Jefferson Lake’s Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle view and player ratings

TOUGH AFTERNOON - Cobblers midfieler Stewart Murdoch attempts to get hold of the ball in the defeat to Plymouth (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
TOUGH AFTERNOON - Cobblers midfieler Stewart Murdoch attempts to get hold of the ball in the defeat to Plymouth (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

The Cobblers were very bad in their home defeat to Plymouth Argyle and for some players the performance may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

This felt like both a team hitting rock bottom and a watershed moment in a season which started with hopes of promotion and has turned into one where simply staying in the division has become the primary aim.

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-160242009

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-160242009

So far in the current campaign, the ‘turning point’ matches have been the late draw at Wycombe Wanderers and the 5-4 home defeat to Accrington Stanley and this had a similarly important and eventful feel to it.

Manager Chris Wilder spoke afterwards at some length about the changes that need to be made to his squad and decisions on players will perhaps now be made more quickly than they would have otherwise been.

There were already plans for a squad trim in January and that may now be expanded; it might be melodramatic to say so but there is a chance the weekend defeat to Plymouth may be the final appearance in Northampton colours for some members of the current squad.

It was as bad a defeat as the team has suffered all season and was similar in its flow to the defeat at Newport County in September, when the home side raced into a 3-0 lead and the Cobblers mounted a rousing but ultimately pointless comeback to lose 3-2.

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-160256009

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-160256009

What destroyed them on Saturday was their defending, which was poor to the point of being atrocious at times, and which gifted Plymouth their first two goals.

First, Ben Tozer lost Peter Hartley at a corner and then several players stood and watched as left wing-back Andy Kellett went on a gentle afternoon stroll which ended with him tucking the ball into the corner of Matt Duke’s goal.

An individual error and a collective one, and with them, the game was handed to Plymouth, who played some good football otherwise and are one of the best teams to have visited Sixfields this season.

When they went ahead it looked like they would just park their five-man defence deep and frustrate but if anything they passed the ball around better than Northampton and there were spells when it felt like the Cobblers were playing a team from a higher division.

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-175024009

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-175024009

There will be those who question the role of the manager in the current crisis and it is worth noting he has admitted that several of his signings have been failures and that some of the ones he has based the season around have not been up to scratch.

To contemplate making a managerial change is total nonsense, although the team was booed off at half-time and the discontent is festering at Sixfields, where the presence of a half-built east stand does little to improve the mood.

The Cobblers aren’t in a relegation battle yet. But they are only six points off 23rd place, which is currently occupied by Carlisle United.

Next weekend sees Northampton travel to Brunton Park to play Carlisle, who will have former Town striker Derek Asamoah leading their line.

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-175011009

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle at Sixfields. NNL-141213-175011009

Christmas is a vital time in football and, as it stands, it looks like being anything but merry for Chris Wilder, his players and - most importantly of all - the club’s supporters.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE

Thoroughly exposed on all three goals and given no real protection of any kind by the defenders in front of him ...5

BEN TOZER

A real performance to forget - lost his man for the first goal and the basic elements of his game gradually fell apart ...4

KELVIN LANGMEAD

Commitment could not be faulted and he did well to mentally adjust his focus after coming into the starting side at short notice but this wasn’t a good game ...4

LEE COLLINS

Made some good interceptions and blocks but at the same time also slipped up a couple of times at vital moments ...5

GREGOR ROBERTSON

One of only a handful of players who actually emerges from the game with any credit but was still part of a defence which conceded three times ...5

CHRIS HACKETT

Seemed unsure of himself in attacking situations and doesn’t really offer much in a defensive capacity ...4

DARREN CARTER

Had one or two good moments but felt like he was forcing it instead of playing naturally and his overall impact on the game was minimal ...4

STEWART MURDOCH

Struggled to get a foothold in midfield but kept fighting and his goal - although it eventually meant nothing - was superb ...5

KAID MOHAMED

Looks great on the ball and covers a lot of ground but there wasn’t a great deal of end product and half-time substitution said it all ...4

OLLIE BANKS

The game seemed to pass him by at times and at no stage did he get into a goalscoring position or play a killer pass to a team-mate ...4

MARC RICHARDS

Never stops working hard for the team but was starved of any service, especially from the wide areas which are usually his best source of chances ...5

Substitutes:

EMILE SINCLAIR (for Mohamed 46)

Competed for things but got a couple of shots horribly wrong and seemed to tweak something late in the game ...5

IVAN TONEY (for Hackett 46)

Gave the team a bit of presence up front, took his (easy) chance well and had other scoring opportunities ...6

LAWSON D’ATH (for Banks 56)

Provided a bit of a spark and his best play came when used as a right-sided midfielder ...6

Not used: Alfei, Horwood, Diamond, Ravenhill