Oldham Athletic 0 Northampton Town 0 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
Sometimes, you walk away from a 0-0 draw wondering how on earth it finished goalless. Sadly, this was not one of those occasions.
If ever a game deserved to end in a stalemate, this lifeless, uninspiring, unimaginative affair contested between two teams reluctant to take the initiative was it.
There are times in football when you have to risk losing a game to potentially win it. But, from an early stage on Tuesday, it became apparent that neither Oldham nor Northampton were prepared to take that chance.
The Latics had territorial dominance while the Cobblers created fleeting moments of danger on the break, but a poor final ball combined with some excellent defending meant it was a quiet night for the two goalkeepers.
The season is still young and therefore it would be foolish to draw any definitive conclusions just yet, but there is a pattern already beginning to emerge from Northampton’s opening four games and it was evident again on Tuesday.
It all centres around an alarming lack of creativity.
The Cobblers often found themselves too deep, camped inside their own half for too long and they became over-reliant on set-pieces and long balls with Alex Revell cutting a very isolated figure up front.
That followed the pattern of the previous two away games where, although the results have been absolutely fine on paper, the way Rob Page has set his team up, with men behind the ball looking to play on the counter-attack, has allowed opposing teams to dictate.
It’s a feeling which is only supported by their possession count in those three away games. Against Oldham, the Cobblers saw just 44% of the ball and the figure was even lower against Charlton and Barnsley at 39% and 43% respectively.
Of course, as Leicester City proved last season, football is not all about possession, but when you have so little of the ball, it makes what you do with it all the more important and it’s questionable whether the Cobblers have enough quality in attack to make the most of any counter-attacking opportunities.
On Tuesday, aside from an early burst, Northampton again offered little going forward and were too passive in their play, almost as if they were just waiting for something to happen instead of taking the initiative.
And on the rare occasions when they did find themselves in the final third, their final ball or killer pass was always found wanting.
Kenji Gorre, Sam Hoskins and Alfie Potter were the latest combination to be tried by Page as he attempts to find a fluent and cohesive attacking trio to play behind Alex Revell.
But all three were off the pace: Gorre was direct but had no end product; Hoskins showed good movement but lost the ball too easily; and Potter never got himself into the game.
There’s no doubt that Page is moulding a side who are difficult to break down but, beyond that, improvement is required and with time and perhaps a new face or two, that may come.
For now, there is still some way to go until they are the complete package and this weekend’s home clash against AFC Wimbledon is a key game in terms of making a judgement on just where Northampton are at.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - For all Oldham’s pressing, the Cobblers goalkeeper was rarely called upon... 7
Aaron Phillips - Lackadaisical in possession on one occasion but otherwise solid with one goal-saving clearance of particular note... 7
Zander Diamond - Composed and dependable at the back to continue his fine start to the season and record a deserved clean sheet... 7
Gabriel Zakuani - Two timely blocks and another important header come to mind as his stock continues to grow... 7
David Buchanan - Superb all evening. Stifled the threat from Oldham’s right and instigated the odd breakaway opportunity although nature of the game kept him pegged back more than he’d have liked... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
Alfie Potter - Flashed in and out of the game and saw little of the ball, meaning he had next to no impact... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Mixed night. Did some excellent things off the ball as well as on it but also lazy in possession and lost his discipline, hence his early substitution... 7
Matty Taylor - Spent too much of the game defending and in his own half instead of playing to his strengths on the ball... 6
Kenji Gorre - His directness had Oldham back-pedalling but again there was little end product... 6
Sam Hoskins - His pace and movement gave Oldham early problems and looked as likely as anyone to make something happen but tailed off badly... 6
Alex Revell - Too isolated up front and missed by far and away Town’s best chance when blazing over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy... 6
Harry Beautyman - 6
Joel Byrom - 6
Marc Richards - 6