Northampton Town 2 Rochdale 3 - Jeremy Casey's view, player ratings and match action

So when does a slump in form become a full-blown crisis?

Sunday, 18th December 2016, 12:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:12 pm
TOUGH ONE TO TAKE - Marc Richards shows his disappointment at the end of the defeat to Rochdale (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

The Cobblers' 3-2 defeat to Rochdale at Sixfields on Saturday saw Rob Page's men slip to 15th in the Sky Bet League One table, but still six points above the relegation zone.

It was also the team's fifth defeat in six league one outings, and came off the back of the embarrassing 1-0 loss at non-League Stourbridge in the FA Cup.

So, in all, we are talking about a run of six defeats in seven games which, in anybody's book, is a bad run.

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Matt Taylor

Is it a run that will see the manager come under pressure? Yes.

Is it a run that should see the manager's job under threat? I don't think so - but judging by my Twitter feed over the past week or so there are plenty of people out there who think that should be the case.

There were angry protestations against Page by a minority of supporters at Sixfields on Saturday too, and it will have made for a somewhat awkward afternoon for Kelvin Thomas as he watched on from his seat on the front row of the directors box.

The Cobblers chairman enjoyed what was a pretty much a dream first 11 months in charge of the club.

Marc Richards and John-Joe O'Toole chat to referee Eddie Ilderton at the end of the game

Everything was going brilliantly, and it was all about looking up and progression , but there is no doubt that over the past six weeks the club has suffered the first blip of his time at the helm.

But I don't think that Thomas will be considering making any sort of managerial change, and don't think he should either.

Yes, Page is struggling to get the best out of his players at the moment.

Yes, the team is on a terrible run.

Dave Buchanan

Yes, the players look nervy and low on confidence.

Yes, the manager has struggled to replicate the team's swashbuckling form from stages of last season.

Yes, supporters are frustrated at Page's perceived failure to take responsibilty for poor results with regards to his tactics and substitutions.

Yes, the manager is perhaps guilty of showing too much faith in too many players who aren't performing at a high enough level.

Rob Page

Yes, it is a hard to understand why certain players have been totally marginalised.

And yes, something has to change pretty quickly.

But at this time I don't feel that change should be the manager.

This is a team that has stepped up a level, that is trying to compete with clubs that have substantially bigger playing budgets than the Cobblers.

This is not league two any more.

The Cobblers are up against better players, better teams, better managers, but in Page they do have somebody who has been there and done it, having guided Port Vale to mid-table security in the previous two seasons.

Dave Buchanan

Before this season started, that was more or less what every Cobblers fan wanted, and with the team 15th in the table and six points above the drop zone, it is currently being provided - although the results in recent weeks are an obvious concern.

Expectations were inevitably raised following the brilliant league two title success, but perhaps that amazing campaign has also left us all a little spoiled.

What happened last season was wonderful, was something to treasure, and will never be forgotten. But it is history.

Yes, Chris Wilder produced a fantastic team, playing fantastic football, but rewind two years and check the Cobblers' form under the same manager.

From November 11, 2014 through to December 28, the Cobblers played nine matches and lost EIGHT of them, winning just once, 1-0 at home against Stevenage.

The five-match losing streak saw them lose to Southend United, Plymouth Argyle, Carlisle United, Bury and Tranmere Rovers.

The squad at that time was full of Wilder signings, with the manager have had a summer to rebuild a squad that he had rescued from the oblivion of relegation the previous May.

Those players included the likes of Danny Alfei, Zander Diamond, Gregor Robertson, Joel Byrom, Marc Richards, Kaid Mohamed, Evan Horwood, Emile Sinclair, Lawson D'Ath and Ryan Cresswell.

It was, give or take two or three players, Wilder's team.

And it was a team that went into the 2015 new year in 20th place in league two, with 24 points from 23 matches - and just two points above the relegation zone.

There were plenty of people unhappy with Wilder's management at that time, there were calls for him to be sacked, and it would have been easy for then chairman David Cardoza to make that call, to change the manager.

Nobody would have blamed him if he had done so, but to Cardoza's credit he showed faith in Wilder, a faith admittedly earned after he saved the club from relegation just seven months earlier, and instead trusted his man to turn things around.

The January transfer window opened, Wilder signed Ricky Holmes, Brendan Moloney and Jason Taylor, and the rest is history.

Town stopped the rot with a 1-1 home draw against Southend in the first game of 2015, and then went on a run of five straight wins, and eight wins in 10, storming up the table.

They were genuine play-off contenders at one point before their form tailed off, but the glory was to come in the following season.

It is an example of how quickly things can change in football, how trust and faith can be rewarded, and I feel a little bit of faith should be given to Page, who is just seven months into a three-year contract.

Admittedly, a lot of Page's summer signings have failed to hit the hoped for heights, but others have been a success, and the manager knows exactly where he needs to strengthen and improve his squad.

Page says he is already close to finalising deals to bring new players to the club in January, and although I know plenty of people will disagree with me, and I appreciate that, I think he should be given the chance to get on with it, be given the chance to refresh the squad and turn things around.

