Southend United 2 Northampton Town 2 - Jeremy Casey's review and player ratings, plus match highlights

A fortnight ago, a grabbing a point away from home would have been a cause for celebration among Cobblers supporters.

Sunday, 17th September 2017, 1:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th September 2017, 2:02 pm
ON TARGET - Matt Crooks and Leon Barnett scored the goals as the Cobblers drew 2-2 at Southend United at Roots Hall (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

On Saturday at Southend United, coming away with a share of the spoils from a hard-fought 2-2 draw was seen as a real disappointment.

And there, in a nutshell, is the impact that new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has had on the club in just 12 days in charge.

The Cobblers could, and should, have won at Roots Hall on Saturday. But they also could have lost.

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They were 2-0 up at half-time against a team without a win since August 5, and had managed to open up that lead without really getting out of first gear.

A neat corner routine, even if it was messily executed, saw Leon Barnett open his scoring account for the club, and Matt Crooks then made it three goals in three games with a strike of genuine quality for the second.

That really should have been enough to take maximum points back to Sixfields. But it wasn't.

Town will have been expecting an early blitz from the home side in the second half and should have been ready for it, but they weren't.

Matt Crooks is the centre of attention after scoring the Cobblers' second goal

As they did on Tuesday against Portsmouth, the Cobblers gave the opposition a route back into the game.

On Tuesday, they had chances to clear their lines before Pompey's Matt Kennedy struck.

This time, a run from Simon Cox had been stopped, but a terrible touch from Crooks handed the former Cobblers loan man possession again, and the Town midfielder compounded the error by upending Cox on the edge of the box.

That saw Crooks booked (which would prove costly later when he was sent-off for not retreating at a free-kick) and also handed the home side a dangerous attacking opportunity, which they capitalised on, although Southend still needed a slice of luck as Jason Demetriou's shot from the edge of the box took a huge deflection before flying into the net.

Matt Crooks challenges for the ball at Southend

Just 60 seconds later, Southend were level thanks to some shoddy defending.

I can still remember my PE teachers at school (although it was a long, long time ago), and managers from umpteen teams, telling me 'don't let the ball bounce' when a long ball is launched downfield - well, Barnett did let the ball bounce, and it caused havoc.

Barnett was under pressure from Nile Ranger, but he should have dealt with the long punt over the top, instead he was caught underneath the bouncing ball and could do no more than head it straight in the air.

The ball looped to Ash Taylor but he couldn't get a proper connection either, and with Brendan Moloney then slipping in the box, the ball landed invitingly at the feet of Anthony Wordsworth, and he showed a rare touch of class in a real moment of mediocrity to steady himself and slide the ball past an exposed Matt Ingram.

Chris Long tries to break free

The long ball over the top was to prove to be Southend's most effective weapon as they went in search of a winner, but thankfully for the Cobblers, Taylor, Barnett and the rest of the defence, just about coped with things for the rest of the game, although there were a few edgy moments.

Indeed, the pleasing thing from a pretty poor second half as far as Town are concerned, is that they did cling on take a point from the game.

As they did on Tuesday against Portsmouth, and also last Saturday against Doncaster Rovers, the team showed resilience to take something - but they can't continue to allow such pressure to build on themselves in the second half of games.

Hasselbaink will know that, and will be doing all he can to change things, but this is a team that has got into some bad habits over the past 15 months or so, and one of them is to sit deeper and deeper when under pressure. That has to change.

The new Town boss has already improved things - a few weeks ago it is likely Town would have caved in against the Shrimpers - and the Cobblers did regain their composure and get back into the game after that quickfire two-goal blast.

But there is still a long way to go before Cobblers fans will approach the second half of any game with anything approaching genuine confidence, no matter the scoreline at the interval.

Matt Crooks is shown his second yellow card at Roots Hall

Anyway, enough of the negatives, let's talk about the positives.

After just three games in charge, Hasselbaink has seen his new team claim seven points from a possible nine, and drag themselves off the foot of Sky Bet League One and up to 17th.

