York fans set ‘Ride to Northampton’ target

York-city-club-badge-jh-md-deWe were fierce opponents on Saturday afternoon but come February and ahead of our next meeting with York City we’ll all see a different and refreshing side of football as a group of Minstermen fans will be cycling from York to Northampton. This isn’t just your standard fundraiser, either, as it all came about after the tragic death of Cobblers fan David Henderson following last season’s fixture between the clubs at Sixfields.

All money raised from the bike ride – which has already confirmed ten City fans to be taking part – will be donated to the British Heart Foundation in Mr Henderson’s memory.

Ian Jones, one of those taking part, explained:

The idea for the fundraiser was first sparked by seeing the events that followed last season’s fixture at Sixfields first hand and was something that touch all fans of both teams, not just myself. We all have our stories of how we have been influenced into the game or any sport, and usually it comes from a family member taking us to our first game and the following addiction begins. My dad has played a huge part in my love for my club and the game, and it only felt right to do something in honour and memory of Mr Henderson. When we were on the way back up north after the game, I had the idea in my head which is where it stayed for a while until I looked into it and then began to ask around friends who were at the game and also witnessed the events. They also jumped on the idea of a bike ride and from there it’s really started to take off.”

The ride will take place over three days in the build up to the Cobblers – York game on 21st February and Ian says they’ve set some clear targets in terms of distance per day as well as hoping to break their fundraising target.

“In terms of targets,” he said, “we’re looking at cycling 50 miles a day over 3 days which means setting off from Bootham Crescent on the 19th February to be in time for this year’s fixture at Northampton on the 21st of the month. In terms of donating, we really didn’t know how much we would get or how much we deserve, so we set the target at £1000 but without sounding greedy or big headed, I think all involved would love to smash that target and make as much as possible.”

“Training has already begun for some of us! Personally I’ve got 45 miles under my belt over the past three weeks which isn’t that impressive but saying I hadn’t ridden a bike in over three years it’s a start. We’re planning on getting all riders together at some point in the near future and having a day out to see what it’s like riding in a pack and sorting out a pace that we can all stick to.”

At the time of writing, the fundraising has reached £343 and Ian goes on to explain how you can get involved in following the project and donating:

“We have a twitter account (@ycfc_2_ntfc), which people will be able to keep up to date with all promotional work we do across all forms of media and also the progress the riders are making through the coming months. To donate, we have a Justgiving page here

On behalf of all Cobblers fans, thank you to everyone involved from York City and to all who have donated so far. The football family is alive and well thanks to class acts such as this.

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Rico leaves it late to keep Town unbeaten

Rico

York City 1-1 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, August 16th 2014

Oh I do love a last minute goal to celebrate! When the Cobblers lined up a free kick in the dying seconds at Bootham Crescent on Saturday most of my negative nerves were screaming out that it was going over the stand, into the wall or well wide of target and that we’d be suffering defeat for the first time this season. But, for some reason, this season hasn’t begun like our normal stuttering style and Chris Wilder just won’t lie down away from home. Marc Richards stepped up, curled the ball past the wall and into the net without York’s keeper Jason Mooney even moving to stop it.

That strike meant that York had conceded three times in three games in stoppage time after a 1-1 draw against Tranmere last weekend and a 1-0 defeat at home to Doncaster on Tuesday night but the Cobblers had no sympathy and walked away with a point dragged back from a situation that looks all but lost. There had been hardly an attack from Town in the twenty minutes since they fell behind to Anthony Straker’s first goal for his new side.

Straker may not be able to completely claim the goal after his corner evaded everyone including a scrambling Matt Duke to nestle into the corner of the net mid-way through the second half but he’ll have as much thought for Duke as we did for his team late on. It had been a pretty even game up until that point with Town making occasional breaks through Ivan Toney – starting with Marc Richards up front with John-Joe O’Toole also playing at the tip of a three man midfield – causing plenty of problems.

