Jefferson Lake’s Morecambe v Cobblers preview: Great chance to gatecrash promotion party

MORE OF THIS PLEASE - the Cobblers players celebrate Kelvin Langmead's late winner at Southend United last month
MORE OF THIS PLEASE - the Cobblers players celebrate Kelvin Langmead's late winner at Southend United last month
Share this article

Last summer I conducted an interview with Jake Robinson in which he made an excellent point about his own personal form that can be applied to football in general.

Robinson was speaking at the end of a season in which he failed to score a single goal and generally endured a torrid time.

His theory was that, after being signed as someone with a reputation of getting on the scoresheet and failing to do so initially, he started to grow more nervous every time he stepped out on the field.

At the same time, opportunities to step out on said field became less and less as the manager at the time - Gary Johnson - rolled the dice again and again in a bid to turn around the team’s fortunes.

The circle was an ever-decreasing one for Robinson and the principle can be applied to the Cobblers’ current Achilles season, the ongoing issue of their form away from Sixfields.

First came the opening-day draw at Rochdale, a decent enough showing that was followed by losses at Plymouth and Fleetwood.

Although a win at Dagenham came in the next game the die had been cast; in their sixth away outing of the campaign the team found a nadir, a dreadful 4-0 loss to a very limited Barnet side that was made to look like Barcelona.

A pattern began to emerge around that point.

Northampton were awe-insiring at Sixfields and just awful anywhere else.

The record has weighed gradually more heavy on their shoulders and windows of opportunity in games are restricted by the team’s nervousness and caution - when they do get in a winning position the temptation is to protect the lead at all costs, as was the case at Southend where, a goal and a man up, they immediately pushed a striker back into midfield.

The team’s counter-attacking tactics should work away from home, at least equally as well as they do at Sixfields.

That it does not has to, by this stage, be a mental thing.

Like Robinson as he found his first-team exposure increasingly limited, the team are psychologically burdened and will only improve mentally when their results improve.

It is no coincidence that Robinson has played better during his good runs of form this season, when he has been selected as a starter and been scoring and creating goals.

Confidence breeds confidence and while the Cobblers are bursting with the stuff at home, the mirror opposite is the case on their travels.

The most positive thing that can be said about the big away defeats is that more often than not they are followed by healthy home victories.

But with only nine games left, time is running out for the Sixfields safety net to propel the team into the top three.

Nerves are starting to show - especially at Port Vale - and this team has a great chance, with two away games against mid-table opposition, to crash the automatic promotion party this week.