Northampton Town 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
The Checkatrade Trophy is a much-maligned competition that seemingly no fan wants, and judging by their performance in Tuesday night's first group stage game against Wycombe Wanderers, neither do Northampton's players.
This was a precious opportunity for fringe players to force their way into manager Dean Austin’s long-term reckoning ahead of Saturday’s league visit of Cheltenham, but they must have missed the memo as Town instead produced a laboured, disjointed performance in deservedly falling to defeat.
It was a game befitting this often-ridiculed competition. A flat atmosphere at the PTS Academy Stadium matched by a flat encounter, although at least Wycombe had the decency and good grace to treat it with the importance of a regular league match.
There was more pop to their passing, more energy to their running and more cohesion to their general play as Scott Kashkett’s 11th minute screamer, which left goalkeeper Lewis Ward grasping at thin air, sent them back to Buckinghamshire with all three points and second place in Southern Group F.
The Cobblers looked a team that had been chucked together, which they had, of course, after Austin’s decision to make 11 changes, but so too had their opponents, who made 10, and yet, by contrast, Wycombe were efficient, cohesive and well-drilled.
The visitors were clearly superior in the first-half and though they were given more of a game in the second, it was not until four minutes from time when Town finally managed to carve out a clear scoring opportunity, Dean Bowditch denied by a goal-line clearance.
There was more vigour and urgency to Northampton’s play once some half-time words had been exchanged following an oddly lethargic opening 45 minutes but Wycombe were nonetheless deserving winners.
At least young centre-back Jay Williams provided an obvious positive. The academy teenager impressed with both his talent and his attitude. He was strong enough to stand up to a physical Wycombe side and also possessed the the composure to demand the ball and the confidence to give out orders to those around him.
The return of fit-again Shaun McWilliams provided another plus point. Captain of the side, he was industrious as ever and, having survived 80 minutes, will now be keen to force his way back into Austin’s league team, though Sam Foley and Matt Crooks currently have the midfield on lockdown.
It would be easy to disregard this performance and result given the circumstances but while the Checkatrade Trophy matters little in the grand scheme of things, what cannot and should not be ignored is Town’s increasingly concerning overall record so far this season.
Their defeat on Tuesday means they have now played eight games in all competitions and won just once, in addition to four draws and three defeats. That represents a poor return whichever way you try and decipher it.
They’ve not always got what their performances have merited and it’s still far too early to be pushing any panic buttons, but the excuses will not last forever. Soon, the Cobblers must simply start winning.
How they rated...
Lewis Ward - Stood up well to make an early block from Onyedinma but was rendered helpless by the power and precision of Kashket just five minutes later. Otherwise untroubled... 6
Hakeem Odoffin - A tough night for the youngster. His heavy touch, loose passing and clumsy challenges were the mark of a man low on confidence. Improved in the second-half... 5
Leon Barnett - Largely routine 90 minutes for the experienced centre-back who limited the visitors to few clear opportunities... 6
Jay Williams - Impressive debut from the teenager. Strong in the tackle and won his fair share of aerial duels. Confident too, regularly barking out the orders to his more senior team-mates, and wasn’t afraid to demand the ball... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Jordan Turnbull - Carried out his defensive duties well as he was pinned back by Wycombe for most of the game. Didn’t use the ball well enough when he did get beyond halfway... 6
Shaun McWilliams - Captained the side on his return from injury and scampered about the pitch in his usual bustling style. Came through 80 minutes unscathed to shake off the rust and get himself back in the frame for league action... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Hit and miss night. Cut a frustrated figure for most of it and hardly had a sniff of goal, although showed neat close control to keep possession in tight spaces... 6
Daniel Powell - Increasingly became Town’s chief threat as the night wore on, seeing more and more of the ball on the right flank. Didn’t do enough with it though, bar one or two dangerous crosses... 6
Dean Bowditch - Had difficulty forcing his influence on the game and fluffed his lines when the best chance of the evening came the home side’s way, unable to beat the defender on the line with the goal gaping... 5
Billy Waters - Buzzed across the final third, continually seeking out possession and trying to make things happen but nothing really came off for him. Sent one pile-driver just wide... 6
Andy Williams - Hardly even on the fringes of the game as he was kept on a tight leash by Wycombe’s dominant back four who were untroubled throughout... 5
Sean Whaler - 6