As for Saturday against Rochdale, it was another frustrating day.

The Cobblers played pretty well in patches, and scored two good goals, but their defensive frailty returned to haunt them, and they also did not get the rub of the green with referee Eddie Ilderton's decisions.

Matthew Lund did handle the ball before firing Dale's first equaliser, although whether it was deliberate or not is debatable, and Town goalkeeper David Cornell was clearly fouled by Ian Henderson in the split-second before Lund headed home the visitors' winner.

Joe Rafferty was also lucky to get away with not being red carded for his tackle on Paul Anderson after just 13 minutes.

The Dale player got the ball, but it was a tackle from behind and he caught Anderson as well, so should have been a foul. Rafferty was the last man, and Anderson would have been through on goal, so the defender would have been sent off if it had been given.

Ilderton, who was about 15 yards from the incident, for some reason wanted his assistant - who was 50 yards away - to make the decision for him, and Rafferty got away with it.

That said, Dale showed in this game exactly why they are in the hunt for promotion, as they played some excellent football.

They scored three and could have scored more, with Steven Davies and Oliver Rathbone wasting gilt-edged chances from free headers, but from a Cobblers perspective all three they conceded were avoidable, with the second a real comedy of errors, although nobody from Northampton was laughing.

Marc Richards gave the ball away with a sloppy square pass in midfield, and then when it looked like the Cobblers had snuffed out the danger of the counter-attack, Richards, desperate to make amends for his earlier error, collided with Dave Buchanan to again gift possession to the visitors.

Joe Thompson's shot was blocked, but the ball ricocheted off John-Joe O'Toole and into the path of Lund who finished calmly.

It was a goal that knocked the stuffing out of the Cobblers and summed up how things are currently going for the team.

Page surprisingly only made one change to the side beaten at Stourbridge - O'Toole for Richards - and went with a 4-1-4-1 formation, with O'Toole, Anderson and Sam Hoskins clearly under instruction to get as much support as possible to centre forward Alex Revell, which in the main they did.

Town created chances of their own, and twice took the lead, but on both occasions allowed Dale to level within a matter of minutes, meaning they were never really in control of the match, and they paid the price when the visitors scored the winner.

And although that goal should not have been allowed to stand, you couldn't really argue that the visitors didn't deserve their win.

The Cobblers now have a free week before a daunting little spell that sees them travel to Oxford United on Boxing Day, and then in-form Sheffield United five days later.

Page will be hoping his players can at last provide some Christmas cheer.

Player ratings

David Cornell - nothing he could have done about the first two goals, and was clearly fouled by Ian Henderson as he attempted to catch the cross for the third - 6

Aaron Phillips - started the game in jittery fashion, with one bizarre long-range back pass from inside the opposition half, but settled down and was solid enough - 6

Gaby Zakuani - another steady performance from the central defender, but there were a couple of occasions where Rochdale players were allowed free headers in the middle of the penalty area - 6

Lewin Nyatanga - similar to Zakuani, in that indivdually Nyatanga had a reasonable game, but the pair of them need to communicate and organise the defence better - 6

Dave Buchanan - another solid display from the ever reliable Buchanan, although it was his unfortunate collision with Marc Richards that led to the visitors' second equaliser - 6

Jak McCourt - handed the duty of sitting in front of the back four and offering the defence protection. Did a reasonable job, and played one brilliant raking pass out to Hoskins that set up a chance for Town - 6

Sam Hoskins - was a livewire throughout the game, and was the Cobblers' main attacking threat. His goal was expertly taken, but will be frustrated at allowing Joe Bunney to get past him and set up Dale's opener - 8

John-Joe O'Toole - recalled after suspension, O'Toole was handed a central midfield role and tasked with supporting centre forward Alex Revell. Looked a little lost at times, and was unable to exert his usual influence on proceedings - 6

Matt Taylor - came up with another special goal from a free-kick, and was always a threat with his set-piece delivery, but in open play he struggled to get hold of the ball - 6

Paul Anderson - started the game well, and offered attacking width on the left. Was fouled by Joe Rafferty early on when he would have been in on goal, but his influence waned in the second half - 6

Alex Revell - battled hard all afternoon and had a couple of half chances in the first half, but looks a frustrated figure at the moment as the opportunities simply aren't being created for him - 6


Marc Richards (49m, for McCourt) - added extra presence to the Cobblers attack, and sent Hoskins on his way for the second goal with a good ball, but his stray pass and then a collision with Buchanan led to the visitors' second goal - 6

Alfie Potter (74m, for Anderson)

Not used: Smith, Gorre, Beautyman, Iaciofano, McDonald

John-Joe O'Toole
Rochdale celebrate their winning goal
David Cornell appeals for a free-kick following the third goal
Matt Taylor
Marc Richards and John-Joe O'Toole chat to referee Eddie Ilderton at the end of the game
Dave Buchanan
Rob Page
Dave Buchanan
John-Joe O'Toole
Rochdale celebrate their winning goal
David Cornell appeals for a free-kick following the third goal