Walking the tight rope


If things weren’t serious enough, we’ve now had a killer wound that’s threatening to completely alter the history of the football club we all know and love. The news last week that the council have demanded repayment of their £10.25 million loan is the latest in a long run of disasters that started with the half built stand that’s become a visible representation of the most frustrating and mysterious year of our recent history.

It’s the only time I can remember at least in the last ten years when results are becoming secondary to events in the secretive offices of Sixfields. There’s a lack of confidence from the council and, understandably, from the life blood of the club itself – the fans – and we once again pass through another week where the only noises coming from the chairman’s office are in retaliation to the biggest bullet that’s been sent his way so far. Deadlines have long gone and I’m now even further in the camp of those who have lost complete trust.

It all comes, ironically, when we’re somehow competing well enough in matches to keep ourselves within touching distance at the top of the League Two table. Coming so close to victory on Saturday against league leaders Leyton Orient is testament to the increasingly difficult job being done very well by Chris Wilder and the players in the midst of all of this uncertainty.

What good results do give us is something to grab on to and tonight’s game at AFC Wimbledon is another reminder that we have an outlet for our anger and frustration – by joining the players’ efforts from the terraces.

What comes next is anyone’s guess and it’s excruciating to say the least.

I can’t claim to know much of the insides and outs of everything – that you can find by digging through The Hotel End’s topics where more detailed accounts of events can be found – but what I do know is that this is a hugely significant part of our history one way or another.

Something that won’t change is the passion we have for our club and nowhere will that be more apparent that at the games that will ultimately shape the levels of ambition we have once this is finally all said and done. Whether we’re deducted points, put into administration or worse, the one constant will always be the unwavering support for the TEAM that’s come to the fore every time we’ve been in trouble or ahead of a huge game.

As well as making our voices heard in protest, let them be raised in unity with the players battling through this all, letting them know that we’re right behind them.

It’s the one thing we have left to control.

Stepping up…

Hoskins...another big goal

Hoskins…another big goal

Morecambe 2-4 Northampton Town

While all around us continues to frustrate with the takeover now well into the period of due diligence and past yet another deadline date given by the powers that be, the Cobblers are at least making inroads into clawing back into the early group of pace setters in League Two. Wherever the next weeks or months take us, the results of the team are something to cling on to. Just as the Dagenham defeat a couple of weeks back was the catalyst for many to speak out against the owners, back to back wins following that have done a job of just about buying them time and keeping things sweet (ish).

Saturday was a huge away performance and showed again that on any given day anyone can beat anyone in this division. It’s far from a shock result of course but Morecambe were playing with a confidence coming into the game with four straight wins in all competitions ahead of welcoming the Cobblers.

Full credit must go to Chris Wilder for moulding a team together in the midst of all this takeover talk and it was a particularly impressive success on Saturday because of the absence of Marc Richards. In his place, Dominic Calvert-Lewin put in a good show and rounded his afternoon off with the killer fourth goal at a time when we could well have wobbled thanks to the home side pulling things back to 3-1.

It was great to see Lawson D’Ath getting back in the goals with his first of the season before Sam Hoskins continued his good run of form by netting his second in two games. Joe Byrom’s free kick looked to have completely ended the game as a contest but there’s always the worry with the Cobblers when a lead is reduced with plenty of time to play!

Tom Barkhuizan’s goal, though, only gave the slightest of hopes for Morecambe with Calvert-Lewin nipping in for Town’s fourth two minutes later. A late own goal, contested by a couple of covering Cobblers players, did little to cause the panic that the first Shrimps goal did and Wilder’s men confirmed a fine result.

It sets up a big ‘top of the table clash’ next week against league leaders Leyton Orient in a match that will again shine the focus once more on Sixfields and the ownership of our beloved club. If there are no further answers to questions that were well and truly pitched two weeks previous expect the high end battles to not just take place on the Sixfields turf.