Our old friend John McCombe was in the thick of the action on the half hour when it seemed like he pulled down Toney. It looked like McCombe was set for another red card against us until referee Darren Handley whipped out a yellow card for the Cobblers striker instead.

After the break, the home side were back on the ascendancy with Michael Coulson rattling the post before Straker’s bizarre corner floated all the way in. The Minstermen were looking like the more likely to score the second and kill us off but when the late free kick was given on the edge of the area there was that slither of hope that usually only works in giving you false optimism of happy ending to a Saturday afternoon.

Rico had other ideas of course and he’ll be the most relieved man in the side that the net rippled thanks to his effort. He took months and months to break his duck in his last tenure with the Cobblers, hitting the bar and post on numerous occasions and having his first goal erased from the record books after the “great winds” of the Huddersfield home game that had to be abandoned after he put us a goal in front. He’s returned a more experienced player and hopefully this is the start of him picking up where he left off.

The fixture clog up of early August continues on Tuesday evening with a trip to Portsmouth who will surely be amongst the front runners in League Two this season. Pompey are a different beast since their troubles of last term and if we remain unbeaten after that one then we’ll have done very well indeed at Fratton Park.

Wilder, though, is a stubborn opponent on the road and won’t let his side go down without the sort of fight we’ve already shown in the early goings so far.

York City v Northampton Town: Match Preview

York City Bootham Crescent

York City v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, August 15th 2014

If the Cobblers are to complete what would be one of the best opening weeks of a season in recent memory by beating Saturday’s hosts York City then we’re going to have to pull something pretty special out of the bag. The Minstermen haven’t lost a regular league fixture since a 2-0 defeat at home to Chesterfield on January 28th with only the playoff semi-final reverse against eventual winners Fleetwood Town and Tuesday’s cup loss against Doncaster Rovers blotting the copybook of a remarkable run of results that took them from relegation candidates to within a game of Wembley last season.

City’s story so nearly had a happy ending but for that Fleetwood defeat in the first leg of the semis but Nigel Worthington’s men have reacted well in the summer to that set back and to key defender Lanre Oyebanjo joining Crawley Town. Worthington has brought in Marvin McCoy who racked up over ninety appearances for Wycombe Wanderers over four years as a replacement for Oyebanjo whilst also strengthening across the squad with Barnet’s Jake Hyde and Southend’s Anthony Straker coming in as well as the likes of Femi Ilesanmi from Dagenham and Redbridge, Luke Summerfield and Dave Winfield both from Shrewsbury Town and Jason Mooney from Tranmere Rovers.

The first two games of York’s season have both been all about last minute goals. On the opening day last weekend they were moments away from an impressive three points at Tranmere until James Rowe’s volley recused a point for the League Two newbies. Then, on Tuesday night in the Capital One Cup, League One’s Doncaster Rovers left it until stoppage time to nick a winner at Bootham Crescent.

It’s back in the league that York are so hard to stop, though, and as they prepare to try and repeat last season’s 1-0 win over the Cobblers on the opening day of the season (which came about thanks to their own last gasp winner following Darren Carter’s red card), Town will be hoping to round off what’s been a really positive first seven days of 2014/15.

Team work and inspired substitutions have been the order of the day so far from Chris Wilder and both will be called upon again once more at a ground where the Cobblers have won just once in their last eight visits, that being a 1-0 success on Bank Holiday Monday in August 1999.

There’s plenty of battles for places in the starting line-up for Wilder to consider. Chris Hackett, Darren Carter and Emile Sinclair all look to be over the injuries that kept them out of the Wolves game while Lawson D’Ath’s brace at Molineux after coming off the bench will have given his boss food for thought. There’s also the issue of whether Ivan Toney keeps his place after a strong cameo against Mansfield and a solid showing and goal at Wolves with Marc Richards and John-Joe O’Toole also vying for position.

