For anyone still wondering when the Cobblers are going to launch their play-off assault this season, Saturday’s draw at Yeovil Town, when 87 minutes of abject disappointment was followed by two minutes of mayhem, suggests a little more patience is required.
For the second week running Northampton were agonisingly close to grinding out one of those scrappy and yet crucial 1-0 wins that all good teams seem able to do and that so often prove the difference between success and failure.
On another day, Yoann Arquin slices his highly ambitious 35-yard half-volley over the stand and Cobblers walk away from Huish Park with three hard-earned points. Just as, on another day, David Cornell does not lose his footing when attempting to clear and again Cobblers take victory against Stevenage. It’s those fine margins that make all the difference come the end of the season.
But in truth the visitors deserved nothing more than a point from Saturday’s game in the west country as a two-minute frenzy just about made up for 87 minutes of previously dour football that was as low on quality as it was excitement.
Make no bones about it, this is the sort of fixture Cobblers must be winning if they are to have a realistic shot of finishing in the play-offs. Yeovil have only won league win in four months and none at all on home soil since all the way back in August. Even National League North side Stockport County triumphed at Huish Park in the FA Cup last month.
They say you can prove anything with statistics and that certainly rings true when trying to assess exactly where the Cobblers are at under Keith Curle. Depending on the fullness of your glass, you can describe their form as either two league defeats in 13 or just one win in eight across all competitions.
Ultimately, turning those draws into wins will likely be the key between the season petering out into a mid-table finish and a late push towards the play-off. First and foremost, though, they must improve their general performances which continue to fall below expectation.
In simple terms, the Cobblers, at present, are just not playing well enough to launch a sustained challenge for a top seven spot. Curle has made them harder to beat, granted, and they’re now more streetwise and less prone to conceding soft goals, but that has come at a cost up the other end where chances are increasingly few and far between.
It’s almost as if Curle, until he gets his own players in, is willing to sacrifice attacking fluency in order to turn matches into scrappy, cagey affairs and rely on Town’s individual quality – from the likes of Matt Crooks and Kevin van Veen, for example – to win the points. On Saturday, it so nearly worked as Andy Williams and Shaun McWilliams provided some long overdue quality, only for Arquin to trump them both.
Those putting together the highlights package for this game may as well just jump straight to the 88th minute because that’s when all the action belatedly arrived as Cobblers experienced ecstasy and agony all in the space of 90 seconds.
The manner of Yeovil’s equaliser made it feel like two points dropped but, truth be told, Town were fortunate to find themselves in a winning position in the first place. Earlier, following a woeful first-half that’s barely worth talking about, Jordan Turnbull was lucky not to concede a penalty for an ill-judged lunge on Francois Zoko and then only Jordan Green’s indecision stopped the visitors from capitalising on a two-on-one opportunity.
So, though Town were finishing the game on top, Williams’ goal – a fine finish from an even finer McWilliams pass – still felt like a smash-and-grab job, that was until Arquin swiftly cancelled it out with an immediate goal of the season contender. It was a one in a 1,000 shot at best. Unfortunately for the Cobblers, this was the one that found the net.
With the rush of fixtures to come, however, there’s no time for Town to be licking their wounds and feeling sorry for themselves.
In future, as opposed to lowering themselves to the standards of the opposition, they must make their quality tell. Otherwise, mid-table consolidation is the best they can hope for.
They say you can prove anything with statistics and that certainly rings true for the Cobblers. You can describe their form as either two defeats in 13 league games or just one win in eight. Turning those draws into wins is the secret.
How they rated...
David Cornell - Had to be quick off his line at times, not least when rushing out to dive at the feet of Green as the Yeovil man bore down on goal. A more alert, better positioned ‘keeper might have got closer to Arquin’s thunderbolt, but that would be nit-picking. It was a simply sensational strike... 7
Ash Taylor - Defended his box diligently and covered well for Facey when the wing-back was caught up the pitch. Was also a threat from set-pieces at the other end... 7
Jordan Turnbull - Looked unusually rushed and uneasy with the ball at his feet, guilty of giving it away more than once in the first period. Better after the break but was very fortunate not to concede a penalty...5
Aaron Pierre - Felt like he won every heading going such was his aerial dominance throughout the contest, and Town needed that as Yeovil weren’t afraid to fling balls into the box... 7
Shay Facey - His crossing was a constant let down, especially as he had so much space to operate in down the right flank. Cobblers need more from him at wing-back because he has the ability and athleticism to thrive in the position... 5
David Buchanan - Wasn’t able to contribute much in an attacking sense, bar one volley that he skewed wide, but defended well up against the tricky Green... 7
Sam Foley - Disciplined and hard-working at the base of midfield, but had to be taken off before he was sent off having got involved in the odd scrap against his former club.... 6
Shaun McWilliams - Was already on course to be man of the match when he supplied Town’s best moment of the game, threading an inch-perfect through pass for Williams to run onto and score... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Matt Crooks - In for his first start since early November but didn’t have the same influence he normally does. Radar was off as Yeovil prevented him from entering the danger areas... 6
Dean Bowditch - One of few players on either side to look after the ball on the day, always neat and tidy in possession, and also made several intelligent runs to find space, not that he was often picked out by a team-mate... 7
Kevin van Veen - Limited to very few sights of goal again, slicing wide from a tight angle in the first-half and seeing a shot deflected narrowly off target in the second. Should have set up Williams for a simple finish just moments before the goal... 6
Andy Williams - Excellent run and cool finish looked to have won it for the Cobblers... 7
Billy Waters - 6
Junior Morias - 6