Woeful Cobblers drop into bottom four as they are humbled at home by rampant Rotherham

It was another afternoon to forget for the home set of supporters inside Sixfields as the Cobblers limped to the latest in a long line of pitiful and forgettable defeats this season, thrashed 3-0 by Rotherham United to drop back into the relegation zone.

Saturday, 17th March 2018, 4:17 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th March 2018, 5:25 pm
The Rotherham players celebrate Michael Smith's opening goal at Sixfields (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

On a snowy and bitterly cold afternoon, the large majority of fans must have ruing their decision to leave the house well before the full-time whistle as Town were emphatically dispatched by a United side who, despite coming off successive defeats to two of the bottom three, didn't even get out of second gear.

The first 45 minutes was the type of half that home fans at Sixfields have become all too familiar with this season as the Cobblers stood off and sat deep for most of it, inviting Rotherham to dominate possession and have all of the attacking play.

As a consequence, Northampton did not register a single shot before half-time and it was the visitors who deservedly led at the break through former Cobblers loan striker Michael Smith's well-taken 18th minute goal that all stemmed from a woefully defended long free-kick.

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Michael Smith slots home Rotherham's first goal

Richard O'Donnell's sharp reactions kept Town in it at the break but his saves only delayed the inevitable with David Ball and then Richie Towell completing a scoreline that only flattered the home side.

Miraculously, Town are still in touch with several teams around and above them at the bottom of the Sky Bet League One table but they will have to distinctly improve if that is to continue with time and games fast running out, and the pressure mounting on manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to fix it.

Hasselbaink made three alterations to the team which drew at Bristol Rovers last weekend, one of which was enforced after striker Chris Long picked up a back injury in training

Kevin Luckassen was the man to come in for his full Cobblers debut while Hildeberto Pereira replaced the suspended Matt Crooks in midfield and Daniel Powell was a straight swap for Gboly Ariyibi on the left flank.

Action from the Cobblers' 3-0 defeat too Rotherham

Looking eager to bounce back from successive defeats, all of the early running at Sixifields was made by Rotherham who had most of the early possession as Town willingly sat off them and, unwisely as it turned out, invited pressure.

It was to the surprise of very few inside the ground when United's strong start culminated in the opening goal on 18 minutes.

Town's defence will not want to watch it back any time soon as they inexplicably failed to deal with Will Vaulks' long free-kick, taken from inside his own half. Joe Bunney got underneath his header and the ball dropped to Smith, whose 6ft 4in frame had somehow escaped the attentions of the home defenders and he made them pay, easily finding the bottom corner.

Only a superb reaction save by O'Donnell prevented Towell's venomous strike from making it two a few minutes later as United remained in the ascendancy.

Michael Smith slots home Rotherham's first goal

Home fans were growing more and more restless by what they were witnessing and there was little sign of any improvement as the half wore on with Smith side-footing wide and David Ball being denied by the legs of O'Donnell.

Attacks at the other end were almost non-existent throughout the entirety of the opening 45 minutes, aside from the odd counter-attack which invariably ended with the wrong pass or poor decision-making, exemplified by Matt Grimes' weak free-kick from 25 yards out that failed to beat the first man.

Fortunate not to be behind by more than one at half-time, Town at least showed a fraction more attacking ambition at the start of the second-half, though their wait for a first shot continued after Powell's cross evaded Ash Taylor.

It was not until the 56th minute when the Cobblers finally tested visiting goalkeeper Marek Rodak, who was not overly extended in keeping out Pereira's low shot from 20 yards.

Action from the Cobblers' 3-0 defeat too Rotherham

But there was no denying the fact that Rotherham continued to carry the greater attacking threat and, following O'Donnell's save from Jon Taylor, they proved it just after the hour-mark.

Left completely unmarked 12 yards from goal, Ball made no mistake as he fired through O'Donnell, who got a hand to it, and into the net to double the away side's fully merited advantage.

Ariyibi and Kevin van Veen had both come on for Town but their attacking play remained disjointed and dysfunctional as Rodak enjoyed one of his more straightforward afternoons of the season.

Northampton could justifiably have been left frustrated by the referee's decision not to send off either Semi Ajayi and Joe Mattock, both of whom had been booked, for second-half fouls but that only papered over the widening cracks.

And there was more misery to come 10 minutes from time when Towell put the finishing touch on a well-worked United move, the visitors slicing through the home defence before Towell's precise finish from Anthony Forde's cutback found the far corner.

Shots and even corners had been met by sarcastic cheers from those who were left inside Sixfields as most had already headed for the exits, and the full-time whistle confirmed defeat and an awful lot of work to be done if Northampton are to if have a chance of staying up.

Match facts

Cobblers: O'Donnell, Moloney, Taylor (c), Turnbull, Bunney, Grimes, O'Toole (van Veen 70), Hoskins (Ariyibi 59), Powell, Pereira, Luckassen (Mathis 79)

Subs not used: Cornell, Facey, Barnett, McWilliams

Rotherham: Rodak, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Vaulks (c), Mattock (Ihiekwe 66), Taylor (Forde 66), Towell, Palmer, Williams, Ball (Newell 84), Smith.

Subs not used: Price, Wood, Yates Lavery

Referee: Ben Toner

Attendance: 5,882

Rotherham fans: 1,129