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Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers view and ratings: Northampton still off play-off pace

PLENTY TO PONDER - Aidy Boothroyd watches grim-faced as his Cobblers side throw away a 2-0 lead against Cheltenham on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

PLENTY TO PONDER - Aidy Boothroyd watches grim-faced as his Cobblers side throw away a 2-0 lead against Cheltenham on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

 

Aidy Boothroyd spoke prior to the Cheltenham game about how the match would provide him with a barometer of the progress his team has made this season.

So here’s the verdict after the 3-2 Sixfields defeat - they are not on the same level as a team that should, in all likelihood, finish in the top three in league two this season.

It’s probably too much to expect them to be at this point in their development anyway.

Cheltenham haven’t got a huge budget or fan base but they have become one of the division’s strongest side by a board room show of faith in a manager and the supporters’ patience with him to put assemble a squad capable of securing football at the next level.

The Cobblers finished 20th last season, four points off the dreaded trap door to non-league football but an almighty 29 points behind Cheltenham, who lost in the play-off semi-finals to Torquay United.

With such evidence in mind, it is perhaps too much to expect the two sides to compete, even given Northampton’s advantage in terms of finance and geographical pulling power.

The bigger picture is that Boothroyd’s team is a work in progress and one for whom any kind of involvement in the top seven this season should be seen as an overachievement.

In terms of this game, they were just not up to it defensively.

Scott Brown had a good game in the Cheltenham goal and through Adebayo Akinfenwa and Chris Hackett the side will always create chances and produce attempts on target.

But they are leaking goals at a rate that is starting to become alarming.

Saturday’s three makes it eight in the past three games and although Clarke Carlisle will receive criticism for his part in the weekend woes, it is worth noting he was not in the team that shipped three to Leyton Orient on Wednesday night.

In the defeats to Oxford and Cheltenham, the goals against came on the counter-attack, so that is the first issue that needs to be addressed.

There are plenty of others too, of course, because that is the nature of coaching.

The Cheltenham manager, Mark Yates, spoke after the game with the authoritative air of someone who is supported by all around him and who knows his squad inside out.

Even though he signed the majority of the current squad, Boothroyd is still learning about his own players and until he has had many more matches and months to mould them into the squad he wants them to be, promotion will not be on the agenda.

The team is not a million miles away from being a good one, and they are certainly a huge improvement on the one the manager inherited 12 months ago.

But it is too early to talk about them being league one potential.

Such lofty ambitions might take another year to be a realistic proposition.

Jefferson Lake’s player ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

Only really had one other shot to deal with other than the goals, all of which were well executed ...5

BEN TOZER

Another goal (indirectly) from the throw but was often exposed by the excellent Taylor ...5

KELVIN LANGMEAD

Spent most of the game putting out fires and well marked out of it at attacking set plays ...6

CLARKE CARLISLE

Tried to play too much at times, and got caught on occasion doing so in his own half ...5

JOE WIDDOWSON

Not his best day and landed himself in foul trouble with a very fussy referee ...6

EMYR HUWS

Claims an assist for Akinfenwa’s goal but the rest of his performance was a little on the low-key side ...5

BEN HARDING

Arguably the side’s best performer, got to lots of second balls and retained possession well ...6

LEWIS HORNBY

Seemed to slow down after receiving a couple of hefty challenges from visiting midfielders ...6

ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC

Unfortunate to get booked and produced the usual combination of magic and mystery ...6

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA

Finished his goal with aplomb and found himself in several other good goalscoring positions ...6

CHRIS HACKETT

As willing a runner as ever and quality crosses number well into double figures ...6

Substitutes:

CLIVE PLATT (for Hornby 63mins)

Didn’t have the impact he has in recent weeks but created some problems ...6

JAKE ROBINSON (for Demontagnac 63mins)

Buzzed around and made a decent enough contribution to a sustained spell of second-half pressure ...6

DANNY EAST (for Widdowson 80mins)

Subs not used: Charles, Snedker, Mukendi, Moult

 

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