Smith the hero again as solid Town hold on

Hoskins...match winner

Hoskins…match winner

Northampton Town 1-0 Oxford United

When the Cobblers signed Adam Smith after his acrimonious departure from Leicester City this summer, many, including myself, expected him to be playing back up fellow Sixfields bound stopper Ryan Clarke. But after impressive showings in pre-season, the rebuilding job he’s doing with his young career has well and truly rocketed off the ground. Smith is making all the early running in the Player of the Year award and after another superb showing on Saturday in a hugely needed 1-0 win over Oxford United you get the feeling that we’ve got a bit of a gem on our hands.

A penalty save with the Cobblers 1-0 up, but down to ten men thanks to Jason Taylor’s red card for an off the ball incident, was the highlight of the game for Smith but there were plenty of commanding moments including rushing out to block at strikers’ feet, quick reflex saves and a confidence that was lacking behind the back four last season.

Town needed a win like this to lift a crowd that was baying for answers to takeover questions and though the planned demonstration inside and outside of the ground had some effect it was peaceful enough that by the time Sam Hoskins grabbed his own big moment – glancing in his first league goal having come in for Alfie Potter – the focus was on unity and getting back on track.

Hoskins has been on the brink of a start and after last weekend’s disjointed team showing against Dagenham and Redbridge his energy and craft was a clever addition. The attacker is another of Wilder’s summer signings that’s been pretty consistent when he’s played and there’s no reason why he can’t be forcing his way into the reckoning on a permanent basis.

At the other end a strong backline was needed and the short term reinforcements of right back Darnell Furlong – seen playing Premier League football a few months ago – and centre back Shaun Brisley from Peterborough gave a more solid look to the defensive line that had to be strong in the face of a 10v11 second half.

That being said, Oxford appeared not to want to take the game to us and would have been disappointed that once Danny Hylton had the spot kick, awarded for Taylor indiscretion, saved beautifully by Smith just before half time they didn’t create enough to merit a point on a ground at which they blew us away last season.

It was a proper grind of a result and performance but the unity shown throughout was of complete contrast to a week ago when all involved trudged off to analyse where we went next.

That’s still the big question this week with the ‘due diligence’ period coming to an end for the takeover and if there’s still no noises coming from Sixfields in the next few days then the off field murmurs will creep back.

The ground work has been done, though, to ensure that the Cobblers are doing just enough to keep in touch with the rest of the division while the biggest saga at the club in years hopefully comes to an end.

We wait with baited breath…

Statement from NTFC Trust – #WeWantAnswers protest on Saturday

trustThe Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust have released more details on Saturday’s #WeWantAnswers protest at Sixfields…

Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust can now confirm some further details of the #WeWantAnswers protest on Saturday.

Fans will be congregating at 1:30pm on Saturday at the bottom of the steps to hand out leaflets. Approximately 3,000 will be printed.

A number of fans will also be distributing leaflets in Carr’s Bar and the Sixfields Tavern.

A media opportunity will take place at 1:50pm at the top of the steps for photographs and interviews with Trust members and other fans.

NTFC fans will be encouraged to hold up their leaflets and chant ‘We Want Answers’ in the 12th minute of the match – and after that encourage the team as much as they can! 

Tomorrow the Trust will be releasing an open letter to the prospective new owners of the club.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. So much time has been put in by many people this week and it is only right to applaud their efforts.

Answers demanded after Town derailed…

Northampton-Town-chairman-David-Cardoza_2550286If all was going swimmingly on the pitch, if the Cobblers were top of the table leaving everyone else in their wake, if there was even a hint that this season will be any different – if, if, if…then maybe the attention currently being drawn to David Cardoza and the (still only potential) takeover would be calmer.

But after just one point taken from Accrington Stanley and Dagenham and Redbridge, the latter seeing the Daggers come up with their first EVER win against us, things are taking a dramatic turn for the worse and answers are being demanded left, right and centre. And rightfully so.

