Stourbridge 1 Northampton Town 0 - Jeremy Casey’s review, player ratings and match action

LET THE INQUEST BEGIN - David Cornell, Dave Buchanan and Gaby Zakuani contemplate defeat as the Stourbridge players celebrate their famous win (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
LET THE INQUEST BEGIN - David Cornell, Dave Buchanan and Gaby Zakuani contemplate defeat as the Stourbridge players celebrate their famous win (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

The morning after the night before... there will be hangovers all around for those of a claret and white persuasion today, but none of them will be down to any excesses of the festive season.

They will be down to the horror show served up by their football team against the part-timers of Stourbridge.

But before we pick the bones out of a horrible night for the Cobblers, we should start by praising the efforts of the Glassboys, who were deserved winners at an emotionally-charged War Memorial Ground.

They may play their league games in the Northern League Premier Division - the same as the Cobblers’ county rivals Corby Town - but they looked the more accomplished team on Tuesday night. They looked the better team.

They outplayed the Cobblers in every department, with the one exception being goalkeeper, where home stopper Matt Gould can’t really be judged, as he didnt have a single save to make, and only had to deal with a couple of straightforward crosses.

Stourbridge boasted the game’s outstanding attacker in right-winger Matt Dodd who wreaked havoc all evening, with three Town players booked for hauling him down.

Chris Lait, playing just behind main striker Luke Benbow, was the most creative player on show, and central defenders Dan Scarr and matchwinner Jack Duggan - a university student who works behind the bar at a golf club - were little short of immense at both ends of the pitch.

They didn’t give Marc Richards and Alex Revell a sniff, and whenever they went forward for a set-piece, they tormented Gaby Zakuani and Alex Nyatanga at the other end too.

So yes, this was a giant-killing, one for the record books, but it wasn’t a case of the supposed minnows clinging on, Stourbridge were comfortable winners.

Indeed, they should have won by more.

Now, on to the Cobblers...

Manager Rob Page said after the game he and the players will take ‘any criticism that will come their way ‘ following the defeat, well I fear there is going to be plenty of it. Starting here.

The positive from the night? That would be the players’ attitide and work-rate.

There was no ‘we’re better than you’ attitude, no arrogance, and certainly no showboating.

This was a game where the Cobblers’ Football League experience and supposed quality should have shone through, they should have been able to deal with the opposition and the occasion. They didn’t do either.

Jeremy Casey

I don’t think there was one player that didn’t give 100 per cent in terms of effort, I don’t think there was a single player didn’t do their best, it was simply that their best was painfully short of being anywhere near good enough.

And that is a damning statement.

From back to front, this was a woeful display.

The tone was set in the opening minutes with Stourbridge hustling, bustling and all over the Cobblers, who couldn’t cope.

The home side played a direct style, but this was no kick and rush, it was measured and controlled and effective.

Page bemoaned the fact that his team fell into the home side’s hands and played too long, but I would say the Town team was pretty much set up to play that way - as with Revell and Richards up top, the temptation is always going to be there to hit them early.

The problem was, Revell and Richards barely won a ball sent their way all night. Their threat was completely nullified by Scarr and Duggan, so Town never had a platform to attack from.

Sam Hoskins showed glimpses of his pace, and looked the most likely to create something, but his final ball was lacking, while Paul Anderson was bright early on, before retreating to the fringes of the action.

The central midfield pair of Jak McCourt and Matt Taylor were not given a second on the ball by the tenacious home players, so nothing was built through the middle of the park, and it meant Town spent most of the night living off attacking scraps.

The defence were overworked, with Zakuani and Nyatanga standing up to most of what Stourbridge could throw at them, while I doubt Dave Buchanan has had a harder match all season. Todd never gave him a moment’s peace.

Goalkeeper David Cornell kept his team in it with a couple of crucial saves, but it was to be his error of judgement - failing to connect with his punch clear having come for the cross - that was to prove crucial.

Cornell shouldn’t carry the can for the loss, but it was a rush of blood that cost his team dear.

On a grim night, the only time the Cobblers assumed any sort of ascendancy was between the 70 and 80 minute mark, when a weary-looking Stourbridge started to sit deep and allowed Town some possession.

But it was all in front of the packed defence, no chances were created, and when the home side made a couple of attacking substitutions, the Glassboys’ attacking spark was reignited, and it was they who finished the stronger - leading to that painful winning goal.

