Northampton v Argyle
Report: Northampton 1 Argyle 0Northampton Town 1
Cole (OG) 72
by CHRIS PARSONS
ARGYLE’S near 61 year wait for a win at Northampton continued after a controversial second-half goal condemned them to defeat at the Sixfields Stadium.
It will go down as a Jake Cole own goal but it would be harsh to attach the blame to the Argyle goalkeeper who dropped the ball into his own net after a collition in the box 18 minutes from time.
Before the goal, even the most ardent of Northampton fans will have conceded that the Pilgrims looked the better side after dominating the first-half before comfortably dealing with the home side’s increased physical presence in the second period.
Typically, results elsewhere were not kind as wins for Aldershot and Wimbledon left Argyle bottom of the Football League.
As promised, Argyle manager John Sheridan had tinkered with his side after defeat against oxford United, making two changes to his starting line-up.
Reverting to the 4-5-1 formation that brought the side success at Aldershot a fortnight ago, Sheridan recalled Paul Wotton to the side for his much anticipated landmark appearance.
For Wottsy, who began his career with the Pilgrims as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, was making his 467th appearance in the Green of his home town club, thus bringing him level with Fred Craig in third place on the Argyle all time appearance list.
Meanwhile, at right-back, Frenchman Maxime Blanchard stepped in for Durrell Berry who missed out on the squad altogether with a knee injury, leaving the substitutes’ bench a man short.
Prior to kick-off, Northampton had enjoyed a five match winning streak at home but were the first of the two teams to have to defend when Jason Banton cut to the by-line and delivered a low cross that Cobblers’ ‘keeper Lee Nicholls was forced to intercept.
A few minutes later, the Pilgrims produced the first goalscoring opportunity of the match when skipper Conor Hourihane’s free0kick from the right was headed just wide by Guy Branston.
Branston, who had a spell at the Cobblers earlier in his much-travelled career, got up well, got good power on his header but could not quite find the target.
But as the half went on, the home side began to find their feet as Ben Harding and then Chris Hackett both had efforts from long range.
But perhaps their most potent threat came from the long throws of Ben Tozer. The Plymouth-born midfielder, who was with the club’s Centre of Excellence as a schoolboy, was causing all sorts of problems with his flat, bullet-like throws, which forced Jake Cole to attack the ball through a crowded penalty area.
With ten minutes to go until half-time, Argyle again came close to clinching the lead when the lively Banton skipped inside his marker before firing a ferocious drive towards goal.
Although his effort was bravely blocked by Kelvin Langmead, the Argyle fans behind the goal were baying for blood and the Pilgrims’ attack continued, as Northampton were continually forced to hastily clear their lines.
A crucial John Johnson tackle then denied the on-loan Crystal Palace winger once more before Anthony Charles, playing against his former club, nodded a weak header into the grateful arms of Nicholls.
Although it remained goalless at half-time, the Pilgrims had many positives to dwell on, having taken the game to their in-form opponents. The home crowd agreed, too, meeting referee David Phillips’ whistle with a chorus of boos.
The Northampton players must have been aware as well because within second of the restart, Roy O’Donovan carved out his side’s first genuine goalscoring opportunity when he dived in front of Charles to nod Hackett’s dangerous cross across Cole’s goal.
Bhasera then kicked-off the Pilgrims second half attacking campaign, smashing a long-range right-foot effort into Nicholl’s arms.
Sensing the danger, Cobblers manager Aidy Boothroyd introduced Adebayo Akinfenwa for the last half an hour, bringing him on in place of full-back John Johnson.
The effect was immediate as he home side’s physical superiority forced Argyle back towards their own goal.
And then, with 20 minutes remaining, Northampton took the lead in controversial circumstances.
It all began when Blanchard misjudged an awkward bouncing ball, allowing Akinfenwa an opportunity to send a looping header towards goal.
It was a clever effort that forced Cole to make a great retreating save as he, at the last minute, tipped the ball over his bar.
From the resulting corner, Cole again stood defiant and claimed the ball, only to receive a push and allow the ball to trickle over the line.
Referee Phillips thought for nano-seconds and then signalled for a goal. The Argyle players were furious and complained bitterly but there was to be no reprieve. The goal stood.
Ronan Murray, Andres Gurrieri and Gozie Ugwu were all introduced in the hope of bringing Argyle further up the field but it was no avail.
The next two games, against Wimbledon and Barnet, have now become more important than ever.
Northampton Town (4-4-2): 21 Lee Nichols; 2 John Johnson (10 Adebayo Akinfenwa 58), 30 Clarke Carlisle, 5 Kelvin Langmead, 6 Lee Collins; 11 Chris Hackett, 8 Ben Harding, 12 Ben Tozer, 22 Lewis Hornby; 9 Clive Platt (17 Jake Robinson 86), 28 Roy O'Donovan. Substitutes (not used): 4 Luke Guttridge, 7 Ishmel Demontragnac, 13 Dean Snedker (gk), 18 David Artell, 23 Emmanuel Oyeleke.
Argyle (4-5-1): 1 Jake Cole; 4 Maxime Blanchard, 5 Guy Branston, 26 Anthony Charles, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall (18 Gozie Ugwu 74), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 15 Paul Wotton (27 Andres Gurrieri 77), 10 Lee Cox, 19 Jason Banton; 24 Reuben Reid (28 Ronan Murray 81). Substitutes (not used): 8 Luke Young, 13 Ollie Chenoweth (gk), 23 Jamie Richards.
Booked: Bhasera 34, Wotton 70
Referee: David Phillips
Attendance: 5,382 (615 away)