>Season in Review 2008/09…March…

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A win at Cheltenham had rounded off February but we had to settle for a point in the first game of March. Bas Savage, who had hit a double for Brighton at Sixfields a season before, gave Tranmere the lead at Sixfields but Andy Holt claimed a point in the second half.

A Tuesday night at Millwall followed in the build up to the derby at Peterborough but we came home from the New Den empty handed as former Cobblers target Gary Alexander scored the only goal of the game.

And so to London Road and perhaps one of the key games of the run-in for both sides. With Posh gunning for automatic promotion and the Cobblers sliding towards the relegation zone, it was the Town fans celebrating early on when Gabriel Zakuani was sent off after just seven minutes of the game. Danny Jackman hit the post from the resulting free kick and we came close on numerous occasions before a sickening blow just after the half hour when Charlie Lee headed home a free kick to score what would turn out to be the winner.

Bayo was back in action after a suspension for his red card at Brighton as Stockport came to Sixfields and felt the full force of a returning giant and a hurt Cobblers side. Bayo was off the mark on twelve minutes and Abdul Osman added a second before the break. Luke Guttridge and on loan striker Scott Vernon both found the net in the second half and we eased to a comfortable victory.

There were more goals the following Tuesday night as Swindon Town edged a seven goal thriller. Bayo again scored the opening goal but Simon Cox hit the net twice along with Billy Paynter’s single goal to put the Robins 3-1 up at half-time. Jackman got one back for the Cobblers before Cox rounded off his hat-trick for 4-2. Ikechi Anya’s late goal wasn’t enough and we remained in big trouble at the bottom.

A point at Carlisle steadied the ship briefly with Luke Guttridge earning a draw at Brunton Park after the home side had been given the lead through Lewis Neal.

The final game of the month was a dreadful showing at fellow relegation candidates Yeovil Town. Going into the game, we knew a defeat would take us into the bottom four and it looked like we would get a point until Jon Obika, the Glovers’ on loan Spurs striker, scored a goal that would turn both sides’ seasons on their heads. This was the beginning of the end for the Cobblers’ season.

>Guinan the first in the door for Town

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The Cobblers have completed their first signing of the summer by bringing in experienced Hereford front man Steve Guinan on a free trasnfer. Guinan, who netted fifteen times last season despite his Bulls side being relegated along with the Cobblers, earned the Player of the Year award for his club.

The striker, 33, first settled at Hereford after various loan spells before moving on to Cheltenham Town where he scored seventeen goals before moving back to Hereford. He was United’s top scorer last season but has now passed a medical at Sixfields and will officially be a Cobblers player on July 1st.

>Uh Oh…Cobblers one of the bookies’ frunt runners…

>The Cobblers have been placed as early third favourites for the League Two championship next season. So early pressure already begins to build on the players before the Football League season is officially ended by today’s Championship playoff final.

Stuart Gray’s men have been placed behind Shrewsbury Town and Bradford City as third favourites for the title next season with the Shrews narrowly losing out to Gillingham in the Playoff final on Saturday afternoon and Bradford looking strong cadidates after missing out this time around.

A lot will depend on the squad Gray has to choose from of course but we’ve never been good with being favourites and we’re sure for a hell of a ride whatever happens in 2009/10.

Here’s the full odds for the League Two Championship next season from bet365…

Shrewsbury 15/2
Bradford 8/1
Northampton 9/1
Rotherham 11/1
Chesterfield 12/1
Crewe 14/1
Bury 16/1
Bournemouth 16/1
Rochdale 16/1
Torquay 20/1
Darlington 20/1
Cheltenham 20/1
Dag & Red 22/1
Lincoln City 25/1
Hereford 25/1
Morecambe 25/1
Aldershot 25/1
Notts County 28/1
Grimsby 33/1
Port Vale 33/1
Burton Albion 40/1
Barnet 50/1
Macclesfield 66/1
Accrington Stanley 66/1

>Season in Review 2008/09…February…

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After a tough opening month of 2009, the Cobblers would also struggle in February as the dark road to relegation began at Boundary Park.

The month began exactly as January had ended, with a 2-1 defear, this time to Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park. Reuben Hazell had given the home side an eighth minute lead before the impressive Dean Windass made it two on the hour mark. Adebayo Akinfenwa pulled one back for Town but it wasn’t enough to stop a third straight defeat.

It was four losses in a row a week later as Walsall won with two late goals at Sixfields. The poor game looked set for a goalless draw until Stephen Hughes scored with seven minutes to play. Jabo Ibehre rubbed salt in the wounds with a second in stoppage time.

