There’s no place like home

After the last four performances even the thought of the visit of relegation fighting Hartlepool didn’t really fill me with any confidence that we could get the three points and the team selection after Saturday did nothing to aly my fears that a real banana skin lay ahead.I was very surprised that McCrystal kept his place and; though not overly surprised; Lawrence keeping his place again seemed a strange one. There was more talk than usual amongst supporters before the game as to whether DC had lost the plot and the crowd reflected those last four performances being probably a 1000 down on what I expected. The one hope for me was that despite the away results our home form is very impressive in recent times with 5 wins and a draw out of the last six so with Hartlepool having a pretty awful away record it was at least possible that we could continue that record although being the first team in ages to take something off Northampton and keeping a clean sheet in the process would certainly have given the Pool a boost. Anyway so it was on to the game itself.

Mildenhall 7 Couple of crosses that he probably should have claimed but a good performance again. Stood no chance with the goal
and his handling was faultless. I have been pretty impressed with his distribution since his return in that he selects his moments when to throw the ball out and his kicking has been pretty good too. I am sure this will be his last season but at least he will go out remembered as a good keeper who gave his all for the club and who proved DC’s judgement wrong which in itself is an achievement because overall DC’s opinion of players and those he has let go or not played have been mainly correct.

J. Clarke 6.5
Is he a better option to Leadbitter as an out and out full back I am not sure as the pace of Leadbitter can get us out of trouble but he is certainly a more solid option defensively and better in the air. Without being spectacular he got on with his job and gave a steady performance. It is hard to realise that this is his first season in this standard as he always has that look of an experienced League player about him and he lets his opponent know he is around. I do like having a proper defender playing at full back on at least one side as I feel it gives a certain balance to the side unlike the wing back system and Clarke is well capable of tucking inside and making vital interceptions if the defence gets pulled too far to the left.
Lockyer 7.5 Pretty well a standard performance from Tom as for someone so young he has played an amazing amount of games and has the appearances usually expected of a much older player. Last night saw an accomplished performance and much better passing with more passes actually bringing the midfield into the game more. I would still like to see him bringing the entire defence out quicker rather than standing back to provide the opportunity for the ball to be passed back to him but that is a personal preference and not a criticism of his display. Personally I would be looking for a big,tall, hard centre half to be playing alongside him next season
who gives us strength in the air and more nastiness about our defence as I always feel we are a bit too nice and susceptible to high crosses or balls in like the winning goal on Saturday.
McChrystal 5 The thing I will say about Macca is that he knows his limitations and distribution is not his strong point so you know exactly what you are getting. there is no messing about so you tend not to get the risky interchanges of passing which take place when Tom Parkes plays. On saying that for me McCrystal looks very rusty and I was surprised after his performance Saturday that he kept his place and he seemed to get caught out on the goal. Last night if I felt there was a weakness then it was Marks lack of pace and at times we gave Hartlepool far more room and possession than their talent deserved.

Brown 8 Brown was up against a tidy winger and I reckon he did a good job in closing him down especially in the first half and defended well. Add to this he created two of the goals with good crosses and created some other good chances and the goal that was disallowed. He linked up very well with Lawrence and there were signs that this could yet be a similar partnership as he had with Monkhouse. The quality of his crossing was far greater consistency last night.

