’Embarrassed’ Page left mystified by Rovers humiliation as he searches for answers

Rob Page tries to encourage his team during Saturday's defeat. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

Rob Page tries to encourage his team during Saturday's defeat. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

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Rob Page admitted he was at a loss to explain exactly how and why his side succumbed to such a meek defeat on Saturday when they were trounced 5-0 by Bristol Rovers.

Not only were they comprehensively outplayed by a slick Rovers outfit, the Cobblers also looked a team bereft of any confidence, belief or ideas, resulting in a disappointingly timid defeat.

Ahead of the trip to Bristol, Page was seeking a reaction from his players after their poor second-half showing against Bradford which was the latest in a series of worrying performances.

That trend continued with an even worse display on Saturday, prompting plenty of stick towards the manager from supporters, and after Page described his players as being ‘too honest’ following the defeat to Bradford, this time he was struggled to explain the apathetic nature of Northampton’s performance at the Memorial Stadium.

“I don’t know is the honest answer,” he said afterwards when asked why his players were so off the pace. “That’s something I’ve got to get right.

“It was embarrassing to be stood there and I feel for the supporters because they were embarrassed to be stood there with the players representing them.

That is a hard one for me to take because my teams represent me and when they go out there and give that level on performance, it hurts.

“In the main, we’ve done it. At the start of the season, we’ve done it.

“But at the minute we’re in a difficult situation. That was an unacceptable level of performance.

“We’ll be in and we’ll watch it back. It’ll be painful watching but we’ll sit down and go through it and we’ve got to go and put it right.

“We’ve got a week to work on it and put things right.”

When pressed on exactly what went wrong, Page continued: “Decision-making on the pitch. Decision-making from a set-piece for the third goal and then we switch off from a runner.

“That is a hard one for me to take because my teams represent me and when they go out there and give that level on performance, it hurts.

“We’ll make the players sit down and have a look at the video and try to move on and make us better.”

Missing three of their first-choice back four, Northampton were somewhat handicapped on Saturday with several players absent through injury, illness and unavailability.

With Gabriel Zakuani away on international duty for the next month, fellow centre-back Lewin Nyatanga was a last-minute withdrawal after falling ill, while both right-backs are currently in the treatment room.

And though Page was reluctant to use those absentees as an excuse for his side’s defeat, he did feel the loss of those key players was keenly felt.

“I’m not one for excuses,” he said. “That level of performance wasn’t acceptable.

“Aaron Phillips went down injured so we had to put Paul Anderson right-back. He then goes off with a seven-inch gash in his leg so he’s needed considerable amount of stitches.

“Greg (Wylde) has come into the football club and needs match fitness. He was short of that on Saturday.

“I’m not making excuses but then Lewin goes down with sickness and we have Gabby away on international duty - big players and big parts of our team are missing.

“That’s no excuse for Saturday’s result. I’m not even going to begin to make excuses. But we certainly missed those players.”