There was a statistic that emerged in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Oldham Athletic which did not improve the mood of anyone from a Cobblers perspective.
This was the third time since mid-September that Town have taken a 2-0 lead and failed to see it out, conceding equalisers in the 89th, 93rd and 95th minutes against Oldham, Morecambe and Crawley respectively.
But it takes a deflection and loops over the goalkeeper’s head and takes it into the corner. Is that about mental strength? No. It’s a freak goal.
That alone is enough to frustrate supporters but what really stings is the fact that, had they managed to hold on to all three points each time, the Cobblers would currently be sitting pretty at the top of the table, level on points with Forest Green Rovers.
It must be said, though, that Saturday’s most recent 2-2 draw owed more to ill-fortune than anything else. Whereas against Crawley and Morecambe you could point to questionable game management and a tendency to sit back, at Boundary Park Town were cruising until they were undone by one long ball and a deflected cross.
But the outcome was the same and questions will inevitably be asked about Cobblers’ mental strength. Manager Keith Curle, though, is having none of it.
He said: “I know what it’s like as a professional footballer and it doesn’t matter if you’re in League Two or the Premier League, when you’ve seen things happen before, does it cross your mind? It’s bound to.
“We’ve travelled this road before because we’ve been two goals up and not won and it’s annoying and it’s frustrating but we’re a group that’s prepared to learn and prepared to take criticism.
“Sam (Hoskins) is defending against the lad and he’s done well all afternoon but he goes to put a ball in the box, we’ve got four lads covering it and the goalkeeper set in the right position.
“But it takes a deflection and loops over the goalkeeper’s head and takes it into the corner. Is that about mental strength? No. It’s a freak goal.
“It could go anywhere. Another millimetre off Sam’s knee and it goes for a corner or he blocks it. Another millimetre the other way and it lands in Dai’s hands.”
If there was one thing that Curle could criticise his players for on Saturday, it was their defending for Oldham’s first goal as Jordan Turnbull’s miscued header was seized upon by Scott Wilson, who handed the Latics a lifeline.
“It’s the first goal that was disappointing for me because we get the second goal and then we don’t put enough pressure on the ball and it was too easy for them to put the ball forward,” Curle added.
“It’s then a mistimed header and we don’t stay with runners in and around the box and the lad has a snapshot.
“But again, is that about mental strength? No. It’s about being attuned to what’s required.
“It doesn’t change if you’re 1-0 up, 2-0 up or 3-0 up, your basics have still got to be in place and that’s something we’re trying to spread throughout the group.”