A re-arranged and stormy game at Brighton followed on the Tuesday night. Ryan Gilligan had given the Cobblers the lead right on the stroke of half-time with both sides in trouble at the wrong end of the table. But Tommy Elphick grabbed an equaliser in the second half before both Adebayo Akinfenwa and Brighton’s Adam Virgo were sent off after a clash on the half-way line. Both were forced out for three games, meaning that Bayo would miss the derby at Peterborough in mid-March.

After the Brighton draw we faced a big game at Cheltenham Town, also struggling at the foot of the table, at Whaddon Road. Jason Crowe’s goal right on half-time, just like Gilligan’s in the week at Brighton, gave us the lead and this time we didn’t surrender the lead and it was a good way to end a troubled month as a huge month of March loomed.

>Season in Review 2008/09…January…

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2009 started with a quiet week as the Cobblers were already out of the F.A. Cup so we had a spare week to prepare for the first game of the New Year, at home to Huddersfield Town. It looked like Phil Jevons’ goal had given the Terriers all three points until Adebayo Akinfenwa struck with literally the last kick of the game to salvage a dramatic point.

Next up was a disappointing trip to Hartlepool on a cold Friday night and the Cobblers froze in a 2-0 defeat, handed out by Joel Porter’s double strike and it was a long journey home for our fans.

There was a much improved performance a week later though as Crewe were brushed aside at Sixfields. Billy Clarke had just signed on a month long loan deal from Ipswich Town and started out in true style with a debut hat-trick against the Railwaymen in a 5-1 success. Danny Jackman and Liam Davis scored the other goals in our biggest win of the season with Colin Daniel scoring the only Crewe goal.

The inconsistency continued though as The Cobblers were beaten on the following Tuesday night by Colchester United in the first meeting between the sides at the new Weston Homes Community Stadium. Akinfenwa put us in front in the first half but Mark Yeates and future Cobblers loanee Scott Vernon turned the game completely on its head in two second half minutes to earn a 2-1 win.

The league leaders, Leicester City, were in town on the final day of January and we made a strong start with Leon Constantine and Abdul Osman forcing an own goal out of Foxes defender Kerrea Gilbert. But former Cobbler Steve Howard equalised for City before Lloyd Dyer won it with fifteen minutes to go to make it a disappointing end to the month.

>League honours Golden Six

>The leading scorers and shot-stoppers from all three divisions of The Football League are to receive PUMA Golden Boot and Golden Glove awards to mark their respective achievements in all competitions this season.

The winner of the Golden Boot for the Championship, for the second consecutive season, is Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. The Championship’s ‘Player of the Season’ has notched 25 goals to see off the challenge of Swansea City’s Jason Scotland (24) and Cardiff City’s Ross McCormack (23).

The Golden Glove award will be shared by Queen’s Park Rangers’ Radek Cerny and Paddy Kenny of Sheffield United. Both keepers recorded 19 clean sheets from 47 appearances in all competitions.

In League 1, where 4 players topped the 30 goal mark, Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford took the Golden Boot honours after hitting the back of the net 34 times. Tranmere Rovers’ Welsh international goalkeeper Danny Coyne, recorded 20 clean sheets to secure the division’s Golden Glove prize.

Grant Holt’s 28 goals in his first season at Shrewsbury Town helped him win the League 2 Golden Boot by a 5 goal margin. Brentford goalkeeper Ben Hamer, who spent the season on loan at Griffin Park from Reading, kept 20 clean sheets to help secure the League 2 title for the Bees and the Golden Glove Award for himself.

In announcing the PUMA Golden Boot and Golden Glove Award winners, Lord Mawhinney, Chairman of The Football League, said:

“These awards give us the opportunity to recognise the goalscorers and goalkeepers who have made a very special contribution to their team’s efforts this season. Each of these players has had an outstanding season and they all fully deserve this recognition.”

Roger Harrison, Marketing Director at PUMA UK, added:

“Strikers and goalkeepers can often win a match for their team with a last minute goal or breathtaking save. These new accolades give us an opportunity to reward players of all levels – congratulations to all of the winners.”

Goals and clean sheets in The Coca-Cola Football League, Carling Cup, Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and FA Cup sponsored by E.ON have all counted towards the PUMA Golden Boot and Golden Glove awards.

>5-a-side season brings about scary parrallels…

>It’s been a while since an update on my 5-a-side team in Southampton but it’s time to post again simply because of the situation we’re in this evening. No Saints are staring relegation from the top flight in Eastleigh’s Wednesday Premier League but the fate is in our hands.

We need a draw from tonight’s game with the wonderfully named side Isursista Athletic to guarantee safety. Just two and a half weeks ago it was the Cobblers in exactly the same situation at Leeds…here’s hoping that a repeat performance doesn’t come about and No Saints can survive!

