20 Years of Sixfields – what’s your favourite moment?!

sixfieldspanorama

We’re coming up to the big twentieth anniversary of Sixfields Stadium in a couple of weeks time so it’s time to find out what you Cobblers fans see as the biggest and best moments from the 20 year life span of our beloved stadium.

I’ve narrowed down the options to 20 choices and plan to do a bumper blog on the anniversary of the stadium to celebrate (maybe in a couple of parts) and it’s hopefully going to be a count down of these moments, plus some others if you can remember something I’m blatantly missing!

Invite your Cobblers loving friends to vote too and we’ll have the definitive and final list with you by October 15th, the official birthday of Sixfields Stadium. Get voting now below!!

Back on track for tough run of games

morecambe_fc_0Morecambe 0-1 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 28th 2014

Ten games in to a season is usually a good check point as to how you’re getting on and where the campaign may take you so victory yesterday at Morecambe was a much needed booster as we reach the first unofficial marker. Ivan Toney’s first half goal means that it’s a record of five wins, two draws and three defeats after ten games with eighteen goals scored (the highest in League Two) and thirteen conceded (the highest in the top ten). Seventeen points is a good return and sets up the coming month of difficult looking fixtures with the Cobblers in fifth place.

To put it in perspective, after ten games last season we had only just won for the second time and sat second bottom of the table with just eight points and eight goals to our name – all in all a fantastic turn around that, despite one or two big hiccups, leaves us in good stead.

One major change is a strength in depth not seen for many a year within the Cobblers squad. Yesterday saw Marc Richards and Danny Alfei added to the injury list and Zander Diamond failing a late fitness test – to be able to bring in Toney, Ben Tozer and Lee Collins as replacements and for it to not disturb our pattern of play makes such a difference and it’s something that we’ll cling dearly to as the winter kicks in and games come thick and fast.

Morecambe have stalled on their particular journey of late having stunned a lot of the division by taking the early lead in proceedings. Town met them after they’d suffered back to back defeats and it was perhaps a good time to catch them, though the way we kept a clean sheet after last weekend’s atrocity against Accrington and found a way to hold on to the winner will have pleased Wilder and co.

The only goal of the game came after the always lively Kevin Ellison had shot wide for Morecambe with Toney leaping well to beat home keeper Barry Roache to the ball with a towering header. We were never truly in danger of surrendering that lead but there was always the doubt in the back of the mind after last week’s goings on.

Jordan Archer would have been one of the happiest men on the team bus home – he’s had a tough introduction to life at Sixfields having been thrust in to take the place of the injured Matt Duke. He’ll certainly be tested more in the next few weeks with games against the league’s current top two coming either side of the trip to Portsmouth in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and an always tricky one at Cheltenham after that.

We move onwards with confidence into the next ten games and if we can match the form of the opening ten then we’ll be there or there abouts going into Christmas. Sounds easy, right…?

D’Ath finally settles and signs new deal…

Lawson-Dath-628x352You often see young footballers cast in the role as nomads, aimlessly wandering around the lower leagues on loan from top flight or Championship clubs, never truly finding a home. Players can age before you, or indeed they, know it as year on year they’re never quite ‘ready’ to be thrust into a first team at the highest levels.

Lawson D’Ath is a man who could well have been typecast into that very role after a big fat zero appearances for the club he grew up with, Reading, left him frustrated and eventually the farming out began with loan spells at Yeovil Town (14 appearances), Cheltenham Town (2), Exeter City (8) and Dagenham and Redbridge (a heftier, by comparison, 21). All this and the midfielder turned striker is still only 21 so when the almost inevitable call came from Reading this summer that he was being released it must have come with some trepidation.

