Northampton Town 0 Fleetwood Town 1 - match review and player ratings

Whether or not the Cobblers deserved more than another 1-0 defeat on Saturday is up for debate but what cannot be disputed is the worryingly repetitive manner of their performances over the past 12 months.

Saturday, 12th August 2017, 11:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:26 pm
David Cornell is rendered motionless as Devante Cole's shot heads towards the corner. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

For almost a year now Town have essentially been playing a variation of the same game at Sixfields, one which invariably leads to them being beaten - that's now 10 defeats in their last 18 home league games - and this time it was Fleetwood Town who left with the spoils.

Unable to fashion enough clear-cut chances to earn the right for victory, bar a remarkable 30-second flurry before half-time, once again the Cobblers were ruthlessly punished for one lapse in the closing stages, condemning them to a third defeat in three and capping off a miserable first week of the new season.

So much of that early optimism, created over a transfer-dominated summer and a promising pre-season campaign, is gradually draining away and almost feels a distant memory as Northampton desperately go in search of a first goal, let alone point or even victory, of 2017/18.

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Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns was Northampton's nemesis on Saturday

They should have had it on Saturday, and would have had it had they not come up against an inspired goalkeeper who produced a world-class triple save the likes of which Sixfields may never witness again.

Alex Cairns brilliantly thwarted Aaron Pierre twice and then Billy Waters, all from a matter of yards out, which came moments after Chris Long's header was scrambled off the line.

But that frenetic passage aside, the Cobblers did not exactly pepper Cairns' goal. They toiled and grafted and shaded much of a low-quality second period but one mistake, by the unfortunate Shaun McWilliams, was all it took for Devante Cole to nip in and nick the points.

A draw would perhaps have been a fairer reflection of an even if low-quality contest, but what continues to concern is the that there is so little creativity and ingenuity in Northampton's forward play.

Alex Revell shows his frustration

Struggling to carve out genuine scoring chances is hardly a recent revelation for the Sixfields natives but at least last season there was the excuse of a lack of quality within the squad, especially in the match-winners department.

There should be no such problems this time around and whilst it's still very early days and there's every chance it could all click in the coming weeks, at times this first week has felt a continuation of last season.

It should not be forgotten that Fleetwood, though below-par on Saturday, are a very good side and have an excellent manager who knows what it takes to succeed at this level.

Bar a bright first 15 minutes they were no better than the Cobblers and in fact posed less of an attacking threat in the second-half, only gifted the winner by a midfield error.

Chris Long takes aim

Individually, there is enough to be encouraged going forward. David Cornell continues to be solid between the sticks, Regan Poole produced an impressively composed performance for a teenager on debut, while Aaron Phillips, Matt Crooks, Billy Waters and Chris Long all caught the eye for varying reasons.

It's now about bringing those parts together and allowing them to flourish as a collective because at the moment Northampton are a team way less than the some of their parts.

All the focus now is on getting that first point, no matter how or where. Unfortunately it gets no easier with next weekend's trip to Charlton Athletic, tipped for promotion by many, followed by the visit of rivals Peterborough, who are among the early pace-setters in League One.

Patience is an increasingly rare commodity in modern football, but even this seems a remarkably premature time to be pressing the panic button.

Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns was Northampton's nemesis on Saturday

It's a rough start but, surely, the only way is up.

How they rated...

David Cornell - For the third straight game he was rarely called into action, required to make only one save which he did so comfortably. Clinically beaten by Cole's winner... 7

Regan Poole - Replaced the suspended Barnett and slotted in admirably. Was an impressively composed display for a teenager on debut as he stepped in to cut out the danger several times and was calm on the ball... 7

Ash Taylor - Better at no-nonsense defending than he is in possession when there's the odd heart-in-mouth scare. Sometimes exposed but his one-on-one defending came up trumps when it mattered... 6

Aaron Pierre - Whilst Cairns deserve praise for his heroics, the Town defender really should have scored one of his two glaring chances before half-time. Showed good pace and anticipation to snuff out Hiwula early in the second period, and will always be a threat aerially... 7

Alex Revell shows his frustration

Aaron Phillips - Excellent cross for Long's header, which should have resulted in a goal, and brought good drive from wing-back as he rampaged up and down the right wing all game. Unfortunate to be replaced... 7

Matt Crooks - Not one to shirk a tackle, highlighted when brilliantly cutting short a threatening Fleetwood with a sliding challenge on McAleny. Sturdy and languid in possession on a day when he offered further hints of what's to come from him this season... 7

Yaser Kasim - Tidy on the ball, picking out some impressive passes, but neither he nor Crooks could get a stranglehold on the game, with the defence occasionally left exposed when the ball was turned over in midfield... 6

David Buchanan - Encountered few troubles defensively as Fleetwood offered little, and got himself involved in plenty of the play down the left side but little came to anything of note... 6

Billy Waters - Often provided the driving force from midfield as he scampered and buzzed around but fluffed his lines when opportunity beckoned, though much of the credit must go to Cairns for a fantastic save... 6

Chris Long - Has impressed in his previous two outings and did so again here. His strength, movement and direct running caused headaches for Fleetwood, however a first Cobblers goal remains elusive after twice going close... 7 CHRON STAR MAN

Alex Revell - Played with spirit and endeavour as he so often does but unable to fashion a clear-cut chance for himself as the Fleetwood defence kept him in check... 6


Shaun McWilliams - 5

Brendan Moloney - 6

Marc Richards - 6

Chris Long takes aim