All very good problems to have though, especially considering that York have one or two injury worries up front. Striker Ryan Jarvis will be out for up to three weeks after coming off against Doncaster on a stretcher thanks to an ankle injury and he’s added to a list that contains Josh Carson on the absent list. The good news for the Minstermen is that Wes Fletcher has completed two weeks of training and could feature and Jake Hyde could also make his debut. Sixteen year old Ben Hirst is also chomping at the bit for a starting place and could get the nod to partner Michael Coulson up front should Fletcher and Hyde not be available from the start.

Plenty to ponder, then, for both managers ahead as the season kicks well and truly into gear. If the Cobblers can end this long unbeaten streak then it’ll have been the perfect start to a long season.

Another League Cup moment for gutsy Cobblers…

League Cup

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 Northampton Town

Capital One Cup

Tuesday, August 12th 2014

Add Wolverhampton Wanderers to the list. The League Cup has become a competition that the Cobblers have used to create historical and jubilant moments in recent years with last night’s win at Molineux the latest in a long line of upsets. While we haven’t ever threatened to reach the heights of the likes of Bradford City in terms of progression through to the later stages we have made moments and memories in earlier rounds before making a graceful exit and this was no different.

It took three attempts to down Wolves after two previous ties against them saw us lose 4-0 and 3-1 at Sixfields but somehow Town turned everything on its head with a stunning away win last night to move into Round Two. It was a performance built on defensive organisation, swift break away football and the right amount of guts and determination that’s always needed if you’re going to knock off a side of this stature on their own patch.

I said after the Liverpool win in 2010 that the League Cup is often looked down on but when you get a night like this as a ‘smaller’ side only the feeling of promotion really tops it. Call it an over the top assessment if you like but what it definitely represents is an early reminder to anyone still in summer holiday mode how proud a group of footballers can make us – anyone still not fully engaged with the football season starting before this game will undoubtedly be all in now.

The first half was all about three disallowed goals and the Cobblers making it to the break with a clean sheet somehow still intact. There seemed no great arguments from Wolves players about the decisions and it says a lot about the organisation of the new look back four that Wilder placed his trust in that the line was held brilliantly all three times. There were brief attacks on the home goal through a deflected Ivan Toney shot and a Ricky Ravenhill effort but there were no signs of what was to come as the half-time whistle sounded.

Town started well in the second half and forced a couple of chances before Lawson D’Ath was introduced. The player who had previously scored on his debut for his last two clubs was about to make it three out of three on a big stage. After coming off the bench in the 55th minute he took just three minutes to strike when he got on the end of a flick from Toney and, after a bit of luck with the bounce, the former Reading man brought the ball under control and stabbed it under home keeper Aaron McCarey.

It was game on from there and a crazy few minutes ensued. Town fans were in dreamland when Kaid Mohammed – one of those to excel on the night – sent in a corner for Toney to nod home into the corner for his fifth goal in his last four Cobblers games. The young lad’s stature is growing at an incredible rate and he’s making big problems for Wilder to deal with selection wise for the coming games. The fact that he’s one of our own just makes it that bit more special every time he finds the net. A slender lead just became a huge possibility of a shock.

Wolves weren’t done with this one, though, and fought back impressively within minutes as Nouha Dicko, scorer of thirteen goals last season, finished from close range and then Sam Ricketts hammered in a belter from distance to seemingly break the hearts of the travelling contingent. It was surely now all about the Championship side finishing the job.

But huge credit to the Cobblers for what came next – rather than accept a fate or hold out for extra time and the lottery of penalties we rallied again and that man D’Ath made the most of hesitation in the home defence to nip in and loop a header over the keeper for 3-2 with fifteen minutes to go.

Now was the time to finally shut up shop…there was something big to hold on to and Ben Tozer’s introduction for Danny Alfei, who had been tormented by Wolves winger Liam McAlinden for most of the night made sense. Tozer’s debut was that unforgettable night at Anfield and the longest serving current Town player helped to see out another big win for his side. There were five minutes of injury time for the second game in a row but we held firm for another magnificent result to add to the archives.