With an even greater clamour for contracts than ever before in the weeks leading up to the season, and with a CV that only included brief stints here and there it was likely an unsettling time. But then came the call from Chris Wilder and a lifeline was handed out albeit with a short term contract. From Wilder’s side you can completely understand – why take that big a punt on a relatively unproven player when we can have a look at him for a while before deciding on his fate? For the player, it was do or die and after two months of taking every chance he got he’s now earned the thing he’s surely always been coveting – a longer contract at a club where he knows he’ll get games.

D’Ath impressed Wilder enough that for the last two matches he’s been deployed up front with Marc Richards from the start, scoring his fourth goal of the season in the drubbing of Hartlepool United a week ago. Keeping out other higher profile options like Ivan Toney and John-Joe O’ Toole says a lot about the speed in which he’s grabbed an opportunity. His double at Wolves was doubly surprising given the standard of opposition and the stage but he’s shown he’s much more than a one trick pony by following it up with strikes at Newport and against Hartlepool.

Originally signed until January, this new deal takes D’Ath all the way to 2016 and he’s at a young enough age to fully realise his potential here. If what we’ve seen so far is a player unsettled and wary that he might be moving on again soon then there could well be an awful lot more to come now he’s found his first proper home since coming out of a youth team environment.

His versatility, energy and eye for goal gives this Cobblers squad something different and long may his development continue!

One step forward, two steps back…

Northampton Town 4-5 Accrington Stanley

League Two

Saturday, September 20th 2014

We should have known not to get complacent…after the hammering of Hartlepool United on Tuesday night we were perhaps in too deep with our optimism. Accrington Stanley at home looked to be the perfect follow up with the chance to leap even further up the table but once again football kicks us right in the teeth in bizarre manner with the visitors making the most of slack defending and the Cobblers unable to make up for it despite more goals in the ‘For’ column.

Some of the goals that Stanley scored were straight out of the dark days … indeed even a couple of the slips were out of the same drawer as the last time nine goals were scored in one game at Sixfields, the 7-2 defeat by Shrewsbury in 2011. It obviously wasn’t as bad as that overall but the shakiness of our defensive work is threatening to put pay to any dreams of finishing in the top seven. All the joy of Tuesday was wiped away by an Accrington side with new direction thanks to the reappointment of John Coleman earlier this week.

Big questions have to be asked about some key positions here. Matt Duke’s injury has hit us more than anticipated. Jordan Archer just doesn’t seem to have a command over his area that Duke does. It’s not completely down to the on loan keeper but a big voice from the back is a key part of defensive organisation and understanding. In front of him, Zander Diamond’s presence was missed too but there’s more pressing issues in the full back position with Gregor Robertson and Danny Alfei getting caught out far too often – indeed both at the same time when they both went for the same ball to let in John O’Sullivan for the crucial third goal of the game after Marc Richards had headed in to cancel out Rob Atkinson’s opener.

If anyone thought that Rico’s latest goal, his seventh in five games, was about to kick start another comfortable game then they were sorely wrong. Stanley followed up O’Sullivan’s strike with a third before the break when Atkinson’s header went in via the post and Archer.

It got no better after half-time as O’Sullivan found space yet again on the right, cut inside and had all the time in the world to fire into the top corner from close range, beating three of four static Cobblers defenders to fire in and stun Sixfields even further. Substitute Ivan Toney scrambled in for 4-2 but the three goal cushion was restored a few minutes later when Sean Maguire got on the end of a knock down to poke in past Archer.

The Cobblers wouldn’t be the Cobblers this season without a bit of late drama but Toney’s second – a header from a Kaid Mohammed cross – and Darren Carter’s 90th minute effort weren’t enough and Accrington held firm for an afternoon they’ll remember for quite some time. Unfortunately, so will we.

Chris Wilder has promised changes for next week’s trip to Morecambe and it doesn’t have to just be personnel changes…when you’re defending at this level it needs to be from the front and full backs have to be protected. Chris Hackett and Mohammed are going to have to change mind sets a little and make sure they’re not leaving the man behind them all at sea – we’re not good enough in that area and teams are going to start to recognise that as we go further into the season. Kevin Ellison will be one man licking his lips ahead of next week’s game at Morecambe and Wilder has a big job on his hands to make sure this sort of madness doesn’t happen again.

