VIDEO: Northampton Town 0 Carlisle 2 - Jefferson Lake’s view and player ratings

Lawson D'Ath in action during the Cobblers' defeat to Carlisle at Sixfields (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Lawson D'Ath in action during the Cobblers' defeat to Carlisle at Sixfields (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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So it turns out the Cobblers aren’t quite the same team when they are without two of their best attacking players, a fact proved by their dire defeat to Carlisle United on Tuesday night.

Marc Richards was always going to be badly missed because you simply can’t take that number of goals out of a football team and expect them to to still carry the same attacking threat.

Their potency was diluted further with the loss of Ricky Holmes, whose tendency to cut inside is not one shared by his deputy, Chris Hackett, who will always look to get to the touchline before delivering the final product.

And it didn’t help that a third quarter of the front four who had spearheaded the team’s thrilling start to 2015, John-Joe O’Toole, was back to the bad old days with a performance which started sluggishly and got progressively worse as the game went on.

Carlisle deserve enormous credit for their game plan and the way it was executed. They took everything the Cobblers had to offer then hit them with two well-taken and quick goals to end the match as a contest.

With the home side struggling to get any kind of fluency in their play, they never looked like recovering from going a goal down, never mind two.

It felt like you were watching a team who were feeling somewhat sorry for themselves and one marking time in mid-table rather than going all guns blazing for the final play-off place.

The sub-standard display on the pitch was matched by one off it, where barely 3,400 supporters turned out to see their team and whose only noises were audible groans at the poor play on offer. Sometimes, incredibly, they even booed.

For long periods in the second half, the match was played to a background of complete silence, with every word on the pitch audible as far back in the west stand as the press box.

The team did not give their following anything to shout about and so they stayed quiet. It was one of those nights.

One can only hope that the apathy does not extend to the boardroom, where chairman David Cardoza and the directors of the club must now face some major decisions about financing future signings.

With the team still just four points off the play-off places, a bold argument can be made that cash should be splashed on an experienced addition to the forward line - and maybe even an extra body in midfield.

As Chris Wilder is currently discovering, such players are difficult to find; recent suggestions from scouts have been limited to players who have been abroad and are looking for a League club for what might be their final professional contract, or ones who have been out of starting line-ups for the majority of the season and therefore lack the sharpness required to make an instant impact.

Somehow they need to source a striker in the same mould as the trio they added in January – someone out of favour but with their current club but with proven good quality and experience.

It’s either that or an expensive gamble on a young player from a higher-level club and then you’re into toss-of-a-coin country – you might get a Saido Berahino, you might get a Henoc Mukendi.

It will be interesting to see how the club plays it in the next week or so.

But it is becoming worryingly more apparent that the current side is starting to run out of steam a little bit, that the losses of vital players to injury is starting to take its toll, and that the play-offs may soon be out of reach.

MATT DUKE

Still seems to be struggling with his kicking, especially off the floor, and might have done better with the cross for the first goal ...6

BRENDAN MOLONEY

Something of an off night – found himself in several advanced positions but always seemed to select the wrong option ...5

RYAN CRESSWELL

Was here, there and everywhere as a centre-back and as an emergency striker, where he played for 10 minutes at the end of the game but to no avail ...6

LEE COLLINS

Mr Consistency was the stand-out performer on the night, even if he did see his work cut short by a tactically-motivated substitution ...6

TOM NEWEY

Defended well and made one excellent interception to nip a counter-attack in the bud but does not bring the attacking play which Horwood does ...6

JASON TAYLOR

Did his best to grab the game by the scruff off the neck and saw a lot of possession, especially during the first half, but has had better games than this one ...5

DARREN CARTER

Possibly should have come out of the team for Byrom, although he did no better as a substitute, and deserved his opportunity to stay in the side ...5

CHRIS HACKETT

Played very lateral and although he delivered several telling crosses, there was never anyone on the end of them with the team lacking a ‘focal point’ number nine ...5

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE

Back to the bad old days for the number 10, who struggled to even feel his way into the game during the first half and only got worse as it went on ...4

LAWSON D’ATH

Has improved slightly in the past couple of games but still looks a little jaded and could do with a goal to get himself going again ...5

JAMES GRAY

Work rate and industry cannot be questioned, although he never really looks like getting into scoring positions and doesn’t have a huge physical presence ...5

Substitutes:

IVAN TONEY (for O’Toole 68)

Was on a bit of a hiding to nothing as the team was behind when he went on and immediately conceded a second but fought hard for the cause ...5

BILLY BODIN (for Collins 74)

Took a giant step closer to a starting role with a bring and purposeful performance in what was perhaps the only positive of the evening for Northampton ...6

JOEL BYROM (for Carter 77)

Because of the scoreline, he tried to force risky passes rather than playing his natural ‘ticking over’ game and it didn’t work at all ...5

Not used: Jalal, Perry, Diamond, Warburton