Toothless Cobblers limp to tame defeat at Rochdale as promotion hopes take a hit

Fraser Horsfall goes up for an aerial challenge with Rochdale's Matty Done. Picture: Pete Norton.Fraser Horsfall goes up for an aerial challenge with Rochdale's Matty Done. Picture: Pete Norton.
Fraser Horsfall goes up for an aerial challenge with Rochdale's Matty Done. Picture: Pete Norton.
Rochdale 1 Northampton Town 0

Cobblers produced another poor attacking performance in limping their way to a tame 1-0 defeat against Rochdale at Spotland on Saturday

Dale played the crisper, more attractive football throughout and after being frustrated in the first-half, they moved ahead eight minutes into the second when Tahvon Campbell converted from close-range, snapping Town's run of five consecutive clean sheets.

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But the defensive side of things is the least of Northampton's worries because it is in attack where they are flattering to deceive. They were devoid of intent, quality and composure at Spotland and did not create a single decent opportunity over the course of the 90 minutes.

Cobblers do remain second in League One courtesy of results elsewhere but they simply must play better, particularly going forward, to stay on track for automatic promotion.

Shaun McWilliams returned to the team from suspension and there was more good news on the injury front with Josh Eppiah deemed fit enough to start and Louis Appere back on the bench.

The teams exchanged half chances in the opening five minutes as Alex Newby's shot was blocked for Dale before Eppiah's floated cross just eluded Paul Lewis.

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The pattern of the game was evident from a very early stage with Rochdale trying to pass out from the back at every opportunity and Cobblers looking to press high and catch them on the break.

But Town were not quite able to get the timing of their press right and that, at times, made it easy for Rochdale to build attacks and create pressure, leading to the one big chance of the first-half.

Dale switched played to the left where Matty Done crossed low for the fast-arriving Campbell but Liam Roberts rode to the rescue again, saving brilliantly with his legs.

Jon Guthrie strode out of defence and shot wide and Ali Koiki posed a danger in moments but by and large, as at Scunthorpe in midweek, Cobblers were not clicking in attack.

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Rochdale continued to have the better moments although Town's defence snuffed out one or two half chances to get through to half-time still on level terms.

But they could not hold out too much long and eight minutes into the second-half their resistance was finally broken. Campbell became the first man to score past Cobblers after more than nine hours of football when flicking in from close-range after Newby had got the better of Koiki to cross from the right.

Jon Brady immediately rang the changes, sending on Benny Ashley-Seal and Appere, but Town's more attacking approach presented more space for Dale to counter-attack into and they should have had a second with Liam Kelly skying over at the back post.

Cobblers were able to bring on two more players due to Rochdale making a concussion sub and Brady made the most of it by introducing Joseph Mills and Bez Lubala.

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The visitors switched to 4-4-2 with Sam Hoskins at right-back but they continued to labour badly in attack, so much so that Guthrie decided to take a predictably harmless shot from all of 40 yards.

There was nothing to seriously worry home goalkeeper Max Lynch throughout the contest and if anything, Dale should have won by more with Mills' last-ditch tackle preventing a certain late second.

Rochdale: Lynch, Taylor, O'Connell (c), Dorsett, Keohane, Kelly, Clark, Ball (Dooley 45), Newby (Grant 82), Done (O''Keeffe 75), Campbell (Charman 87)

Subs not used: Coleman, McNulty, Broadbent

Cobblers: Roberts, Magloire (Lubala 74), Horsfall (c), Guthrie, McGowan (Appere 55), Koiki (Mills 74), McWilliams, Lewis, Pinnock, Hoskins, Eppiah (Ashley-Seal 55)

Subs not used: Maxted,, Abimbola, Rose

Referee: Ollie Yates

Attendance: 2,643

Cobblers fans: 444

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