The team is scoring goals again - six in three matches - and the players seem to have quickly responded to what their new manager is asking of them.

Without ever really playing well on Saturday, the Cobblers were not beaten, and indeed they claimed their first point on the road since drawing 1-1 at Rochdale on April 17, ending a run of five defeats on the spin.

The team has developed a backbone, and opposition attackers are no longer given the freedom of the final third of the pitch to do as they please, which was often the case under Justin Edinburgh and Rob Page.

Things are far from perfect of course, and there is a long, long way to go, but the signs are encouraging that Hasselbaink is going to get the best out of this set of players.

It has been a hectic start for the new manager, and there is no sign of things letting up as the Cobblers are on the road again on Tuesday night.

High-flying Wigan Athletic lie in wait at the DW Stadium, and if the Cobblers can get anything out of that one then it will be proof that things really are heading in the right direction.

Player ratings

Matt Ingram - the QPR loanee had no chance with either goal, and produced an excellent stop to deny former Cobblers loan man Simon Cox in the first half. Has brought an air of real authority to the Town defence - 6

Brendan Moloney - bit of a mixed bag from the Irishman. Bizarrely booked in the first half for time-wasting at a throw-in, he stuck at his task throughout the game, but looked to be struggling in the second half - 6

Ashton Taylor - must have a sore bonce this morning as he had to header away so many crosses and big punts down the middle. Did well on the whole, but has to take responsibility for his part in Southend's comical second goal - 6

Leon Barnett - scored his first goal for the Cobblers, but at times didn't look comfortable defensively, particularly when Southend went direct after the break. Allowed the ball to bounce under pressure from Nile Ranger ahead of Southend's second goal, and it proved costly - 6

Dave Buchanan - yet again, Buchanan was faced with the opposition's liveliest player, this time it was Dru Yearwood, but as always seems to be the case, he gave as good as he got throughout - 6

Matt Crooks - three goals in three games, and his strike on Saturday was his best for the club, an effortless and classy finish from 20 yards. Can't help thinking he is wasted on the right of midfield though, needs to be more central. Late red card was silly and unnecessary - 6

Yaser Kasim - worked really hard throughout, snapping away in the centre of midfield, and trying to bring some composure to the team when on the ball. Solid performance - 6

Matt Grimes - the Swansea loan man seems to be growing in stature with each passing game. Very comfortable in possession, but frustratingly for him and the Cobblers, the final ball was just lacking at Southend - 6

Daniel Powell - given a start on the left of midfield, the former Milton Keynes Dons man turned in a decent performance. Showed what he is capable of with his attacking run and lay off for Crooks' goal, we just need to see more of that. Not always switched on defensively - 6

Alex Revell - playing against one of his former clubs, Revell, as always, gave every ounce of effort for the Cobblers cause. Is very much Hasselbaink's choice as target man ahead of Marc Richards, and that is unlikely to change after this showing - 6

Chris Long - after his two-goal blast against Portsmouth on Tuesday, the Burnley loan man was barely given a sight of goal in this one. Had one shot from a tight angle in the first half, but that was it. Worked hard, but struggled to have an impact as the service to him was poor - 6


Billy Waters (for Long, 59 mins) - brought some extra energy to the Cobblers attacking line, but was starved of decent possession as the team struggled to piece together any decent possession in the final half hour - 6

Not used: Cornell, Pierre, Richards, Hanley, Bowditch, Poole

Southend celebrate their equaliser against the Cobblers
Alex Revell wins a header
Daniel Powell on the ball
Matt Ingram claims a catch
Matt Crooks is the centre of attention after scoring the Cobblers' second goal
Matt Crooks challenges for the ball at Southend
Chris Long tries to break free
Matt Crooks is shown his second yellow card at Roots Hall
Southend celebrate their equaliser against the Cobblers
Alex Revell wins a header
Daniel Powell on the ball
Matt Ingram claims a catch