Bodin 6.5
A better first half than second. Brings skill to the side but is not a winger and I feel the side does lack a fair bit of pace and width .He rarely goes outside of a player but that is understandable because he creates problems for defenders when he skilfully goes inside of them and looks to play others in or get a shot in himself. definitely a creative player but can also be considered a bit of a luxury player.
Mansell 5
For me although Mansell worked very hard he was a little off the pace of the game and was quite wasteful with the ball at times. Improved as the game went on and is the ideal foil for Lines in that he provides the defensive side of the midfield and holds the midfield unit together.I think last night there was a case for Ollie Clarke to have played this role but for me Manse has, as would be expected for a player of his experience more awareness of what is going on aroumd him and he keeps the shape of the midfield whereas Clarke can get lost in the game and go missing.
Lines 7 A bit of a mixed performance in that Chris was involved in a lot of good moves and ran well with the ball all night. He should have scored in the first half with a good chance and he gave the ball away on several occasions that ruined the excellent runs he went on. The midfield as a unit looked much better tonight and wanted the ball and made themselves available to receive it from defenders which meant there was far nless hoofing and the football played was much better to the eye. I would ask now that DC plays the same team Saturday fitness permitting.
Lawrence 7.5 Well I certainly have to eat a lot of humble pie after this performance. Liam looked exactly what we thought we had signed and oozed class throughout the game. His passes to Lee Brown were always perfectly weighted and I have the feeling that he could also build a good understanding with Lines because it makes so much difference when your midfielders actually want the ball. Last night he rarely wasted a pass and was involved in three of the four goals. I have to praise DC for standing by him when us fans certainly were not!!!
Let’s hope this is just the start and that he earns a contract for next season because as I understand it that is guaranteed if he helps us get promotion.

Taylor 9
The only reason I haven’t given him a 10 was for the early gilt edged chance he missed from a perfect cross from Brown where he headed the ball over when it looked easier to score. This miss could really have been costly in other circumstances for a team short on goals and confidence. Last night saw Matty producing a superb footballing display in addition to a great hattrick (his second this season) The first goal was superb when he took the ball down and drilled a superb shot over the keeper from the edge of the box. The second was a clinical header from another pin point cross from Lee Brown and the third a tap in from another Brown low cross .In fact the third was very similar to his disallowed goal which IMO should not have been disallowed and would have given him a very swift hattrick. This was Matty back to his very best bringing others into the game with classy control and the ability to pick a pass. Could have done without the hand to ears celebration as the criticism he has received for recent performances have been completely justified and he should respect the fact that he has not played well for weeks.
Gaffney 7 Another hard working performance that could have brought him a hattrick. As it was he was handed his goal on a plate by a clumsy derfender,a goalkeeper who rushed out and missed the ball completely and then he took it with an arrogance that all good goalscorers do, dribbling around the desperate last defender and running the ball into the empty net.

Subs:
Easter 6 Some good running and skill in a short performance.
Harrison 4
Poor,not on long and did nothing of note at all but it was good to see him back in the fold. I am sure he will have his part to play in the run in even if a lot of it is from the bench..
O. Clarke Not long enough
to judge but will be remembered for a crunching tackle!

Crowd 6 Bantering with the keeper was the highlight
but was at least a 1000 light on what I would have expected.
Ref 5
A good ref is one you don’t notice. Apart from the strange incident in the first half where he held up the game for a long discussion with Hartlepools Management team.( I think this may have been about a player on the teamsheet or rather not on the teamsheet but not sure ) it was a reasonable performance but nothing special.
Hartlepool 5 Defensively pretty disastrous but played some good football. It was very hard to see how they stopped Northampton scoring and no real surprise that they find themselves where they are in the League. Could so easily have been 6 or 7 goals for us but they were unlucky with two attempts that hit the woodwork and scored a decent goal themselves where they completely opened up our defence.

DC A much needed win and has to be praised for the way he has stayed calm. It must have been difficult for him to stand by Lawrence but that faith was repaid last night. I was surprised that McCrystal retained his place as I wonder why Parkes has been dropped . It was interesting watching Darrell in the second half as he seemed to be itching to make some substitutions but really couldn’t see the point of making changes other than the fact that Gaffney was injured. I very much hope that he retains the same side for Saturday injury permitting rather than tinkering as I feel that the constant tinkering has caught up with him in recent games. There is a time to reward players foir a good performance by keeping it the same.

So it was a case of “there’s no place like home” but Saturday its back to an away game and the chance to end our 4 defeats in five away games. A victory Saturday will be a great boost for the two home games next week which once they have been played will leave us having played the same number of games home and away which is an ideal time to look at the table with no advantages or disadvantages. UTG

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