With two steps firmly back after all of that, some big readjustments are needed in the coming days.

The Perfect Response

Mohammed

Northampton Town 5-1 Hartlepool United

League Two

Tuesday, September 16th 2014

As far as responses to a defeat goes this was pretty close to perfect. It was a night where, even after conceding a disappointing opening goal via a slip from Ryan Cresswell, the Cobblers opened their wings and let loose to devastating effect. Town showed some breath taking attacking flair, scored some excellent goals and completely blew away a Hartlepool side who didn’t know what had hit them by the end of a memorable night for Chris Wilder and his increasingly effective side.

An added bonus was the continuity of Marc Richards’ terrific run of form in front of goal. The striker is on fire at the moment and a brace against the Monkey Hangers takes him to seven goals this season already and to joint top in the League Two leading scorer charts. There were also classy performances from the likes of Kaid Mohammed, who returned after missing out at Newport to score twice himself, Chris Hackett and Lawson D’Ath. D’Ath was sent out from the start to partner Richards up front and his rise to prominence will be starting to worry Jon-Joe O’Toole, Ivan Toney and Emile Sinclair in terms of the battle for long term starting places.

You would never have guessed at what was to come when the visitors took the lead within the first minute of the game. Charlie Wyke, who later had to leave the field in worrying fashion on a stretcher, made the most of the Cobblers’ defensive error to race through and score past Jordan Archer in the Town goal.

But as soon as Richards had levelled with a penalty ten minutes later following Mohammed being felled in the area there was no looking back. Mohammed hit a sweet shot on the half volley for 2-1 after Chris Hackett had created the chance and the two combined again for the third with Hackett’s cross converted by Mohammed at the back post.

Wyke’s injury for the visitors seemed to hinder their attacking options with veteran Marlon Harewood ineffective after replacing the goal scorer. The Cobblers, though, were looking dangerous from every attack and added to their tally after the break.

D’Ath nicked a deserved goal to add to his growing collection and you would be a wise man to bet on his short term deal being extended sometime soon. He’s been effective pretty much every time he’s come off the bench and is up to four goals already including Saturday’s belter at Newport and Wilder must be looking at his contract situation this morning after another telling performance.

The last goal rounded things off marvellously as Richards produced another moment of magic to add to his own personal goal of the season competition with a stunning long range effort into the top corner. It was the perfect way to end a Cobblers performance full of intent and now focus has to go on not being complacent come the weekend visit of Accrington Stanley to Sixfields.

Stanley are reeling after losing at Oxford last night and sit in the lower reaches of the table so many will see them as there for the taking. What football does, though, is shoot you right in the foot if you get above your station and we have to channel all the positives from this win into doing it all again on Saturday. It’s a tough league to predict week in, week out and we’re not going to convert chances like this every time so it’s all going to be about finding consistency through winning in different ways.

This Cobblers side, though, is starting to look very, very exciting and giving us that hope that this could be a season we talk about long into the future for all the right reasons.

Fight back unable to hide disappointing day in Wales…

Richards...late goal not enough

Richards…late goal not enough

Newport County 3-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 13th 2014

The Cobblers came very close to getting themselves out of jail once again on Saturday but a late fight back wasn’t enough to cover up some of the earlier deficiencies that led to a second league defeat of the season. Newport had raced into a three goal lead and it always looked as though if we were to complete a stunning turnaround it would have been rough justice on the home side who had convincingly come past a Cobblers side strangely off colour for three quarters of the game.

Perhaps it was the fact that the so far inspirational Kaid Mohammed had to stay at home after picking up a foot injury and Matt Duke was ruled out of a start through a thigh problem but if we’re relying on too many individuals to perform then any hopes of a run at the top end of the table this season may fade quickly.