What of the Cobblers substitutions? What did Page do to turn the tide? Well, truth be told, not a lot.

Raheem Hanley was a like-for-like replacement for Anderson on the left, and teenage striker Joe Iaciafano was given three minutes of stoppage time - that was too little, too late, and not fair on the youngster.

The manager explained that he didn’t want to lose any aerial threat for defending set-pieces, which is why he didn’t make changes earlier, and that makes sense - but in the end it was from one of those aerial threats that the goal came.

This was a game where the Cobblers’ Football League experience and supposed quality should have shone through, they should have been able to deal with the opposition and the occasion.

They didn’t do either.

Just four or five weeks ago, this Town team was flying high and the talk ahead of any January transfer dealings was about adding one or two players to strengthen certain areas, and the squad would be in good shape.

Well, after a run of five defeats in six matches, with the most recent against a part-time team 89 places below them on the football pyramid, it could be that January could see a lot more activity than previously thought.

Page hinted as much after Tuesday night’s game, and it is clear he felt let down by some of his players, but the manager also has to take his share of the blame.

For whatever reason, and there are many, the team that won Sky Bet League Two in May has been dismantled - on Tuesday, only Buchanan, Richards and Hoskins were involved last season - and the feel-good factor and momentum from that title win is disappearing, if it hasn’t already gone.

There is plenty of anger around among supporters, plenty of frustration, with many fans mystified by Page’s refusal to utlilise more of his squad, or to offer opportunities, even from the bench, to the likes of Lawson D’Ath, Joel Byrom, Rod McDonald and Emmanuel Sonupe, who have barely featured.

But there shouldn’t be any knee-jerk reaction to this defeat, and I am sure there won’t be.

Yes, Town have been embarrassed and have blown a great chance of a run in the FA Cup with Wycombe awaiting in the next round, but the fact remains, the Cobblers are in a healthy 13th place in league one, they are eight points above the relegation zone, and five off the play-offs.

Most fans would have taken that before the start of the season, but there is now some pressure on Page and his team to quickly right the wrongs from a woeful night in the west midlands.

Starting against Rochdale this weekend.

Player ratings

David Cornell - the goalkeeper was one of the Cobblers’ better performers, and kept his team in the game with two finger-tip saves from Dan Scarr headers. But his night was tainted by his late error as he missed his punch ahead of the winning goal - 5

Aaron Phillips - defensively sound, Phillips was rarely troubled when protecting his own goal, but on too many occasions he took the wrong option when in attack - 5

Dave Buchanan - as always gave his all, but he was given a tough night by Stourbridge flyer Matt Dodd. In fact, I doubt Buchanan has had a tougher game this season - 4

Gaby Zakuani - the central defender had his hands full througout, and in the main he headed and booted everything clear. But struggled to deal with the aerial threat of Duggan and Scarr on set-pieces, and that pressure eventually told - 5

Lewin Nyatanga - like Zakuani, Nyatanga stood up to most things Stourbridge threw at him and the Cobblers defence, but he lost his man Duggan for Stourbridge’s late winner - 5

Sam Hoskins - looked the most likely to create something for the Cobblers when he had the chance to run with the ball, but he couldn’t produce the end product - 5

Jak McCourt - wasn’t allowed any sort of time to settle, and his distribution was erratic to say the least. Blows very hot and cold at the moment, and this was one of his cold nights I’m afraid - 4

Matt Taylor - was overpowered by the Stourbridge midfielders, who made a point of closing him down at every opportunity. Never imposed himself on the game, and his set-pieces were unusually poor, even curling two corners straight out of play - 4

Paul Anderson - started the game okay, and was an attacking outlet early on, but he faded and was pretty anonymous in the second half. He was eventually replaced on the left by Raheem Hanley - 4

Alex Revell - the big striker had a bad night. He was starved of quality service, but he needed to do more to get hold of the ball, and struggled badly against Stourbridge defenders Dan Scarr and Jack Duggan who were dominant - 4

Marc Richards - like his strike partner Revell, the skipper was frustrated throughout the night at the lack of creativity in the Town team behind him, but he was very much second best to the Stourbridge defenders - 4

Substitutes

Raheem Hanley (for Anderson, 78 mins)

Joe Iaciafano (for McCourt, 90 mins)

Not used: Smith, McDonald, Beautyman, Byrom, D’Ath