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

STRONG PERFORMANCE - Joel Byrom was the Cobblers' best player in the defeat at Tranmere (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
STRONG PERFORMANCE - Joel Byrom was the Cobblers' best player in the defeat at Tranmere (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Share this article

The final Cobblers fixture of 2014 passed in the same way as the year itself has, with a brief taste of enjoyment replaced by yet another crushing disappointment.

It is a sporting cliche that it is the hope that kills you; that was true at Prenton Park and has been true for what feels like season after season for this seemingly cursed football club.

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173836009

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173836009

When Marc Richards scored against Tranmere to make it 1-1 it was no less than Northampton deserved.

They had seen lots of the ball, passed it pretty well, and spent most of the game to that point playing in their opponents’ half.

They went in at half-time very much a force in the contest and with a confidence that this would be the day their dreadful run might just come to an end.

Collecting a point against a limited but in-form side like Tranmere would hardly have been cause for great celebration, but it would have at least stopped the rot of relentless defeats.

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173822009

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173822009

But of course, Tranmere scored.

The most basic of goals too - a one-two between a substitute and a midfielder which saw the former curl a shot past Matt Duke and put the home side in front.

It felt as though a pin had been stuck in the bubble of optimism that had been built by a decent first-half performance and Richards’ goal, and although Northampton worked hard there was a feeling they wouldn’t have scored if they were still playing the game in 2015.

Emile Sinclair really should have notched with a header and just about any other outfield player would have done better with the late volley which landed at the feet of Daniel Alfei, a full-back without a senior goal to his name.

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173931009

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173931009

Richards must be wondering exactly what he’s got himself involved with here - yesterday’s goal was his 12th of the season and means he continues to lead the way in the league two goalscorers charts.

He is a class act who regularly delivers strong performances and if he is not playing well you can guarantee 100 per cent that he will at least work hard.

If Northampton had just a single central midfielder and centre-back who played with his quality and consistency they would not be in the situation in which they currently find themselves, fighting the fire of yet another potential relegation battle.

At least John-Joe O’Toole has showed glimpses of perhaps being that central midfield player in his past two outings and while Joel Byrom’s loan has been a mixed one, he was very good at Tranmere until he was shunted out to the left wing to accommodate Sinclair in a 4-4-2, a tactical decision which the manager quite simply got wrong.

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173903009

Tranmere Rovers v Northampton Town FC NNL-141228-173903009

Five changes were made to the starting line-up for the latest loss and more will no doubt be made for the visit to Sixfields of Southend United on January 3, with Zander Diamond and Gregor Robertson nursing fresh injuries and disrupting any selection consistency.

The Blues were relatively comfortable 2-0 winners when the teams met at Roots Hall earlier this month and will strongly fancy their chances of recording a league double at Sixfields.

After that it’s a trip to Exeter City, a team on the edges of the promotion play-offs and whose line is likely to be led by Alex Nicholls.

The fixtures don’t get any easier, and you have to wonder where the next win will come from for this side who have become masters of shattering their supporters’ hopes.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE

Made a couple of decent stops from distance shots and couldn’t really be faulted for either of Tranmere’s goals ...6

DANIEL ALFEI

A steady performance which will be remembered mostly for his late miss, although he is not in the team to take such chances ...6

LEE COLLINS

Competed well and made some good challenges but was part of a defence which once again leaked goals to average opposition ...5

ZANDER DIAMOND

Another game, another injury for the Cobblers - Diamond had played reasonably well before limping off with a hamstring problem ...5

GREGOR ROBERTSON

Had looked to get forward a lot more than he traditionally does before his afternoon was ended early by a rib injury after a collision with Odejayi ...6

CHRIS HACKETT

A modest improvement on his recent form but still seems slightly hesitant when in attacking areas and his crossing accuracy wasn’t up to scratch ...5

JOEL BYROM

Possibly his best game for the club; always looked to receive the ball and used it intelligently and quickly, as evidenced in Richards’ goal ...7 STAR MAN

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE

The midfielder has come back from his loan at Southend a revived player and was good here, fighting for loose balls and passing it well ...7

STEWART MURDOCH

An improved performance and played with a better tempo but didn’t really grab the game by the scruff of the neck at any point ...6

KAID MOHAMED

Flatters to deceive too much - looks great on the ball and is a fluid dribbler but needs to work on his end product and his decision-making ...5

MARC RICHARDS

Took his goal excellently and made many unselfish runs off the ball to open up space for his team-mates ...7

Substitutes:

KELVIN LANGMEAD (for Diamond 32)

Allowed Odejayi to make a run across him for the goal but got better after that and timed many tackles and interceptions well ...6

EVAN HORWOOD (for Robertson 33)

Gave away several cheap fouls as he fought to get his team back into the game but combined that with some good crossing ...6

EMILE SINCLAIR (for Mohamed 67)

Should have made a much stronger contact on the late headed chance he had to equalise and didn’t really offer much after coming on ...4

Not used: Carter, Tozer, Snedker, D’Ath