Northampton Town 2 Morecambe 1 - Jefferson Lake’s view and player ratings

SPOT OF BOTHER - former Cobblers defender Mark Hughes fouls Ricky Holmes to concede a second-half penalty, but striker Marc Richards hit the post with the resultant spot kick (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
SPOT OF BOTHER - former Cobblers defender Mark Hughes fouls Ricky Holmes to concede a second-half penalty, but striker Marc Richards hit the post with the resultant spot kick (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

The fifth instalment of the Cobblers’ winning streak was the hardest-fought of the lot and could easily have turned out quite differently.

Morecambe will feel they did enough in the second half to have taken something from the match, having hit the post and forced Matt Duke into a very special double save.

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-160833009

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-160833009

But they should have been submerged in the first period of the game and specifically in the first 20 minutes in which Northampton ran wild and created attacking opportunities with an almost routine ease.

Joel Byrom got the home side off to a dream start with a ‘right place, right time’ goal after only 28 seconds.

It was the fastest goal in the entire Football League this weekend.

And although they did not add any further goals to it there was still little in the way of attacking intention from Morecambe, whose equaliser was as bizarre as it was unexpected.

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175231009

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175231009

It gave them a foothold in the game and made things awkward for Northampton but not before their (and the division’s) leading goalscorer arrived with perfect timing to steer in a misplaced Evan Horwood shot for what turned out to be the decisive goal.

We’re running out of superlatives for Richards but it goes without saying that he is a class act, a guarantee of quality and the most consistent performer in the squad.

With 16 goals to his name so far this term, he has already beaten his records for the past two seasons and is only one shy of the 17 he scored in 2011/12; his penalty on Saturday would have got him to that mark.

He should beat the 2009-10 total of 23 (Soccerbase, Richards will tell you, has it listed incorrectly as 22) which remains his personal best for a season and by this point any concerns about the three-year contract he was given in the summer are now long-forgotten memories.

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175148009

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175148009

Richards has been a high-class performer all season but when he really excels is when playing with pace either side of him, and the team now has that.

Lawson D’Ath has gone up a notch in the past month and he and new addition Ricky Holmes are getting the best out of each other.

It of course helps both that John-Joe O’Toole is now producing his best football in a Northampton shirt and their interplay is, at times, marvellous.

They do need, however, to be more ruthless.

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175410009

Northampton Town FC v Morecambe FC NNL-150702-175410009

Their next three games are against the bottom two clubs in league two and 20th-placed Mansfield - the wish list in the manager’s office has to be nine points from those matches considering the respective form sheets on the teams involved.

All three will have the underdog spirit which is indelibly inked on Morecambe and part of the DNA which makes them an ongoing Football League force despite poor gates and relentless cuts to the playing budget.

All three will also be playing under the threat of leaving the Football League, especially Tuesday night’s opponents Hartlepool.

So while everyone can be pleased with another win and a closing of the points gap to the play-offs, the bottom line is the Morecambe game should serve as a reminder that cold and unemotional results and performances are always preferable to overconfidence, which the Cobblers bordered on at times on this occasion.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE

Kicking game improved on recent weeks and he was central to the victory in the second half, with one particularly memorable double save ...8 STAR MAN

BRENDAN MOLONEY

Seems slightly subdued after his initial burst of energy and was caused a problem or two by the waspish Kevin Ellison after his half-time introduction ...7

ZANDER DIAMOND

Was going well - winning headers, making interceptions - before his injury, which at least simplifies the centre-back selection issue for the manager ...7

LEE COLLINS

Started the game superbly well, reading situations and using the ball intelligently but got unsettled as it progressed and started to rush things ...7

EVAN HORWOOD

Will claim an assist for the second goal and did well both in defence and as an occasional attacker down the left wing ...7

JOEL BYROM

Took his goal well and performed to a decent standard but he was not the calming influence he usually is in central midfield ...7

JASON TAYLOR

Found himself in possession far more often than he seemed comfortable about, and used it with mixed results but you can’t argue with what he does off the ball ...7

LAWSON D’ATH

Another classy outing for the wide attacker, who linked up play with Holmes very nicely at times and especially in the first half ...8

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE

Is using the ball intelligently and sacrificing glorious moments of individual play to form more multi-player passing moves, and had one decent header well saved ...7

RICKY HOLMES

Seemed to be intentionally playing closer to D’Ath to allow for more interplay between them (which worked well) and won the penalty with an explosive run down the right ...8

MARC RICHARDS

The penalty miss is a blot on what is an otherwise excellent copybook. Is scoring at a hugely impressive rate at the moment and arguably his goalscoring touch was the difference on this occasion ...8

Substitutes:

BEN TOZER (for Diamond 45)

Kept a clean sheet in his time on the pitch and didn’t let anyone down after slotting in for the injured Diamond ...7

CHRIS HACKETT (for O’Toole 80)

TOM NEWEY (for Holmes 89)

Not used: Carter, Bodin, Snedker, Toney