One man's pain as Barnet leather the Cobblers
It is midnight, as Haydon Spenceley sits at his keyboard. He’s had a tough week, one way or another, and he has work in the morning, but he cannot sleep. He cannot even countenance going to sleep.
One of the reasons, amongst the maelstrom which is keeping him from his land of slumber:
Northampton chuffing Town. 20 long years they’ve been one of very few constant companions through life, through its ups and downs, joys and sorrows. More often than not, they’ve been the cause of some of the biggest extremes of both.
On very few occasions during our marriage have the waters been so choppy as to make me question my commitment and seek the greener grass of other pastures, to succumb to the fluttering eye-lashes from rivals competing for my affection.
But tonight, as I look back on another disastrous day, in an increasingly miserable season, I tell you this, dear reader, I very nearly watched X Factor. That’s how bad it’s got.
And when my boys are toiling at the Don Valley on Tuesday night against Rotherham, will I be there? No, I sodding well will not. As of this moment I’d be happy if I never saw them again. Any of them.
“But Haydon”, you may be saying. “Aren’t Northampton those valient conquerers of Reading and Liverpool, those who brought joy to a nation as Roy’s Reds were put to the sword by a team of postmen and school teachers, barely 2 months ago?”
Why yes, they are, and tonight I feel like most of them wouldn’t get into the Royal Mail’s reserves, let alone our first team.
You see, Carling Cup exploits aside (and they were amazing, life-affirming nights) we’ve been rank bad for the vast majority of the rest of the season. A team of promising youngsters (Michael Jacobs and Liam Davis have been justifiably been attracting plaudits and covetous glances from higher up the League ladder for their performances) and experienced but diligent professionals such as Andy Holt, Leon Mckenzie and Kevin Thornton, should have been enough at least for a play-off challenge.
Certainly anyone who’s seen us when it all clicked (Brighton, Reading, Liverpool, and an all too small smattering of league games) couldn’t argue that the raw materials were missing. So, as we sit tonight, 22nd in League Two, 70th out of 72 in the Football League, one has to ask the question, what’s going on?
Today we surrendered an early lead against Barnet, who appeared to be bottom of the pile for a very good reason, lost Liam Davis to as clear a red card as you’ll ever see.
There were protestations from around me that the referee and linesman were getting back at us following last week’s referee wrongly sending off Abdul Osman and being proved wrong after his suspension was overturned.
We proceeded to not just lose, but be humiliated, 4-1 by a team who plainly wanted it more than us, and played to their strengths.
Kevin Gallen (yes, that one) and Steve Kabba (yes, really, that one) up front were a constant menace to our squalid excuse for a back four, and only an exceptional shot-stopping performance from Chris Dunn kept things to anything below a cricket score.
At times, the full back play of Grant Basey, and the wing play of Mark Marshall were too much for our defence, which seemed disorganised, lacking in effort and quality. The number of times Barnet sprang Gallen in behind our defence, so that he could lumber forward and then miss, aghast, became almost comical.
This is Barnet, who are, to be frank, not up to much, but who quite clearly worked us out, and ruthlessly exploited our (many) weaknesses with aplomb.
Barnet. We got stuffed by Barnet. And they deserved it. No, it doesn’t get any more palatable.
So, where from here? Well, up. Hopefully. Please? We can’t get much worse, that’s for sure.
Personally I have a few small aims for the next few weeks. Firstly, it’d be lovely if we could be disciplined enough to keep our full compliment on the pitch for 90 minutes. I’ve heard that makes it easier to win games. Secondly it’d be absolutely fabulous if players could play in the poisition which they were trained from childhood and signed to play in.
So, please, can we have a left back at left back, a right back at right back, some wingers on the wing, and so on? I know it’s a lot to ask, but if I have to watch any more full backs play on the wing and forwards playing in midfield, and so on and so on, I think I might give up. Surely if you have a round hole, the best way to fill it is with a round peg? No? Okay then.
We also have, in Michael Jacobs, one of the only players in League Two who terrifies defenders. Why is he not being used more? Unfathomable.
Thirdly, I want to see a change of manager. I’ve been a supporter of Ian Sampson’s since the day when it became obvious that the club’s ambition for the replacement of Stuart Gray (just over a year ago, after a defeat to, you guessed it, Barnet) did not extend to searching outside the doors of the
It’s great to be managed by a club legend who cares so deeply that we succeed, but I fear that, if he stays, we will cease to be one of the 72 come May, and that cannot, it must not, happen.
Passion only gets you so far in football, and the increasing weight of results and performances, as well as our worrying recent disciplinary record, and rumours from within the dressing room, indicate that all is not well, and that Sammo is not the man to solve them. Sadly, he must go. The season is a dead loss already, but I can’t take many more days like today.
Were there any positives? Yes. Steve Guinan didn’t get near the bench, and we’re not Almeria.
Now where’s the number for that marriage counsellor?