Thursday, February 28, 2013

Northampton Town 1-0 Bristol Rovers (League Two)

In what was, for the most part, an unentertaining game at Sixfields on Tuesday evening, Northampton Town somehow nicked an 88th minute winner from a trademark long ball in to the Rovers penalty area to earn 3 points. On reflection it's fair to say Rovers did not deserve to win the game but they certainly did not deserve to lose either, with the defending very strong for the majority of the game.

John Ward's men unable to hold on to away point at Sixfields
With Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clive Platt leading the line for the promotion hopefuls, Tom Parkes and Mark McChrystal needed to be well-versed on how to deal with their strength and aerial ability. The inevitable long ball football employed by Aidy Boothroyd's men did mean supporters had to tilt their necks upwards for most of the match but Gasheads wouldn't have been too concerned with that in the first half. They attempted to put Steve Mildenhall's goal under pressure early on with lofted balls in to the box but nothing really forced him in to a save bar a couple of tame attempts from Platt. Akinfenwa used all his strength, as well as his arms, to control many punts forward but the referee failed to penalise the chunky striker - probably out of fear. Despite this he failed to create anything noteworthy for the Cobblers and a dour first half came to an end with few talking points. One comedic moment did occur after half an hour when Akinfenwa leant for a diagonal ball on the edge of the box, was nudged softly in the back by Parkes, and then fell to the ground like meteor hitting the earth. He remained sprawled on the turf for a few seconds before one Gashead screamed 'bloody hell, there's a beached whale on the pitch!'. Eventually he got to his feet and was able to continue but it made us all laugh.

The second half got going and immediately there was a little more purpose about Rovers' play. Eliot Richards appeared more lively although he wasn't well supported by makeshift right midfielder Ollie Norburn, who had a really poor evening. He misplaced almost every pass and failed to contribute when defending the flank which was disappointing because we all know he's a very good player. Still, Richards managed to embark on a jinking run towards the box before unleashing a left footed effort that Lee Nicholls managed to save, whilst the same player hit a dipping volley towards goal that also required a stop from the Wigan loanee. Despite the opportunities to whip the ball in to the box from set-pieces, Rovers rarely looked too menacing and this always left us at risk of a long ball from Northampton's back-line. Ball after ball was launched in to our third of the pitch but continued resolute defending ensured the ball stayed out of harms way. The group of 20 Cobblers fans in the stand to the left of the away end began chanting about how poor our away support was midway through the half, which was hilarious and evoked plenty of laughter amongst Gasheads. We took more to Sixfields on a freezing cold Tuesday night than they brought to the Mem on a sunny Saturday in October! Utter idiots.

Time was running out and despite some frustration that we hadn't taken the game to our hosts a little more, we all felt a point was a good return from a side with a good home record. However, as is so often the way when you are towards the top of the league, they received a huge slice of luck with the bounce of the ball in our penalty area and Ben Harding was able to steer home to break Rovers hearts. There was no way back from that and the game ended in disappointment as the direct Northampton claimed all 3 points. Frustration for everyone connected with the Gas as it was totally undeserved but there is still plenty of positives to take considering we were playing a side who were aiming for League One.

Unfortunately the teams below us all picked up points to narrow the gap between the relegation zone and ourselves which places more pressure on a good result this weekend against Burton Albion at the Mem. There's no reason to be despondent with the 2 defeats in 3 games because we have warranted much more than the solitary point we've garnered, so hopefully Gasheads will turn up and support the boys in their usual vociferous way. The Brewers are in the top 3 and gunning for automatic promotion so it will be a difficult game but we held them at their place early in the season and with the vast improvement we've made since then 3 points could very easily stay in Bristol.

Up the Gas!

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