Fan’s View 23/24 – No.25: Northampton away

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, December 24th, 2023  


This fixture has never had the greatest of appeal to me even though Sixfields is really easy to get to from Bicester. Who am I to complain though about the location of another club’s ground when the Kassam is where it is? Bring on the Triangle.

In the previous four league visits to the Cobblers we’ve not scored a goal. Two 1-0 defeats and two 0-0 draws.

At least on our last Saturday visit here when fans were allowed to attend in 2018 I discovered that the centre of the town is walkable if you don’t mind clocking up a couple of miles each way and there is some good beer to be sampled.

I’d noted a couple of pubs to visit but ended up in neither as we bumped into some of the usual suspects who recommended the Malt Shovel. What a fine old pub it is. Seven beers on draft including a mild and a stout. The latter was particularly smooth. Breweriana adorns the walls.


The process of getting into the ground and then getting a seat was a great example of the disdain with which some football clubs at times treat away fans. There’s a sign outside the away end stating “Northampton Town welcomes away supporters”. No it doesn’t. With a barrier all the way along back of that stand there’s only one way in. The ticket says turnstiles T 3-4. Everyone is queuing at turnstile T3. There’s no direct access to T4. No steward tells anyone they can walk past T3 to T4.

Once inside a mate says that his son has been thrown out for not sitting in the right seat. The stand looks crammed. I ask a steward if we have to sit in the allocated seat. They say yes. I go to my allocated seat which is clearly occupied and tell the occupant that I’ve been told I have to sit in that seat. He says that others are in their seats. It’s bloody obvious really. I approach another steward explaining the situation. They said they’d now changed their minds and you could sit anywhere. I spotted a mate and shouted if there any room near him. He said yes. I made my way up the steps to where he was “stood”. A further steward wanted to look at my ticket. I told him what was what including the fact that at least one person had been thrown out for not being in the right seat. He couldn’t care less. He just said “it wasn’t me who threw him out.” Seats – were any on them used? It’s standing behind the goal.

I do wonder if such behaviour is designed to wind people up.

Conceding in the very last seconds of added time to lose the one point we had was a kick in the guts but no more than we deserved. This was a dreadful performance, there’s no getting away from it. Leaving the ground many were cursing and swearing about the team and I believe they had every right to be doing so. There were also some questioning of the manager. He’s not had a great start has he? Even the less vocal yellow followers I chatted to were just as cheesed off but holding it in as is their way.

Where’s the positives in that? I was asked by someone who always looks on the bright side. My reply was “there are none” to which he added “I’m struggling to come up with any too”.

We are way off being a top six side. My half time summing up was “these are two mid-table sides” to which I should have added “and that is pushing it”.

Burton may have got a point at Charlton but what we saw here highlighted how awful they were last week. The starting line-up was the same.

There was so much wrong with what we did it is difficult to know where to start. We moved the ball slowly. We had little attacking threat. We did create some chances, but not many. We can’t finish against sides that are half way to being competent. No one was getting on the end of anything. We were a blunt instrument.

The Cobblers had more shots in total than us and more on target.

We couldn’t keep the ball. We only had it 42% of the time. Not good for a possession based team.

Against Burton we posed a real threat down the flanks with Josh Murphy and Stan Mills giving them all sorts of trouble. Cameron Brannagan in particular was able to find Mills with long crossfield balls. The quality of Ruben Rodrigues shone like a beacon.  The home side here had the audacity to mark us much more closely. We weren’t feeding the wingers, we weren’t being allowed to. They’d done their homework. We had no plan B.

On the rare occasions our wide men did get away from their markers it looked like perhaps something might happen and that’s how we got our penalty in the 62nd minute. For once Mills burst away. It was nailed on and well despatched by CB. That pulled us level with 28 (plus 6 and just a fraction more) minutes to go. Any team that was serious about going for it at the top of the table would have gone for it here. Did we? Perhaps just a little bit but it was short lived and I couldn’t detect any genuine belief on the pitch that anything would come of it. The strategy seemed more of let’s hang on for a point.

Perhaps RR can only do it against the poorest around. He showed a couple of glimpses but was a shadow of the man we’d seen seven days earlier. I will say though that he did have his ankles whipped away a couple of times but this was ignored by referee Craig Hicks who was blind to some of the thuggery and blatant fouling that went on. He was of the usual standard, i.e. crap.

We never seemed together as a team – a fully committed unit all believing, all knowing what we were about and all pulling in the same direction.

This wasn’t a case of our guys not giving their all but once more looking at their XI and comparing it to ours they appeared overall to be bigger. We didn’t get bodies in the middle of the park, win the battles there and establish a foothold.

Individual mistakes were rife. Wrong decisions were made. Naivety was evident.

Brannagan cares deeply about our football club. He gets angry when we’re not winning and not playing well. He wants to right that wrong. In the second half he came steaming determinedly through the middle and blasted one over the bar. To his left was Joe Bennett in a lot of space. A 33 year old with experience who knows the game. Brannagan did not get his head up. That is not good enough. The player that I thought he was has much more awareness than that. Bennett’s frustration was evident.

There are games when you can rely on Elliott Moore or Ciaron Brown to head away high ball after high ball played into our box, but not today. Both goals we conceded came from headers from dead balls. I can’t face watching a replay to see who was at fault but didn’t have the confidence I sometimes do that we’d survive when we had these and other similar deliveries to deal with.

That last one we should never have had to face. The thinking is that the canny Danny Hylton bought the free-kick but Gatlin O’Donkor should never have given him the opportunity. Our youngster had stupidly given away another free-kick a few seconds earlier. Instead of possibly having the ball up the other end of the pitch hoping to sneak a winner or holding it up to get over the line with a point, you’ve put your team under pressure.

Doing these things and not doing other things costs points. We’re an easy touch. Opponents don’t have to be that savvy to know they can get something out of a player like GO’D. Why haven’t the coaches drilled into him what he should be doing?

Another comment I heard in post-match conversation was that this just shows how weak our squad is. That could be right. Their subs made a difference. Ours didn’t in a good way. That said, Tyler Goodrham did bring a bit of a buzz but he too after doing something well then didn’t move the ball on when he should or turned back into trouble. So much wrong.

It wasn’t long ago we thought we had strength in depth. We now hear none of the injured players will be back before the New Year. When in the New Year I wonder? And when will they be fully up to speed? There’s still two games left in 2023, both at home but both not against Burton.

All new managers inherit the previous manager’s squad. Des Buckingham has inherited the team that Liam Manning built, or more accurately was starting to build. There’s still a load around that came in under Karl Robinson.

Manning was gone like a shot because of the money Bristol City offered him but there is a school of thought, one I don’t necessarily subscribe to, that he had already realised we weren’t going to be good enough and that played a small part in his decision.

If he was still here now would we have more points on the board than we have now? I think so. However he has gone. Buckingham has not got an assistant. The club have not got an analyst. It shows. Why has this situation been allowed to come about? They’re two very important roles in the effective functioning of a football club.

Anyway, on that depressing note get that turkey out of the freezer to start thawing out, do that last bit of present shopping you’d forgotten needed doing, open the drinks cupboard and forget about OUFC until Boxing Day. So MERRY CHRISTMAS to anyone who happens to be reading this and to their families too. Have a good one.

(If by chance anyone connected to the club in any way has stumbled on this the same to you too. I know you don’t mean to make our lives a misery and it will be hurting you too but please get it sorted before the season peters out. Not much to ask, is it?)

Why bother with seats anyway?



This entry was posted on Sunday, December 24th, 2023 at 12:14 am and appears under Export, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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