Shell-shocked Cobblers humiliated as they are hit for six by Bristol Rovers at Sixfields

Marc Richards in action for the Cobblers against Bristol Rovers (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Marc Richards in action for the Cobblers against Bristol Rovers (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Cobblers endured a truly catastrophic afternoon on Saturday when their wretched run of not scoring and not winning reached a desperate new low with a shocking and horrendous 6-0 home defeat to Bristol Rovers.

It’s difficult to be sure where to start on a day when absolutely nothing went right for Town, who were outplayed, outfought and outthought throughout 90 dreadful minutes. 

Matt Ingram was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers in a first-half that the visitors dominated with the movement and pace of Rovers’ forward players too much for the Town defence to handle. 

If not for Ingram, Rovers could have been out of sight by half-time such was the amount of chances they created, but as it was, Bodin’s goal meant they only led by one at the break, albeit only courtesy of the overworked Ingram who kept out Tom Nichols’ spot-kick.

But Rovers turned their superiority into goal after goal in a remarkable second-half that, for the second successive game against the Pirates, left the home side embarrassed and humbled. 

Ellis Harrison took his personal tally against Northampton to six goals in two matches when scoring a four-minute double before the visitors ran riot.

Alex Revell saw red for an apparent elbow and Rovers kept streaming forward, adding further goals from Rory Gaffney, Liam Sercombe and Dominic Telford.

Thankfully for the beleaguered home side, that was the end of the scoring but now the inquest begins as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink goes about somehow trying to turn this horrible run of form around, with Town showing no signs of escaping the bottom four any time soon. 

Hasselbaink once again demonstrated his willingness to rotate by making three changes from the last league game with Marc Richards, Raheem Hanley and Sam Foley all coming into the team.

Foley was making his league debut for the Cobblers while Richards and Hanley started in a front three alongside Alex Revell.

For Rovers, Adam Smith marked his first return to Sixfields as an unused substitute but fellow ex-Cobbler and Rovers’ top scorer this season Boden was in from the start. 

Rovers were sharp out of the blocks and carried all of the early threat, exemplified on just six minutes when only quick reactions from Ingram kept out Rory Gaffney who had been slipped in by Liam Sercombe.

Northampton started sluggishly but came into the game with a bright spell that saw both Matt Grimes and Dean Bowditch have shots deflected off target.

But Rovers always looked menacing going the other way and only a second Ingram save kept out Bodin while Ellis Harrison was also denied by the home stopper before David Buchanan brilliantly blocked the follow-up effort.

There was not much in the game in general play but Rovers posed a constant threat whenever they ventured into Northampton territory, with Buchanan producing another vital block from Gaffney.

The busy Ingram was also back in the action when tipping Sercombe’s pile-driver around the post but eventually his resistance was broken and Rovers went ahead.

The goal, arriving on 37 minutes, all stemmed from a poor clearance by Aaron Pierre whose header fell straight to Rovers and allowed them to break, with Gaffney laying the ball back to Bodin who brilliantly fired into the bottom corner via the post.

Bodin injured himself in the process and had to be withdrawn before Town were forced into a change of their own, Brendan Moloney replaced by Regan Poole.

And Northampton’s woes looked destined to deeper further in the closing stages of the half when Revell’s clumsy challenge gifted the visitors a penalty, only for Ingram to keep out substitute Tom Nichols’ spot-kick.

Ingram’s work for the first-half was not done as he then thwarted Harrison to somehow keep his side only own goal behind at half-time.

The break prompted a reshuffle from Hasselbaink who went 4-4-2 with Revell partnering Richards up front, and that change almost paid dividends immediately when Revell shot narrowly wide from 20 yards.

But there was few signs of much improvement from the first-half thereafter and Rovers’ second goal, scored in the 56th minute, came as little surprise. 

It was all too easy for the visitors as Sercombe was afforded space to cross and he obliged, whipping in a pinpoint ball that Harrison headed beyond Ingram having easily got between Town’s defence.

And it went from bad to worse for the home side as chief tormentor Harrison swiftly added his second and Rovers’ third, shooting low into the far corner on the hour-mark.

It was now a question of damage limitation for the Cobblers as Hasselbaink introduced Lewis McGugan and Sam Hoskins without much joy. 

Things kept getting worse for Town when Revell saw red for an apparent elbow on Tom Broadbent, much to the striker’s disbelief. 

Rovers showed no mercy, adding a 72nd minute fourth through Gaffney who caught the home defence ball-watching to power into the net from close-range after Chris Lines’ scuffed shot came back off the post.

The visitors weren’t done there with Nichols’ cross finished off first-time by Sercombe on 77 minutes.

Ingram prevented a sixth by keeping out Dominic Telford but the Rovers substitute wasn’t to be denied four minutes from time when scoring through Ingram’s legs following Marc Boca’s cutback.

Much to Town’s relief, that signalled the end of the scoring but the boos at the full-time whistle told you all you needed to know after a terrible afternoon.

Match stats
Cobblers: Ingram, Moloney (Poole 41), Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan, Grimes, Foley (McGugan 59), Bowditch, Hanley (Hoskins 63), Revell, Richards (c). Subs not used: Cornell, Powell, McWilliams, McGugan, Waters
Bristol Rovers: Slocombe, Sercombe, Clarke (c), Harrison (Sinclair 67), Bodin (Nichols 39), Lines, Broadbent, Boca, Partington, Gaffney (Telford 77), Menayese. Subs not used: Smith, Leadbitter, Brown, Moore

Referee: Mark Heywood

Attendance: 6,087

Rovers fans: 1,007