Frustrating Exeter defeat shows Cobblers still have lessons to learn - verdict, reaction and highlights

For 37 minutes of Saturday's game at Exeter City, the Cobblers appeared well on course to stretch their unbeaten run to a seventh successive league match.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 12:42 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 12:53 pm
Nicky Adams on the ball

Charlie Goode's well-placed finish handed them the lead and they were good value for it but, on this occasion, it did not lead to three points - or even one - as the impressive Grecians produced a spirited comeback to inflict a rare league defeat on Northampton, their first in nearly two months.

In some ways, this defeat might not be such a bad thing for the Cobblers, especially if, as manager Keith Curle noted afterwards, they use it as a learning curve.

Winning games can sometimes fool people into thinking everything is fine when that is so rarely the case. Indeed, while it cannot be disputed that the Cobblers have made significant strides this season, their run of excellent form hasn't been without the odd scare, as Curle has happily acknowledged himself.

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The amount of chances they've conceded at times has been a concern, most notably in the first-halves against Crewe and Grimsby. On Saturday it caught up with them as Exeter successfully exploited the space behind the two wing-backs, both of whom like to attack more than defend and that can, occasionally, leave the back three exposed.

Of course, coming out on the wrong side in tight games against good teams will happen several times over the course of a season but what must frustrate Curle about this defeat down in Devon is the soft nature of all three Exeter goals.

It was too easy for Randall Williams to cut inside and get his shot off when equalising shortly before half-time - the game's decisive moment - while City's second and third goals both stemmed from balls into the box, something which is perceived to be Town's strength.

"We're very disappointed," admitted captain Charlie Goode afterwards. "We're most frustrated with the goal at the end of the first-half because recently we've been getting into half-time 1-0 or 2-0 ahead and going on to win.

"We're disappointed with that and then the two goals in the second-half come from corners and crosses into the box and that's normally what we're so good at it. We'll have to look at that."

For much of the first-half, the Cobblers looked the team that had leapt from 18th to 6th in the space of six weeks as they posed a real and constant threat on City's goal, but Williams' equaliser changed the game.

Exeter dominated for 30 minutes either side of half-time and two goals in two minutes was always likely to be too much to come back from, despite Sam Hoskins' fine solo effort in the closing stages.

"Every goal scored in every division is preventable at some point but straight after the game is not the time to get too critical," said Curle.

"We'll go back, we'll analyse and as I've said to the players, when we get beat we have to learn from it, but I can't fault the effort or the commitment.

"We also had fantastic travelling support again and they were very vocal. We put enough balls in the box, both first-half and in the second-half, but things didn't quite drop for us."