Tonight’s draw follows the live game at Sixfields of Coventry taking on Cardiff City and with one big player in Man United thrown in to Round Two for the first time in years and a host of other Premier League possibilities we wait to see who could be next in line.

Even if we do go out now we still have another notable result to ink into the books.

A winning start…

Mohammed - match winner

Mohammed – match winner

It’s a rare feeling for a Cobblers fans is this – three points on the board on the opening weekend have eluded us for many a year. Indeed the last time we won on the first day (a 4-2 victory over Cheltenham Town in 2008) we thought that Leon Constantine might actually be a worthy signing…heady days! This time around, and after six opening days without even scoring a goal, there was less of a gung ho approach but more of a sense of a team worked performance that firstly broke down a Mansfield side coming to frustrate and then displayed toughness at the end of the game when the Stags were trying to claw back a point.

The debutant most were talking about before the game was John-Joe O’Toole but it was Kaid Mohammed, another making his first official appearance for Town, who claimed the headlines with a powered header at the back post for the only goal of the game. O’Toole was brought off in the second half and that move ended up giving Chris Wilder a welcome selection headache for the games to come.

That was because of another fine performance from Ivan Toney who brought more cohesion with Marc Richards to the front line and we could easily have doubled the lead on more than one occasion after the youngster came on. At home, a dual attack is likely to be better received and it’ll be interesting to see how Wilder plays it in the coming months at Sixfields. Away from home O’Toole should bring plenty to the table but it’ll be hard for the boss to ignore Toney if he continues to show as much guile and positive energy that he showed again on Saturday.

It was a general consensus that we’ll face a lot tougher tests than Mansfield this season but anything garnered from the first game of the season is a real positive. Just to not be playing catch up in the early weeks would be a huge improvement on recent seasons and having a genuinely coherent squad with substitutes coming on that could easily have started a game shows a depth that’s not been seen at this stage of a season for quite some time.

There’s of course work to be done and we’ll have a hugely tough examination at Molineux on Tuesday evening in the League Cup to really test the mettle before another tester at York in the League on Saturday but for once we’re saying that the early signs are good.

Just to be back in football mode is fantastic to be fair – until that first dodgy league defeat comes around let’s enjoy seeing our name at the right end of the ‘league table’ for a while!

Let the games begin!

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So here we go again. After the post World Cup lull and the no nonsense and kind of drifting pre-season that saw the Cobblers in an unusually comfortable and sorted out position in terms of getting the right squad together we’re here on the edge of the 2014-15 season.

The first few months of this season will see Sixfields move past the first stages of redevelopment and celebrate its twentieth birthday – where all that time’s gone I have no idea! Whether we can pass these milestones with a progressive team on the pitch remains to be seen but there’s far more concreteness and positivity about the place than in the post Wembley dreariness of twelve months ago.

Matt Duke has suddenly been challenged by new loan signing Jordan Archer for the goalkeeper’s jersey but to me it says more about Chris Wilder’s thoughts on the current progress of Dean Snedker than anything else. It would be foolish to put him in to the key position and firing line if he’s not ready so a loan spell is much more sensible. Chris Dunn never really recovered from being thrust into the headlights when he came straight in to replace Mark Bunn so it could be a good thing in the long term for the current young stopper.

Defensively – barring another Kelvin Langmead set back – we’re well set with centre backs while it’s looking pretty certain that Chris Wilder will be going with the wing back system that served him well at the back end of last season with Evan Horwood and Danny Alfei likely to get the nods on either side.

Midfield is an interesting one. Darren Carter and Ricky Ravenhill’s partnership in the centre should stick but with the attacking wide intent from Chris Hackett and Kaid Mohammed as well as the key ‘goals from midfield’ machine that we hope John-Joe O’Toole to be there won’t be room for everyone. That does give us flexible options though and as games progress and flash points change the flow of them we’re guaranteed some quality on the bench.