Where to start may be the biggest question of all.

The ‘heads of terms agreement’ was signed on or around the 24th June – over TWO MONTHS ago. Since then, we’ve been reassured by Cardoza that the interested party are London based and that it may now be mid-September by the time anything else can be revealed. In the midst of all that went a transfer window, during which nothing was done to address a couple of key positions on the playing side – the very thing that could have bought everyone a bit of breathing space.

The lack of communication once again falls into question. It’s not for the first time. This is what I wrote on October 12th last year around the East Stand ‘development’:

“The communications department seem to have been on sabbatical for over a year now. Any injury news is kept completely under wraps. Players can be ruled out for months and then appear on the bench or, in the case of Lewis Hornby (remember him?), they can pick up an injury in training and are then not heard of apart from in fleeting mentions once in a blue moon. If a player’s out for months, tells us. If someone’s career is over, tell us. There’s a growing sense that the club is being locked behind the four – sorry three – walls of Sixfields and to the fans that can’t be good…”

“…All it would take was an honest and open message from the Chairman. If money hasn’t been paid for reason a or reason b then please just tell us. The longer the issues are stretched out the more damaging it becomes on the relationship between club and fans and that only causes aggravation on the terraces and a drop in performances on the pitch. We’re in a position where the players are actually pretty decent but if everything around them crumbles it’s only a matter of time until they too get disenchanted.”

Sound familiar? Change a few words here and there and it could be directly referenced to the here and now. How on earth are players and management meant to engage fully when all around them crumbles?

I know there must be reasons for the group not being identified but each passing day alienates more and more of the people that are the genuine heart of the club – that, of course, being the fans who gamely trek around the country to give a lift to the players wearing their beloved shirts.

As for the team – it’s all gone to pot again there and this is half the reason for the sudden outburst from Cobblers fans. The second goal conceded against Dagenham was laughable and summed up everything in a nut shell – miscommunication leads to a simple defeat.

I do feel slightly sorry for Rod McDonald, a defender clearly out of his depth at the moment. It’s not his fault that he was called upon in the summer as a back-up and was then thrust into the first team ahead of his time but more foresight should have been in place. Chris Wilder knew of Zander Diamond’s injuries and of age creeping up so something more substantial should have been worked on in terms of a third centre back. The same goes up front, where Marc Richards is again going it alone in front of the interchangeable three of Potter/D’Ath/Adams – three players who individually can create moments but as a three just can’t find a rhythm.

Wilder needs a big rethink tactically – the 4-2-3-1, fluid as it is, is being worked out far too easily by opposition and the plan b just isn’t there. Giving us something to cheer about has to be level on top of the agenda for Cardoza and Wilder.

The worrying thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of “we’re in this together” attitude from the chairman and the manager that reflects to the fans that there genuinely isn’t anything to worry about.

The takeover is certainly taking over the season but at the moment it’s in all the wrong ways.

The frailties of a disjointed Plan B

Watson...second debut to forget

Watson…second debut to forget

Northampton Town 0-2 Plymouth Argyle

This wasn’t the Cobblers that everyone was raving about seven days ago. This wasn’t the free flowing, dangerous side that had started the season so brightly. And this definitely wasn’t the Cobblers that we hoped would turn up against one of the better sides in League Two this season. It was the Cobblers who we’ve seen far too often before – a team who, when all else failed, resulted to long ball tactics to absolutely no effect and handed the game to the visitors with terrifying ease.

I was intrigued by a fresh Town line up and looking forward to seeing how we would match up at home to another attack minded outfit. But after a decent enough start where the Cobblers were tidy but ultimately ineffective, a silly goal was given away before the Pilgrims happily scrambled in a second to seal a fully deserved three points.

