Northampton Town 3 Wycombe Wanderers 1
Having failed to win any of their last seven games, the Chairboys hit rock bottom tonight and find themselves propping up the entire football league.
There was no lack of effort from Gareth Ainsworth’s side, the Cobblers were simply better at defending and better at taking their chances.
Ainsworth made one change to the eleven that started against Rochdale, right-back Danny Foster returning to the side, allowing Charles Dunne to move to left-back and Sam Wood to the left-wing. Bruno Andrade was the man to make way.
Neither side were dominant in a scrappy start to the game and the first real effort on goal didn’t arrive until the 18th minute when a Wycombe corner wasn’t properly cleared, the ball was returned to the danger area and Dunne scuffed a shot against the post when he really should have scored.
Dunne was in action again just two minutes later when he tried his luck from distance but fired the ball high and wide of the target.
The Cobblers took the lead after 24 minutes when former Wycombe loanee Chris Hackett crossed from the right and ‘sideboard on springs’ Adebayo Akinfenwa out foxed and out jumped two defenders before nodding the ball into the back of the net. It was too easy.
The fact that Wycombe’s third and final attempt on goal during the first half came from left-back Dunne again, was indicative of the toothless nature of their forward line.
This time Dunne tried his luck with a header which hit the side netting, and you have to give the youngster credit for continually putting himself in effective positions. If only a few more had the instinct or desire to get in where it matters.
Akinfenwa certainly does, and he should have made it 2-0 when he rose to meet a long throw at the near post and directed a powerful header inches wide of the woodwork. It was a real let off for Wycombe and gave the travelling fans hope that something could be salvaged in the second half.
It was a hope that seemed to have some foundation when the Blues started the second half brightly. Denis Oli had obviously been told to chase everything and it nearly paid off when he broke clear and lashed a shot across the face of the goal. It was a good effort and it would be churlish to point out that the ball actually went out for a throw in. But it did.
It was all Wycombe for the next ten minutes and during that time came the pivotal moment when Dean Morgan missed a glorious opportunity to equalise.
A lovely move involving Oli and Stuart Lewis saw the ball drop to Morgan who could only hit the woodwork with the goal at his mercy.
Morgan, Lewis and Grant all had shots blocked by the Cobblers’ stubborn defence as the Blues continued to press, but they were about to have the wind taken out of their sails once and for all.
After 61 minutes Dave Winfield fouled Clive Platt in the box and Akinfenwa sent Jordan Archer the wrong way with the resulting spot kick.
Then only four minutes later the Cobblers broke away and Akinfenwa fed Hackett who lashed the ball home to make it 3-0.
Having been as effective as a chocolate tea-pot while on loan at Adams Park last season, Hackett had gleefully helped himself to an assist and a goal this afternoon.
It was curtains for Wycombe. A casual observer might have questioned whether they were capable of scoring a single goal never mind three. The visiting fans knew it was never going to happen.
As thoughts drifted towards what to have for tea tonight, the referee offered a cruel smidgeon of hope by awarding the Blues a penalty when Morgan went down in the box after 72 minutes.
Grant stepped up to take it and confidently stroked it past Nicholls in the Northampton goal.
With twenty minutes left there was the slim hope that another goal might lead to an exciting climax to the game, but it never happened.
A dipping shot from Morgan was so close it was heartbreaking, while at the other end only the woodwork denied Akinfenwa his hat-trick.
There were other efforts from distance but the best chance fell to that man Dunne again – the left-back bursting through where our centre-forward would be if we had one, only to be thwarted in a one-on-one with Nicholls.
There was still time for substitute Matt McClure to head a glorious chance wide of the post before the referee blew time on yet another defeat for the Blues.
It’s a dark day when you hit rock bottom.
But the only way is up.
Line-up & Ratings
Archer (5), Foster (5), Winfield (5), Johnson (5), Dunne (6), Grant (7), Lewis (6), Scowen (6), Wood (5) (Andrade 66 (5)), Oli (5) (McClure 69 (5)), Morgan (5)
Cobblers send Wycombe to last place
Northampton Town 3 Wycombe Wanderers 1