Up top there’s the returning and experienced Marc Richards favourite to lead the line and Ivan Toney looking to continue the incredible impact he had in the last two games of last season. Emile Sinclair will be desperate for a change in his favour with the Town faithful but only hard work and, ultimately, goals will start to change opinion on his usefulness.

Nicholls...big return

Nicholls…big return

Alex Nicholls has been inspirational in his fight back from injury and may still be the best of wild cards to our forward options. Anyone who’s drifting along and not battling for their place will do well to look at Nicholls’ fight back and willingness to get back into the side as a motivator.

Overall we’re not looking too bad at all. The squad is finally at a point where there’s quality rather than quantity – something that’s been promised for years and while there will be obvious questions asked once injuries and suspensions come into play there should be enough there to challenge at least for a place in the top half.

Wilder is a good organiser and I’ve said for a few years now that if you have an organised side you’ll stand a good chance at the top seven in this division. The Cobblers have been at this level now for a good enough number of years for us to realise we’re here for a reason and only hard work, a bit of guile and solidarity in the camp will give us that platform to try and exit the league at the right end.

Let’s, as fans, also be realistic and good to one another. In the midst of the relegation battle at the end of last season, Wycombe fans were brilliant at keeping things relaxed and welcoming us as football friends rather than fierce enemies. It all sounds idealistic and airy fairy I know but there’s frankly too much crap going on in the world right now to be seeing opposition football fans as a sworn enemy.

Let’s enjoy the ride – we’ll be taken through the mill once again but that’s what keeps us coming back year after year even when some of us threaten to throw in the towel at the end of some seasons. Enjoy supporting your football team, enjoy the highs, enjoy the pub debates, enjoy the hours of analysis back at home and enjoy this wonderful nine months that we can’t get enough of.

There’s only one Northampton Town Football Club and they’re about to send us all into that whirlwind we call the football season once again. Deep breaths now…

Pre-season questions and answers – the countdown is on!

This is still one of the quieter summers that the Cobblers have been through in the past few years with a squad put together very early and games coming and going without any huge headlines or worries to come from them. It’s all run of the mill and we now begin the real countdown to the season with only a few questions hanging over Sixfields ahead of the big kick off on August 9th.

The first one is off the pitch as the East Stand is frantically put back together piece by piece – we know that it won’t be 100% complete by the time Mansfield Town visit on the opening day but on sporadic visits to the home of football over this summer I worry as to whether many will actually be able to sit down on that side of the pitch for that first home game. The fact that most of the big news coming out of the club over the last few weeks is to do with said redevelopment is a sign of good progress on the pitch with a smaller but more rounded squad already testing themselves.

The early nine goal smashing of Sileby made way for some tighter games with draws at Alloa and at home to Sheffield United followed up by Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient – the first loss of the summer.

I’m not a big fan of pre-season and never think you can totally take too much excitement or stress away from them but this time around we’re seeming solid at the back but still to register a whole lot of fluidity and forcefulness in taking our chances at the other end. Formation trials have seen 4-5-1 and 4-4-1-1 attempted with John-Joe O’Toole the main factor in how we shape the attacking options. Marc Richards has seen plenty of action as a lone striker and that seems to indicate how we’ll start things off in a couple of weeks. If that’s the case I’d like to see O’Toole given some freedom behind him to cause havoc and make those chances happen.

Elsewhere we’re pretty solid and the Alex Nicholls contract situation is still one to watch. He’ll more than likely get another chance at Wellingborough Town on Tuesday night after only a couple of showings from the bench since his hat-trick at Sileby.

It’s a waiting game from here on in but as far as the Cobblers are concerned not a lot is about to change between now and the start of the season. Whether that’s a positive thing or not we shall see once the real action gets under way.

Start those count down clocks!