Jefferson Lake’s Northampton Town versus Bury view and player ratings

UNHAPPY CHRISTMAS - Gregor Robertson and Matt Duke trudge off the Sixfields pitch following the Cobblers' 3-2 Boxing Day defeat to Bury (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
UNHAPPY CHRISTMAS - Gregor Robertson and Matt Duke trudge off the Sixfields pitch following the Cobblers' 3-2 Boxing Day defeat to Bury (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

It’s become a bit of a standing joke with the Cobblers supporters near the Sixfields press box that the best way to write match reports at the moment is to just copy and paste the one from the previous week.

At least on this occasion there was some variation - Northampton scored the first goal in the game before being submerged by three from their opponents as Boxing Day turned into Groundhog Day for the team and their fans.

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury celebrating their first goal. NNL-141227-013903009

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury celebrating their first goal. NNL-141227-013903009

Everything was going smoothly when Marc Richards scored the opening goal after six minutes, an instinctive strike typical of the class of the man and one which returns Richards to the top of the league two goalscorers list, albeit on a joint basis with three other players.

But then things started to unravel. Either because the home side took their foot off the gas or because Bury realised they could actually get something from the game if they tried a bit, and three goals were scored without reply.

The first was an excellent shot from distance that fits into the ‘wonder goal’ category but Bury should have been in front by then anyway; the second was a disappointing close-range header and the third was a cute finish but a goal which was totally avoidable and again was the result of some sloppy defending.

In the early exchanges, Bury played a little bit like the Cobblers have in recent weeks, looking nervous and edgy at the back but with some assuredness going forward.

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury's second goal. NNL-141227-013853009

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury's second goal. NNL-141227-013853009

How they differed was that, Bury moved the ball with better accuracy and more quickness than Northampton did.

This is not a Town team which launches long balls into the corners or aims punts from its full-backs towards a behemoth striker. They want to play possession football but they don’t do it as well as other sides - at times Bury’s zipped passes into each other and looked totally comfortable doing so.

When the Cobblers did it, their players usually wanted an extra touch or did not seem happy receiving the ball in tight areas. Sometimes their passes just didn’t find the mark at all.

There has also been a question mark over the team’s decision-making throughout the campaign and it is also worth noting that Bury’s players were all confident enough to twist and turn to make space for the unexpected pass to the player in a better position or with more time; the home side always went for the obvious ball and struggled to get any width into their game as a result, with the outcome being a narrow attack which was easy to repel.

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury celebrating their second goal. NNL-141227-013842009

Cobblers V Bury.'Bury celebrating their second goal. NNL-141227-013842009

The worst piece of decision-making came from Ivan Toney, who will now, in lieu of an opposing player finally managing to get completely under his skin, serve a three-match ban for violent conduct after an off-the-field tussle behind the goal.

Some have suggested that the suspension means Toney may well have played his final game for the club and while that might turn out to be true, it’s more likely to put off potential buyers.

Finding a short-term replacement is the more immediate concern - Emile Sinclair is the most likely option but his Northampton career has provided very few highlights so far. David Moyo is out on loan at Brackley; Alex Nicholls is at Exeter City. Both will stay there, the latter until after his contract at Sixfields expires.

The fans will then pin their hopes on a new hero to accompany Richards, who has this season been the shining star in a very dark sky of lamentable performances.

Cobblers V Bury.'Ben Tozer. NNL-141227-014131009

Cobblers V Bury.'Ben Tozer. NNL-141227-014131009

But while the strikers get the headlines, and there will again be questions asked of a porous defence, it is in midfield where the most urgent surgery is required in the transfer window.

Before that opens, the year concludes with a difficult and suddenly enormously significant game at Tranmere, where some signs of a recovery - not to mention league points - are now desperately needed.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE

Should have come off his line for the second goal and mis-communication with Robertson almost led to a goal but made some good saves ...5

DANNY ALFEI

Cobblers V Bury.'Lawson D'Ath. NNL-141227-014051009

Cobblers V Bury.'Lawson D'Ath. NNL-141227-014051009

Potentially his best performance for the club in what is his most natural (and best suited) position of wing-back ...7 STAR MAN

BEN TOZER

Playing on the right of a defensive three is a good fit for him and he made a couple of crucial interventions and headers in key areas but let himself down on third goal ...5

ZANDER DIAMOND

A mixed bag of a performance with some good reading in certain situations but also some sloppy play at times ...5

GREGOR ROBERTSON

Was the centre-back with the fewest mistakes against his name but perhaps should have done better with the late chance which came his way ...6

EVAN HORWOOD

Got into lots of crossing positions, which was one of his primary tasks, and the defensive side of his game was an improvement on the previous outing ...6

STEWART MURDOCH

Didn’t really provide the energy or the speed of passing which the Bury midfielders did and seemed to take too long over his passes ...5

DARREN CARTER

Like Murdoch, was made to look laborious by a more fluid opposing midfield, although he did rattled into a couple of challenges ...5

LAWSON D’ATH

Was perhaps a bit unfortunate to be taken off but is not 100 per cent fit yet. Early shot set the tone for the team’s good start ...6

MARC RICHARDS

Took his goal very well and although he was marginalised after that, he still played with an intensity and a commitment to the cause ...6

IVAN TONEY

Produces an excellent piece of skill in the build-up to the goal but put a major blot on his copybook by allowing himself to be drawn into the off-the-ball incident for which he was sent off ...4

Substitutes

CHRIS HACKETT (for Alfei 46)

An improvement on his display at Carlisle and his set-piece delivery was good but this is still not the vintage Hackett in action ...6

KAID MOHAMED (for D’Ath 63)

Seemed to struggle to pick up the pace of the game and was on the margins of it for the half an hour that he was given ...5

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE (for Murdoch 63)

Looked assured on the ball and used it very well in a performance which suggests his Sixfields days may not be numbered after all ...6

Not used: Snedker, Collins, Hackett, Langmead, Byrom