Three days is a long time in football. Just ask Jason Taylor.
The Northampton midfielder was the hero on Saturday when his spectacular volley helped the Cobblers to see off Exeter City, but fast forward three days and it could not be more different.
An hour into last night’s clash at Barnet, there was very little to separate the two sides in a scrappy but keenly-fought encounter.
Although both had their chances, neither could convert and it seemed we were heading towards a goalless draw, that was until Taylor hauled down John Akinde for a penalty when the tall striker was bearing down on goal.
Taylor was inevitably sent off, despite the suspicion of offside, and Akinde duly tucked away the penalty in what proved to the pivotal moment in the match.
Taylor was not solely to blame for the result and it would be harsh to single him out after Akinde had given the Northampton defence a torrid time all evening, regularly getting the better of Ryan Cresswell and co.
At the other end of the pitch though, the Cobblers were unable to find their usual fluency.
They carved out enough chances to claim all three points, most notably early in the second half when Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Lawson D’Ath and Chris Hackett all desperately tried to force the ball home in a frantic goalmouth scramble.
As Chris Wilder mentioned afterwards, had his side been able to take one of those chances, it would have been a very different story. Football is a game of fine margins.
Before kick-off, Wilder’s team selection raised a few eyebrows.
Changes were expected following his comments on his side’s performance against Exeter, however not many predicted Nicky Adams, Marc Richards and Alfie Potter to all be demoted to the bench.
D’Ath, too, was named as a substitute before having to come in at the last minute when Ricky Holmes tweaked his back in the warm-up.
Wilder was quick to defend his decisions after the defeat and you can understand the reasoning when you see it from his point of view.
It’s a demanding schedule and there are plenty of games to come, particularly at the beginning of the campaign with eight matches in just 24 days, and keeping players fresh and fit holds the key to maintaining consistency over a 46-game season.
And while Northampton’s squad is not the strongest in the league, they do have more options this year with Adams, Potter, D’Ath, Hoskins and Holmes all fighting over those three positions behind the striker, and Calvert-Lewin has shown enough promise to provide a good back-up to Richards.
Perhaps Wilder did make one change too many but it’s easy to be critical after the event.
Had Northampton taken one of their earlier chances, they may well have gone on to win and everyone would be hailing Wilder as a managerial genius.
Hindsight if a wonderful thing.
How they rated…
Adam Smith - Made two excellent saves at 0-0 but could do little about the penalty. Was caught in no man’s land for Akinde’s second... 6.5
Josh Lelan - Caught way up the pitch in the move that resulted in Barnet’s penalty.... 5
Ryan Cresswell - Was given the runaround by Akinde as the big striker proved a handful all evening. Was fortunate to get away with dawdling on the ball in the first half although did pull off one inch-perfect tackle when the striker was about to let fly... 5
Rod McDonald - Promising signs on his full league debut. Couple of crucial interventions but sometimes panicked when on the ball... 6
David Buchanan - Captain for the night in the absence of Marc Richards and the best of the back four. Had to cover for his team-mates once or twice. Was out of position on the second goal as he tried to push forward and help find an equaliser... 6
Jason Taylor - Was one of Northampton’s better players before the sending off. Last man so can’t have many complaints... 5
Joel Byrom - Really struggled to impose himself on the game and wasn’t given time on the ball in the face of some snappy tackling and terrier-like chasing from the hosts. Failed to stop Luke Gambin marching through the middle in the lead up to the penalty... 5
Chris Hackett - Couldn’t get into the game at all. Missed arguably Northampton’s best chance during a goalmouth scramble before being taken off on the hour mark... 5
Sam Hoskins - Town’s brightest spark in an attacking sense. Caused problems down both channels and went close with several long-range efforts... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Lawson D’Ath - Came into the starting line-up at the last minute when Ricky Holmes pulled up with a back injury. Was a threat from the left and linked up well with Hoskins. Could have had a couple of goals on another day... 6.5
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - The youngster toiled hard all evening without much luck. Again, like D’Ath, got himself into scoring positions but just wasn’t able to scramble the ball home on two separate occasions... 6
Nicky Adams - Minutes after coming on Northampton were a goal down and a man down, giving them and Adams an uphill task. As a result he didn’t see much of the ball, although showed his class when he did as he threaded a fine through ball for Calvert-Lewin, who spurned the chance.... 6
Marc Richards - Thrown on for the final 20 minutes as Cobblers sought an equaliser but it wasn’t to be... 6
Northampton fans - The brilliant 922 Northampton fans who made the trip down deserve a special mention for the terrific noise they made all evening, often out-singing the home supporters. Deserved better from those on the pitch... 9