With Marc Richards, Nicky Adams, Alfie Potter, the recovered Zander Diamond and, in his re-debut, Ryan Watson all coming in after the dismal defeat at Barnet on Tuesday night, hope was that it was just a blip and we started reasonably well. Reuben Reid, one of a few attacking danger men for Argyle, was taken off early on to be replaced by Ryan Brunt and we were playing some decent stuff without ever producing the penetration needed to break down a stubborn Plymouth rear guard.

Adams had our first effort on goal before Lawson D’Ath shot over from long range but there was never a sense that the killer pass or cross was coming. Still, getting to the break at 0-0 wouldn’t have been a bad return but the killer turning point came just second before the whistle.

It was a nightmare moment for Watson, who was looking to prove himself for a second time in place of the suspended (and missed) Jason Taylor. With no danger, the Leicester loan man slipped in the middle of the park and Graham Carey snapped the ball up, raced through and cooly slotted in the opening goal into the corner of a helpless Adam Smith’s net.

The goal led Wilder into panic mode and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was brought on to necessitate a change to a more open 4-4-2 formation. It was too soon and rather than form a route back into the game, it led only to Plymouth having access to a whole new plethora of space in the middle of the park. While they made use of it and kept their steely nerve in place, passing the ball with ease, the Cobblers reverted to lumping the ball up towards targets that were never going to make the ball stick.

Had we stuck to the original game plan we would have at least had some cohesion to the play. As it was, there was no direction and a complete lack of a game plan. Whether that’s down to the players on the pitch or the manager is up for debate but Wilder is experienced enough to spot when something isn’t working and get the message across to his charges.

Plymouth, inevitably, took advantage and were, to be fair, very good themselves and earnt the second goal, given to them by a scrambled Jake Jervis effort from a corner with twenty minutes to go. Sam Hoskins and Paul Corry were the other subs to be used by Town but if we’d been playing all night we wouldn’t have found a way back in. Josh Lelan’s late red card summed up a dire second half.

The plus point in all of this is that this type of performance highlighted some huge flaws in our plan b before the transfer window closes in just over a weeks’ time. It’s glaringly obvious that we need back up in central defence and a different option up front who will make the ball stick if we’re to change tack at times to go long ball. There’s no point in going direct with no target man. Rico can try all he might but he needs to be eating off scraps rather than trying to be something he’s not.

The only other positive is the goalkeeper Adam Smith, who was commanding as well as being a fine shot stopper. He’ll win and keep us points by himself this season, I’ve no doubt about it.

Other than that, reality has well and truly hit the dream start to the 2015/16 season.

Individual thoughts on the new look Cobblers…

Adam Smith: Already looking an outstanding acquisition and is doing all his talking on the pitch since his acrimonious departure from Leicester.

Josh Lelan: Still extremely raw and the red card was a product of getting caught out of position too often. Brendon Maloney won’t be too worried about getting his place back once he returns from injury on this viewing.

Ryan Cresswell: As dominating as ever in the air but will be challenged pace-wise by many forwards this season.

Zander Diamond: Glad he’s back but as with Cresswell could be beaten too easily in ground races. I worry about options here.

David Buchanen: Touches of class but not the attacking force he’s been early season.

Ryan Watson: A second debut to forget and not just for the slip for the goal. Hopefully just early nerves.

Joel Byrom: Went missing at times when we needed a calming influence at 1-0 down.

Nicky Adams: Signs are there of a terrier like striker but needed to grab the game by the throat more often and drive us forward.

Alfie Potter: Was performing well in the number ten role before his half-time substitution.

Lawson D’Ath: Moments of class but again not enough drive and creativity on this occasion.

Marc Richards: Not showing his usual presence so far but needs to be the poacher rather than the target man.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Sub): Ineffectual and not the option we needed from the bench. Would work better if we’re defending a lead and need energy.

Sam Hoskins (Sub): Not enough time to play to his strengths and seemed a desperation sub rather than anything else.

Paul Corry (Sub): Played for the last fifteen minutes. Apparently.