Cobblers boss Keith Curle believes Leon Legge’s red card prompted a ‘shift in mentality’ from his players and that led to their downfall in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at home to Port Vale.
Town were in command and leading 1-0 when Andy Williams, racing through on goal, was hauled down by Legge, giving referee Neil Hair little option but to brandish a straight red card.
However, Legge’s dismissal, rather than having the expected impact of aiding Town’s task, sparked the visitors into life and, if anything, it was Vale who looked the team with an extra man.
David Worrall equalised in first-half stoppage-time before Tom Pope’s penalty, awarded for a foul by Charlie Goode, completed an improbable turnaround, leaving Curle spitting feathers during his post-match interview.
The Town boss was a little more measured when reflecting on the defeat a few days later, and having analysed the game, he identified the reasons behind his side’s collapse at 1-0 ahead and a man up.
“For 40 minutes we got on the front foot, caused them problems and they caused us very few problems,” said Curle.
We were playing against a team down to 10 men and on paper there wouldn’t be many of their team that I would put in our changing room based on ability.
“But the sending off allowed for a shift of mentality in our players because they thought we’ve got a man advantage so we can take an extra touch, we haven’t got to do the running, we haven’t got to nullify them, we haven’t got to fill holes.
“But then you look statistically and they had more passes than us, they had more entries into the final third, they had more possession in our final third, all with a man less, and that’s because we didn’t do the horrible side of the game. It’s the horrible side of the game that gets you the rewards.
“We were playing against a team down to 10 men and, on paper, there wouldn’t be many of their team that I would put in our changing room based on ability.
“So it’s disappointing when you start the game positively, get a goal, look dangerous from set-pieces and in control of the game, and then you get a man advantage but you lose.
“But there were fundamentals within our game that led to that.”