Rotherham United 1 Northampton Town 0 – match review, player ratings and highlights

BUSY MAN: Matt Ingram was forced into a string of saves on Saturday. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds
BUSY MAN: Matt Ingram was forced into a string of saves on Saturday. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds

One step forward, another one back and still unable to locate the net in over 400 minutes of football, this past week, which culminated in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Rotherham United, has illustrated all the reasons why the Cobblers continue to stutter and stumble this season.

Before we delve deeper into Northampton’s problems though, credit must be paid to Rotherham who were about as impressive as any opposing team the Cobblers have faced so far this campaign.

Even without two key players, they were slick, incisive and fluid in attack, led by the menacing figure of Kieffer More who used his presence, power and movement to terrorise the visiting defence all afternoon.

For sure, it was not difficult to see why Moore is the EFL’s top scorer this season and why United had netted eight more goals at home than any other League One team heading into Saturday’s game.

At the other end, the Millers did not seem quite so sure-footed. They looked vulnerable and there to be got at but unfortunately Town did not trouble them enough in that department to sufficiently test out that theory.

That said, there were chances for the visitors, more so than in many recent games, but for every one they created, there were three for United. Moore himself could have had five.

A hat-trick of first-half chances for the Ipswich loanee were missed, though it’d be fairer to say they were kept out by superb defending rather than squandered by poor finishing.

Ash Taylor’s magnificent clearance of the line, one of three before half-time, was only bettered by a world-class save by Matt Ingram who sensationally kept out Michael Ihiekwe.

Had it not been for those last-ditch clearances and then Ingram’s heroics, the game could have been up for half-time.

Prior to United’s flurry, the Cobblers had actually settled quicker than their hosts. Daniel Powell’s teasing cross only needed a telling touch from either Geroge Smith or Alex Revell before the same man dragged wide when through on goal.

Smith also slashed narrowly off target in a bright first 15 minutes that promised more and delivered little, and when Moore finally put United ahead shortly after the restart, via an unfortunate ricochet off Taylor, it was no great surprise.

The Millers immediately tried to make the game safe through two chances apiece for Williams and Moore but Ingram and Taylor ensured Town remained in with a shout.

And a precious point could have been salvaged in a frantic finale that swung from one end to the other but neither were Rotherham able to kill the game off nor Town able to snatch an equaliser.

Despite half chances falling to Matt Grimes, Daniel Powell, Billy Waters and Dean Bowditch, the Cobblers were left to stew on a third 1-0 defeat in 11 days and a fourth straight game without scoring.

It’s not as if Town played badly on Saturday; it’s more that they are a team still striving for consistency and confidence and were simply overwhelmed by strong opposition who had scored five goals in each of their last two home games and who will surely contend for promotion this season.

It’s not as if Town played badly on Saturday; it’s more that they are a team still striving for consistency and confidence and were simply overwhelmed by strong opposition who had scored five goals in each of their last two home games and who will surely contend for promotion this season.

And because they were beaten it should not mean the progress being made by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is automatically made redundant. They need goals, sure, and now being 22nd in Sky Bet League One, they need to come quickly.

But there were signs on Saturday, albeit fewer signs than there were at MK Dons in midweek, that the tide is turning. Had either Powell or Smith converted early on – or had they possessed someone of Moore’s presence and ruthlessness among their ranks – it could have been a very different story.

The other good news for the Cobblers is that their brutal run of fixtures – they have now played nine teams in the current top half in their first 11 games – finally ends with this defeat at the New York Stadium.

That’s not to say that their fortunes will miraculously change but if they can maintain or improve their current level of performance in these upcoming weeks when they face teams around them, points will come.

For now, though, there is much work to be done.

How they rated...

Matt Ingram - Kept his side in it first-half and then kept the scoreline respectable in the second, highlight was his magnificent stop from Ihiekwe which he had no right to get anywhere near... 8 CHRON STAR MAN

Brendan Moloney - One of three to produce goal-line clearances in the first-half, doing well to get back and deny Ihiekwe. Was on the retreat rather than the offensive too often... 6

Ash Taylor - Had his work cut out against Moore, who more often than not won the battle. Fantastic goal-line clearance epitomised his determination before an unfortunate ricochet off his knee landed straight at the feet of the EFL’s leading marksman... 7

Aaron Pierre - Brilliant block kept Moore at bay in the first-half and fought gamely against a free-scoring attack but ultimately the hosts just had too much... 6

David Buchanan - Battled on after picking up an early knock and never got a moment’s peace against Williams, who always looked capable of making something happen on United’s right-wing, but the Town full-back gave as good as he got... 6

Regan Poole - Has done well in midfield of late but this was a difficult afternoon for the youngster who struggled to get to grips with the hosts and spent most of his time chasing shadows... 6

Matt Grimes - After dictating Town’s strong start, he wasn’t able to put his foot on the ball and get his side ticking as in previous games. Set-pieces were often too easy for Rodak and had a decent late chance blocked.. 6

Daniel Powell - Dragged his shot wide when put through on goal in a bright opening which also included a teasing cross that only needed a touch, could have made for a different afternoon had either of those gone in. Offered little thereafter... 6

Dean Bowditch - Started well, much like his team in general, and almost threaded a couple of through balls that nearly put his team-mates in. Influence diminished as the game wore on though, having a second-half shot blocked... 6

George Smith - Slashed an early attempt wide but it’s difficult to remember him giving United too many other problems in attack as he spent most the afternoon tracking back and defending... 6

Alex Revell - Cut a lone and frustrated figure up front against his former club. Charged around plenty and won enough headers to cause the hosts grief but there was neither the supply nor enough bodies around him to properly threaten... 6

Substitutes

Billy Waters - 6

Marc Richards - 6