Following Saturday’s dogged 1-1 draw at the Ricoh Arena, Northampton are now the sole EFL club yet to find themselves behind at any point of any game so far this season, but stats like that are immaterial if their inability to see out winning positions persists.
Three times the Cobblers have taken the lead this season, three times they’ve gone into half-time with a slender advantage and three times they’ve been pegged back by a second-half equaliser.
Mix those results in with a pair of goalless draws and it’s a case of what could have been for Rob Page and his men so far, and the longer they remain unable to hold onto leads, the more the pressure will heighten when it comes to getting that all-important first win.
And it’s the absence of this fundamental element of the game which means their tally of five points from five game is a moderate one that falls below what many would have expected or wanted, and Page will be increasingly desperate to turn one point into three as soon as possible.
Their most recent stalemate came at the Ricoh Arena where Marcus Tudgay’s second-half header ensured Page remains without a league win as Northampton manager in a game which followed a similar theme to those that preceded it.
There were reasons to be positive and reasons to be concerned as the Cobblers continue to strive for the complete display, and it must be of extra frustration for Page that the two best and most polished performances under his stewardship have come against higher-division opponents in cup competitions.
The challenge now is to replicate those showings on a consistent basis in the league because it’s the league which will ultimately determine whether or not this season will be judged as a success or a failure.
Saturday’s contest at Coventry was an open, entertaining encounter riddled with mistakes and ill-discipline and while Coventry had more of the ball and applied more of the pressure, both teams had their fair share of clear-cut chances and both will feel aggrieved not to have come away with more.
The Cobblers were always in the game and always offered a threat but too often they put themselves under sustained pressure due to careless passing and needless fouls, and they were indebted to some last-ditch defending and some excellent Adam Smith goalkeeping to keep a sharp City side at bay.
The lively movement of Coventry’s front three caused Northampton early problems and the defending was all a bit last-ditch at times, but they survived the barrage and went in front themselves with a well-worked team goal that was started by a sublime piece of skill from Harry Beautyman and then finished off by the same man.
But although they comfortably held onto their lead until the second-half, it was the introduction of the excellent Jordi Jones that swung the game back in City’s favour.
Not only did he set up Tudgay’s 62nd minute equaliser with a inch-perfect cross, he also twice went close from range and was only denied the winning goal by sharp work from Adam Smith.
The exertions of midweek undoubtedly took their toll on Northampton who became ragged in an end-to-end final 10 minutes that could have seen a winner at either end.
Jak McCourt will be having nightmares after he somehow conspired to balloon over from a matter of yards while Kenji Gorre several times picked up good positions but was unable to capitalise as the game ended all square, arguably a fair reflection of a keenly-contested affair.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment to come out of Saturday from a Northampton viewpoint was their discipline problem that again reared its ugly head with six players shown yellow, the second time that’s happened in only five Sky Bet League One games since Page’s arrival.
It seems some players have failed to grasp this new concept that dissent aimed at officials will not be tolerated this season as only two of Saturday’s six bookings were for genuine fouls, with Alex Revell and Harry Beautyman succumbing to those new strict rules on dissent, while Brendan Moloney was carded for needlessly kicking the ball away in the first-half and Jak McCourt saw yellow for standing in front of the goalkeeper at a free-kick.
John-Joe O’Toole, meanwhile, was booked for a clumsy challenge and the risk of him being sent off became so great that Page felt it was necessary to withdraw him from the action, but that wasn’t before he became the first player in the Football League to be suspended by picking up five bookings – and that’s from just seven starts.
That took Northampton’s total to 15 yellow cards for the campaign, three more than any other side in the division and Page knows its something that must be addressed as soon as possible otherwise they will eventually pay the price.
We’re still at that stage of the season where a couple of quick-fire wins can fire you up the table, and though Northampton’s inability to turn leads into three points is frustrating, you feel that first victory will come sooner rather than later.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - One of his busier afternoons of the season and two fine saves spring to mind, one at full-stretch to deny Tudgay and another where he rushed out to block at the feet of Jones. Needs to be more commanding from crosses though... 7
Brendan Moloney - Should have cleared the ball when he had the chance in the lead up to Coventry’s equaliser, but rare blot in an otherwise excellent performance... 7
Zander Diamond - All a bit last-ditch at times, however was often the last line of defence and held firm in the face of some tricky movement from Coventry’s lively front three... 7
Gabriel Zakuani - Perfect man to repel heavy pressure with his towering headers and crunching tackles keeping City at bay... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
David Buchanan - One brilliant piece of anticipation prevented a near-certain goal early on, the highlight of a solid display from the left-back... 7
Jak McCourt - Covered plenty of ground and understandably tired as the game wore on, misplacing several passes before missing a glorious chance to win it in the dying embers... 7
John-Joe O’Toole - Had a say in Northampton’s goal but for the second time this season he had to be substituted due to the risk of being sent off... 6
Matty Taylor - Showed his remarkable fitness levels by running from box-to-box even in the closing minutes, almost set up the winner too, but was careless in possession... 7
Harry Beautyman -Sublime piece of skill created the space and followed it by bursting into the box to score his first Cobblers goal. Was largely frustrated on the right though... 7
Kenji Gorre - Forced Charles-Cook into an early near-post save after a mazy run, but his insistence on cutting inside at every available opportunity made him too predictable... 6
Alex Revell - Hold-up play excellent, work-rate never a problem and would have had a goal but for a fortuitous block... 7
Lawson D’Ath - 6
JJ Hooper - 6
Aaron Phillips - 6