches - the difference being that Plymouth and Bristol Rovers did not have the quality themselves to punish them for such slack play.

Exeter City, however, did possess such quality.

The excellent Jamie Cureton looked in great shape - you might not see a fitter 37-year-old in league two football - and on this display he will be confident of overtaking Port Vale’s Tom Pope as the division’s leading goalscorer.

Cureton claims the first goal but it was certainly a Lee Nicholls own goal, and only the second real mistake of note that the teenager has made during a sparkling season on loan at Sixfields from Wigan.

The other was at Gillingham and also cost the team a goal, as mistakes by players in that position often do.

Nicholls endured a few nervous moments in its aftermath, almost gift-wrapping a second for Arron Davies, who missed the target against his former side with a first-time shot when he actually had time for another touch.

The introductions of Clive Platt and Jake Robinson gave the visitors an extra spring in their step and some better territory, and the result would have been a different one if one of the litany of chances the team created from their set-pieces had gone in.

Kelvin Langmead, Clarke Carlisle and Adebayo Akinfenwa all would have scored in other games but their luck was out at St James’ Park.

Maybe the team had used up all of their good fortune in the wins over Plymouth and Bristol Rovers, who knows?

One thing is for certain, though, and that is that this team find it a lot harder to get results using their ‘good defence and set-piece strength’ modus operandi against teams in the top seven than they do against those struggling at the other end.

How they rated...

LEE NICHOLLS

Was visibly furious with himself for the own goal and has to take it as part of the learning process ...5

BEN TOZER

The throw caused its usual problems but caught out on occasion by Exeter City’s counter-attacking game ...5

CLARKE CARLISLE

A dominant presence in both boxes at times but will have reason to be generally pleased by his performance ...6

KELVIN LANGMEAD

Organised a fairly effective offside trap which caught out Cureton more often than it didn’t ...6

LEE COLLINS

A problematic outing in which he struggled to find his clearing range ...5

ROY O’DONOVAN

Filled a number of positions to varying degrees of success and effectiveness ...5

LEWIS HORNBY

Saw plenty of the ball but Exeter’s pressing style meant he struggled to get his head up to pick a pass ...6

BEN HARDING

No complaints in defensive terms but his passing was somewhat below par ...5

JOE WIDDOWSON

Competed for everything but looked a little bit lost as a left-winger ...5

LUKE GUTTRIDGE

The pick of the visiting players on the day - kept fighting and display a real thirst to get on the ball and drive the game forward ...7

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA

This was one of those days where nothing went the big man’s way ...5

Substitutes:

CLIVE PLATT (for Widdowson, 66mins)

Added an extra edge up front and provided a platform from which to build attacks ...7

JAKE ROBINSON (for Hornby, 66mins)

Added some spark without really adding an end product ...6

Not used: Snedker, Johnson, Demontagnac, Dias, Hackett