Northampton Town’s problems continue

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Northampton Town remain firmly in the League One relegation dogfight following two successive defeats against Scunthorpe United and Plymouth Argyle.

Northampton Town appeared to have turned a corner in recent weeks, with manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink overseeing a 5-game unbeaten run in all competitions. This lifted Northampton out of the relegation zone, and with Matt Crooks and John-Joe O’Toole returning to the side, and Lewis McGugan showing his class, the optimism returned.

But, in typical Northampton Town fashion this season, reality has since hit home, and after being knocked out of the FA cup by Scunthorpe, Northampton have returned to the relegation zone after two successive defeats.

Firstly, on Saturday 18th November, Northampton were soundly beaten 3-0 at home, again by Scunthorpe United. In the first half, it was the same old story for Northampton, as great chances were spurned by the side, with Matt Crooks and John-Joe O’Toole particularly guilty of heading wide from close range. Scunthorpe felt let off following these missed chances, and began to take control of the match, forcing David Buchanan into a goal-saving clearance just before half-time.

A huge turning point in the game happened just before half-time, with John-Joe O’Toole going off injured for Northampton. His importance to the side was once again emphasised, as Northampton fell apart in his absence in the second half, as Scunthorpe began a relentless attack on Northampton’s goal. Just 10 minutes into the second half Cameron Burgess fired Scunthorpe into the lead, and just two minutes later Duane Holmes latched onto Hakeeb Adelakun’s through ball to chip Ingram to double the Iron’s lead.

Northampton fans were beginning to have flashbacks to the Bristol Rovers game earlier in the season when they were hammered 6-0, and these fears were becoming a reality when Holmes once again latched onto Adelakun’s pass to make it 3-0, the end result of the game.

It was a hat-trick of assists for the impressive Adelakun as Northampton were put to the sword by Scunthorpe.

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Northampton had a chance to bounce back on Tuesday 21st November away at fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle, however talisman John-Joe O’Toole was missing from the Cobbler’s XI.

This game was totally different from the Scunthorpe game, as Northampton were never really in the game and went down with a whimper. Both goals were carbon copies, with central defender Sonny Bradley scoring a brace of headers from free-kicks, condemning the cobblers to a 2-0 loss; another game without a goal and another poor defeat.

It was the manner of both defeats which poses great cause for concern, as chances were few and far between and when they did arrive, the lack of a clear-cut goal scorer came back to bite the cobblers.

Another cause for concern is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s reluctance to make substitutes at crucial times to get back in the game. Perhaps this isn’t due to his reluctance, but more due to the lack of quality options available to him on the substitutes bench. Furthermore, Hasselbaink favours a system with just one up front, and as hard as Chris Long has worked in the last two games, he has struggled in a lone role.

The lack of attacking options available for the cobblers poses the question about recalling the two youngsters Leon Lobjoit and Joe Iacofano, who are both scoring goals for fun during loan spells in non-league football. With League One survival at risk, what have the cobblers got to lose?

Another issue which needs addressing is how much the cobblers fall apart in the absence of John-Joe O’Toole. Although the figures are incomparable, in games where he has played more than 45 minutes this season, the cobblers have won 3/4 times; 75% of games, compared to games when he hasn’t played more than 45 minutes, the cobblers have won just 2/20 games; 10%. He is so important to the side as he fights and makes tackles, something which doesn’t come naturally to many of the other midfield options.

Ultimately, the January transfer window can’t come quick enough for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and until then it is just a case of ensuring that Northampton Town are not severely cut adrift before then, starting with a must-win home tie to Bury on Saturday 25th November.