If nothing else, Northampton’s opening fixture of this season’s revamped and rebranded Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday was something of a desperate reflection of the competition itself as their shortcomings were badly exposed by a smarter, hungrier and stronger Wycombe Wanderers side who ran out deserved winners.
There was nothing about Northampton’s start that suggested what was to follow but after an initial flurry of activity early on, it was Wycombe who showed greater desire and appetite for the fight and once they went ahead, they never once look like relinquishing control.
In the end, the Cobblers were outplayed, overpowered and comprehensively beaten with Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth hammering the final nail into the coffin when bringing himself on to set up his side’s third and round off a thoroughly wretched evening for Rob Page’s team.
Alarm bells have been ringing almost since day one when it comes to the creative front and again on Tuesday, Town rarely forced the opposition goalkeeper into a save of note.
And this is the crunch question: if Northampton fall behind to a team who are defensively well-drilled, do they possess the necessary guile, firepower or indeed quality to get themselves back into the game? On the evidence of Tuesday evening, the answer is a resounding no.
From the moment Wycombe went ahead – only the third time a team has gone in front against the Cobblers this season – Northampton’s limitations in attack were exposed and not once did they threaten to get back into the game, their threat easily blunted by some stubborn Wycombe resistance.
Of course, you could argue that this was not the strongest team Page will field this season but with the likes of Zander Diamond, Joel Byrom, Lawson D’Ath and Alex Revell all starting, there should have been more than enough quality to beat a team from the division below.
Apparently not. Northampton huffed and puffed but failed to penetrate Wycombe who easily withstood the late barrage of crosses as the hosts passed harmlessly from side to side before punting aimless balls into the box, bread and butter for this Wycombe team.
Put simply, Wycombe were physically stronger, more mobile and displayed better game management throughout to leave many of the 1,408 fans inside Sixfields wondering why they had even bothered to make the effort.
It was no surprise that this game had more of a pre-season friendly feel to it with almost 7,000 empty seats inside an 8,000 capacity stadium, and that made for a strange atmosphere, reflected by Northampton’s laboured, lacklustre performance.
All in all, it was a night to forget. Perhaps the next midweek fixture at Sixfields will generate more excitement.
How they rated...
David Cornell - Well beaten for all three goals. Won’t be remembered as the most memorable debut... 6
Aaron Phillips - Sloppy on the ball and caught out of position too often... 5
Zander Diamond - One of the few players to come out of the game with any credit but even he was off-colour... 6
Lewin Nyatanga - Never got to grips with Wycombe’s powerful front two who were afforded too much space... 5
David Buchanan - Excellent going forward, provided as much threat as anyone with his bursting runs down the left... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Harry Beautyman - Bar long-range efforts that were easily saved, barely had a sniff all evening... 5
Joel Byrom - First start of the season so no surprise he looked off the pace. Kept things simple but lacked penetration with his passing. All went a bid sideways... 6
Jak McCourt - Again, like Byrom, couldn’t make that telling forward pass as the pair were overrun by Wycombe’s more mobile midfield three... 6
Lawson D’Ath - Lacked conviction in the final third and was easily brushed off the ball at times. Early header wide but offered very little after that... 5
JJ Hooper - Didn’t get himself into the game as much after a bright start, found himself drifting out to the left... 6
Alex Revell - Endeavour was there but little he could do with the lack of supply and support... 6
Kenji Gorre - 6
Raheem Hanley - Lively cameo... 7
Emmanuel Sonupe - 6