DCSIMG

Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v Rochdale view and player ratings: Home comfort continues

HAPPY DAYS - Cobblers players celebrate Kelvin Langmead's goal in the 3-1 win over Rochdale (Picture: Kelly Cooper)

HAPPY DAYS - Cobblers players celebrate Kelvin Langmead's goal in the 3-1 win over Rochdale (Picture: Kelly Cooper)

 

The Sixfields pitch is showing some serious signs of winter wear and tear but it remains a field of dreams for the Cobblers.

The surface has been well-used through the past two months, seeing action - and victories - when it appeared the only winner would be the weather.

Saturday’s success against a spirited Rochdale side who will undoubtedly improve under talented manager Keith Hill was Town’s eighth in their past nine matches on their own ground.

Only one team has won a Saturday afternoon game there in almost 10 months, and on that occasion the team in question - Cheltenham Town - had to fight back from a two-goal deficit to do so.

The latest win came in a manner very similar to the one Rotherham inflicted on Northampton just seven days previously - a tight contest in the first half with just a goal in it, followed by a second period in which the home side found an extra gear and won with relative ease.

It has got to the point where home wins are expected - Saturday’s gate topped 5,000 and although that figure was bolstered by a large contingent of junior teams it was also because of the almost clockwork reliability the team has when it comes to beating people on their own patch.

But - and this season there is always a but - the away form is the mirror. It is a puzzle.

For Aidy Boothroyd, it has become the riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma and is the only obstacle between the current team and greatness.

They were under some pressure to beat Rochdale and maintain their home form (because good records can often feel like millstones, especially with the extra, expectant eyes watching from the stands) and due credit has to be given to the side for not allowing that run to be ended.

It also suggests they have the mental strength to cope with such pressures and that the psychological element of their away malaise may have been overstated. Which only makes it even more of a head-scratcher.

If the away form does not improve this could turn into a season where people wonder what might have been, especially with contenders like Southend, Cheltenham, Rotherham and Bradford all dropping points in a division that is increasingly open.

Town must not let it turn into that. They must not let their glittering home form be all in vain. Because when they’re in their stride at Sixfields, they look fully capable of joining the pantheon of great Northampton Town sides. There are times when anything else would feel like a failure.

Player ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

Very clean handling and kicking was fine throughout a typically wintry afternoon ...8

BEN TOZER

One of his better displays of the season, overlapped well and the throw was a problem ...8

KELVIN LANGMEAD

Another no-frills performance, capped with a ‘right place, right time’ goal ...7

CLARKE CARLISLE

Unlucky not to be awarded a goal but will have been warmed by his display at the other end, which was very good ...8

JOE WIDDOWSON

A considerable force in the first half and only withdrawn to allow Collins some match time ...7

CHRIS HACKETTT

Played a key role in two of the goals and was back to his best after a difficult afternoon at Rotherham last time out ...8

BEN HARDING

Unlucky with shot that went wide and appeared to rebuild some of the confidence lost in the previous two games ...7

LUKE GUTTRIDGE

The usual pugnacious influence with some spiky challenges. Played with lots of energy ...8

ROY O’DONOVAN

An encouraging performance in two positions - left-wing and centre-forward - and was brave on and off the ball ...7

CLIVE PLATT

Expert header for the first goal and linked play up wonderfully at times, operating almost as a number 10 ...8

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA

A quiet game by his standards but caused problems for the defence and took his penalty with ice-cold nerves ...7

Substitutes:

LEE COLLINS (for Akinfenwa 77mins)

Slotted in well enough at left-back for a brief period as the game was seen out ...7

JAKE ROBINSON (for Widdowson 80mins)

LEWIS HORNBY (for Guttridge 83mins)

 

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