A different manager but a familiar tale; for Northampton, the end just can’t come quick enough.
In all honesty there’s no need to write match reports or analytical pieces anymore because it’s the same story, the same failings and the same result week after week, game after game. The opposition changes but little else does.
A simple copy and paste job would do the trick.
When it comes to Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Blackpool, the Cobblers at least shook things up a bit by resembling a vaguely competent League One team for the first 40 minutes
But if fans were clinging to the theory that a change of manager would bring a change of fortunes, they were sadly mistaken because this was just a continuation of the steep decline under previous boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, with the second-half performance bordering on a shambles after what had been a mildly encouraging first 45 minutes.
In many ways, this was similar to Town’s last outing at Peterborough. They started OK, grew into the game and even enjoyed moments in the ascendancy but their undoing again came in front of goal when they created and missed the game’s best two chances before predictably falling behind.
Taking your chances is a given for any team at any level of football but even more so for this Northampton side for two reasons: firstly because they create so few opportunities to start with and secondly because of how important it is for them to score first. Once behind, the points quickly fritter away, just as they did here.
And their chances on Tuesday fell to the right men – strikers Chris Long and Kevin van Veen – but goalkeeper Joe Lumley would not be denied. His first save from van Veen’s well-placed header was excellent, his second from Long was a case of poor finishing rather than great goalkeeping.
And Town’s improvement did not last. They couldn’t even reach half-time and all it took was one goal for the wheels to come tumbling off and for it to become a question of how big Blackpool’s victory would be.
The second-half capitulation was unfathomable and yet also totally in keeping with the season. The Cobblers were meant to be chasing the game following Armand Gnanduillet’s 42nd minute opener, instead they looked a team desperately trying to protect a slender lead, penned in and under the cosh, unable to get out.
And this is one of the major issues with this team: that they are incapable of responding to a setback. It boils down to a lack of three key attributes – quality, belief and character. It’s almost as if they have forgotten how to function as a team and how to sustain pressure as fleeting moments of attacking promise quickly fizzle out and ultimately lead to nothing.
You often hear managers and pundits talking about momentum and the importance of taking advantage when on the front foot. That’s even more pertinent for Town because they are so rarely on top and so rarely follow one promising attack with another. And because of this failing, the defence comes under increasing pressure at the other end and eventually buckles.
Blackpool showed how it was done and the home team’s final shot count of 26 gives you an indication as to their dominance. Sean Longstaff’s screamer and Jimmy Ryan’s fortunate free-kick were two of many second-half chances with Gnanduillet hitting the post, Regan Poole producing a brilliant goal-line clearance from Nathan Delfouneso and Clark Robertson heading wide before substitutes Mark Cullen and Dan Agyei went close in stoppage-time.
In the end, then, it was another gloomy night in a wearisome season that will now certainly end in relegation.
The folly of believing a change of manager would suddenly make everything rosy again was fully exposed on Tuesday. The fact is of the matter is that the problems run far deeper than the man in the dugout.
For a flickering moment, there was a glimmer of hope. A new manager, a new sense of purpose and maybe a new team playing with a refreshing sense of adventure. And for 40 minutes, the improbable looked possible.
New caretaker manager Dean Austin said all the right things coming into this game but all that counts is what happens on the pitch and the folly of believing a change of manager would suddenly make everything rosy again was fully exposed on Tuesday. The problems run far deeper than the man in the dugout. This is a club that has lost completely lost their way over the past 12 months.
All four remaining opponents must be licking their lips at the prospect of playing this Cobblers team, even bottom side Bury, who are all but relegated, must fancy their chances on Saturday.
It could be the day the Shakers’ relegation is confirmed and while Town can’t mathematically join them on the same afternoon, defeat at Gigg Lane would effectively consign them to League Two. Sadly, it is now just a matter of time.
How they rated...
Richard O’Donnell - Overworked in the first 10 minutes, saving from Delfouneso, Solomon-Otabor and Ryan. Calmed down for a bit after that but Blackpool’s opener was the cue for him to be peppered again. One of few players who can hold his head up high though... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Shay Facey - The home team’s tricky left-winger, Solomon-Otabor, was a menace throughout his time on the pitch but Town’s right-back did a competent job in keeping him on the fringes before succumbing to injury... 6
Regan Poole - Committed and full-blooded in his first outing for over three months but found Blackpool’s front two, Gnanduillet in particular, a real handful. Spectacular goal-line clearance at 1-0 gave Town a lifeline which they failed to grasp... 6
Leon Barnett - Doesn’t always fill you with confidence when on the ball and defending in precarious areas of the pitch but, as the last line of defence and given how often he was exposed, he can’t be blamed for this defeat, if anything he kept the scoreline down... 6
David Buchanan - Was instrumental in ensuring the game remained goalless for so long with his combative and committed style of defending, however it all fell apart once the first goal went in and he was a helpless figure... 6
Matt Grimes - Played well in the first-half, always looking for the ball to try and get the Cobblers moving forward, but restricted to a minor role as they chased the game late on, hardly ever receiving possession in a decent position... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Got about the pitch well and his return to the team meant Town had some extra bite about them. Did his defensive duties, including one crucial block, but little of note to speak of at the other end... 6
Sam Hoskins - Too easily knocked off the ball and not decisive enough when he did get into the final third, the personification of Northampton’s issues as an attacking entity this season... 5
Sam Foley - Has barely played in his natural position this season and again he was shoved out onto the left side here. Can’t fault his endeavour or his attitude but the quality wasn’t there enough, though it was his excellent cross that almost brought the opener... 6
Kevin van Veen - Difficult to see what he offers this side. Will score goals in a team that creates chances but he’s getting so few at the moment which means his overall contribution is minimal. Even when one came along at Bloomfield Road, his well-placed header was kept out by a fine save... 5
Chris Long - Works as hard as anyone but he’s now squandered two big chances at 0-0 in successive games and both misses proved costly with the opposition scoring within minutes. Looked hesitant when the opportunity came here, firing straight at Lumley... 5
Shaun McWilliams - 6
Jack Bridge - 6
Daniel Powell - 6