There seemed a bit of imbalance in midfield with Darren Carter returning to fill in for Mohammed and the home side settled well and deserved their eighteenth minute lead. It was one of those thorns in our side that put the Exiles in front as well – Chris Zebroski always seems to find his way onto the score sheet when he takes on the Cobblers and he did so once again by scrambling in the opener.

After Joe Day pulled off a good save to deny Ivan Toney the home side took a two goal lead to leave us with even more to do. Darren Jones’ shot took a nick off Ryan Cresswell to sail past stand in keeper Jordan Archer and by half time we’d not done enough to force any kind of fight back.

Chris Wilder brought on John-Joe O’Toole and Danny Alfei at the break to try and re-shape but the next goal was always going to be a big one. Unfortunately it went to the Exiles as Lee Minshull met a free kick to head home and all but end the game as a contest.

To be fair to the Cobblers, we gave ourselves some hope at least. Third substitute Lawson D’Ath manoeuvred into position and blasted it home from distance for 3-1 with fifteen minutes to play. Ten minutes later and a grand stand finish was in the offing when Marc Richards scored his fifth of the season by converting Alfei’s cross. One final chance fell to John-Joe O’Toole but Day stood tall to deny him, meaning that the good mini-run we were on comes to an end.

That temporary bubble has now popped and we’re left trying to take the only real positive we can in that we fought back and could have nicked something where a year ago we would have undoubtedly rolled over. Only a proper bounce back will fully work us through this defeat, though, and luckily we have a big chance to do just that on Tuesday night and then again on Saturday with two home games hopefully providing us with just the tonic.

Consigning this to the history books, in other words, is the best bet before we go again back at Sixfields.

Newport County v Northampton Town: Match Preview

RP1

Newport County v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 13th 2014

There’s a feeling of growing momentum with the Cobblers as we head to Newport this weekend. The last gasp victory over Exeter City was followed, last Saturday, by a solid and brilliantly produced success at Dagenham and Redbridge where a storming first half was followed by a tighter second that helped us to see out three more League Two points. Chris Wilder has put together an exciting and fluent side and it makes a big change for us to be going into weekends genuinely excited about the Cobblers’ prospects.

To continue this good will, a result at Newport will be required and we come up against a side that are finally getting a feel for this season. Justin Edinburgh’s men, in their second season back in the Football League, lost their opening four games in all competitions but the last three have seen them taking a point against highly fancied Burton Albion, win at promotion favourites Portsmouth and nicking a draw at home to Cambridge United in the final minute of the game.

The Exiles were a rare entity to us last season in that Town did the double over them by winning 3-1 at Sixfields in our opening home game and then 2-1 at Rodney Parade back in January under caretaker boss Andy King. This time out there should be less of a surprising feeling should we come away with something from South Wales and with two home games following it up there would be increased excitement should this little upturn in results and performances continue.

Wilder’s biggest problem, in a good way, is in team selection. By all accounts Joel Byrom and debutant Ryan Watson put in an excellent shift at Dagenham in the middle of the park with Ivan Toney and Marc Richards continuing their flourishing partnership up front so you’d still be hard pushed to make a case for John Joe O’Toole to start. Chris Hackett and Kaid Mohammed are providing the ammunition from both wings and are conjuring up some fantastic displays between them to spearhead attacks. They are pretty nailed on to keep their places whilst at the back you would think it’s as you were with Ryan Cresswell easing into the team for his debut at Dagenham too. Emile Sinclair is one to come back into the squad after coming through his ankle injury but Lee Collins and Evan Horwood are both still out.

Newport announced the loan signing of Joe Piggott from Charlton Athletic this week and the striker is set to make his debut against the Cobblers. Piggott came through the ranks at the Valley but has seen first team chances kept to a minimum so far having spent time on loan at Bromley and Gillingham in the last couple of years.

I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying this winning feeling and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue for another weekend if we can capture the very best from what’s been an altogether solid start to the season. Dizzy heights of optimism!