Ben Marshall time at Northampton reviewed
City decided that the 18-year-old would benefit from a spell out on loan and he was quickly snapped up by Northampton Town, 24 hours before the season started.
Marshall went straight into the Cobblers line up for their season opener at home to Macclesfield, and made an instant impression with his new side. EHCobb, off The Hotel End message board, commented on his debut saying he basically played Macc on his own and was the best player on the pitch by a mile.
Just three days later he starred as the Cobblers crashed out of the Carling Cup, away at Southampton, with Marshall earning plaudots for his defensive work, commitment and discipline.
A third man of the match award in succession arrived against Chesterfield, where he hit the woodwork for the second time in the short season before passing a late fitness test to help his temporary side to their opening win of the season. He had played four games in his first ten days as a professional footballer and had showed great promise to earn such comments as 'one of the greatest to wear the shirt' on the Cobblers forums.
His best performance followed the following weekend as he set up the first goal before netting the second goal and securing the three points for his side, whilst also hitting the woodwork yet again.
His first individual disappointment came along in the following two games as heavy defeats saw Marshall's main contribution being running himself into the ground, as, despite the games being over early on, his commitment never wilted. He was also substituted for the first time after a frustrating night up front in the Johnstone Paints Trophy. Northampton continued to struggle, losing 3-1 to Barnet, but not before Marshall netted his second senior goal.
Marshall was getting shifted around as manager Stuart Gray looked to find a winning line up and the loanee again found himself subbed off after an unimpressive hour on the left wing during the 5-2 defeat to Notts County. His form wasn't helped by the fact his fitness seemed to be declining, a result of his increased workload from youth team football as he had in fact played more than any other Northampton player, and a defeat to Rochdale, with Marshall shifted up front again, saw the tension rise around Sixfields.
The winger then appeared to be the fall guy for the teams lump in form as Gray dropped him to the bench. HIs wait for action didn't last long though as, with the team losing badly, he was introduced after just half an hour. He gave the Cobblers an attacking option and despite an apparent return to his early sensational form, he was unable to stop the rot and Northampton lost by three goals to nil.
Restored to the starting line up for the following game he put in a performance that was up their with his best for the club. He was 'a class act' and 'caused them problems all night' as the Cobblers ended September with a win.
A change of manager then happenned and whereas Marshall fitted into Stuart Gray's philosophy, he wasn't as well thought of by the new manager as defence, and concentrating on not conceding, became the priority.
Tiredness was also starting to creep more and more into his game and, according to reports, was getting greedier by the game as he seemingly lost faith in the players around him. Successive comebacks from 2-0 down were impressive for the team, but Marshall failed to impress and was subsequently dropped back down to the bench. He came on late on and superb individual bits of skill helped run down the clock and secure a narrow win. He remained on the bench and the following week was a real 'super sub' as he came on with the score at 1-2 and immediately set up a couple of goals before playing a part in a third as the Cobblers won 4-2.
His final game for the Cobblers came last weekend when he played the final thirty minutes. Almost as soon as he stepped onto the field he was the recipient of an awful tackle, well worthy of a straight red card if eye witness reports are to be believed, and after lengthy treatment, and more rough treatment from his full back, he struggled to get involved in the game.
With the Cobblers in FA Cup action this weekend, and Marshall likely to be on the bench for what was scheduled to be his last game, the Potters decided to recall him a few days early, so as not to cup tie him for a few minute of action, and let manager Tony Pulis take a close look at how he has progressed since August and also let his tired body recover.
Stoke sent him out to get some experience, and will be pleased he has gained a lot fo valuable game time, but would never have expected him to play the amount he has and the main aim now is to remember he is still only eighteen and to burn him out, both mentally and physically, would hinder his progress rather than help him become a stronger footballer.
He started like a house in fire, withered as his spell wore on but definate promise if there. Despite his indifferent form, it's worth pointing out his form picked up every time he had had a bit of time on the bench, the Cobblers fans still regarded him as one of, if not thee, best, most technically gifted and exciting player they have seen in recent times.
A spell in the reserves now beckons and then, in the new year, a return spell at Sixfields or more likely a loan move to another, more expansive, League Two side could well be on the cards. He may even move upto League One if a club comes in where City believe he will get enough game time to progress.