>Season in Review 2008/09…December…

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With Christmas approaching, the Cobblers hadn’t completely got going in the league and were out of all three cup competitions already. December was another inconsistent month but did include the game of the season at Glanford Park.

Leyton Orient were the visitors in the opening game of the month and they took home a 1-1 draw from Sixfields thanks to a JJ Melligan equaliser. Liam Davis had given us a second minuet lead but we had to settle for a point.

The following week saw another draw but this time in extraordinary circumstances. Scunthorpe sailed into a 4-1 lead at Glanford Park thanks to two goals each from Gary Hooper and Ben May. Scott McGleish had earlier netted for the Cobblers but the game looked totally dead and buried by the time Scunny’s fourth goal went in on51 minutes. But Giles Coke and Danny Jackman had Stuart Gray’s side right back in the game even before the hour mark and Jackman scored again, this time direct from a corner, with five minutes to go to earn a memorable draw.

Seven days later and a much less eventful game brought us all three points as Carlisle were beaten at Sixfields. Jason Crowe’s goal was enough to win it for Town in the final game before Christmas.

We were looking good for a point on Boxing Day at Southend until stoppage time when Junior Stanislas scored a free kick that snatched a win for the Shrimpers.

The final game of 2008 was a dour goalless draw with Bristol Rovers and there was still plenty of work to do as the transfer window and 2009 loomed large with the season still very much in the balance.

>Facing up to the legends at Sixfields

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For any football fan, playing on the turf of your team is a dream come true. But not many will ever get the chance to kick a ball on their own field of dreams, let alone play a game against legends of the club’s past. But for a lucky few, the dream became a reality last week as the Shoemakers, the Cobblers fan’s team, took on Northampton Town legends at Sixfields. For Mark Kennedy, part of the fans’ team, it was an unforgettable night. Here he explains the evening when fans faced up to the legends…

How did it feel walking out at Sixfields alongside the legends that you’ve watched from the stands?

I felt a little nervous at first but very excited. My last Sixfields experience was playing in a sponsors team where we didn’t really know each other but this time around we all knew each other really well and buzz was amazing. To line up in the tunnel alongside the legends is awesome though, you could tell how much they were looking forward to the game. I have worked with Sammo and Sean Parrish through my work’s sponsorship of the youth team and it is a pleasure to know them and the passion they have for Northampton Town and their roles within the club. The banter on the pitch was great as well.

What was it like playing on the hallowed turf of Sixfields?

Before the game we all went for a walk about on the pitch in our suits and when you stand on the centre spot, the goals seem quite close. However, when you start playing on it you find it a very different story. First of all, the appearance is deceptive and the pitch is massive and secondly the ball rolls so much faster on the turf. It certianly beats the Racecourse or some of the shabby pitches we have played on in other parts of the country. Hearing the crowd chanting and cheering you on is a great experience and you have to try and stop the goose bumps and concentrate.

Highlight of the night?

I cannot single this one out really as the whole experience was amazing. The legends and backroom staff were brilliant in the way of their spirit and banter, the crowd were great cheering us on and the pre and post-match build up and run down was perfect. One thing that stands out for me I suppose would be the gratitude of the Shoemakers lads at the end of the game for the night. Being part of giving the team a dream experience is a special feeling.

How jealous were your Cobblers-supporting friends of you getting to play at Sixfields against the likes of Razor and Sammo?

It was tough because there are quite a few people that would love to be a part of the team and we have to limit our numbers unfortunately. We get loads of requests for people wanting to join the team to play week in week out and we have to turn people away at times as we sometimes have too many people as it is. The lads who played have dedicated themselves to the team for a number of years, leaving at silly hours to travel to places like Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Crewe and so on, so they really deserved the experience. We didn’t really encounter any jealous mates, in fact most people really wished us well.

Did you get a sniff of a goal?

We play a 3-5-2 system in the team and I play on the right side of midfield. I suppose defending is my stronger point but I do like to get forward when I can. My last goal was over two years ago now so I am happy to get in the other box and occasionally have a shot so I was delighted to have two half chances at Sixfields. The first was a half chance when the ball dropped between myself and Nick (Randall) and we both sort of connected at the same time but the keeper made an easy save. The other chance was a header from a half cleared effort but I couldn’t get enough power to trouble the keeper. Oh yes, I did bury the ball in the net during the pre-match kick about but I don’t suppose that counts!

Who was the best player on the Legends side?

Sean Parrish certainly still has a good touch and moves the ball really well and trying to get the ball off Sammo is a task. Eddie McGoldrick played for the Cobblers over 20 years ago and is still pretty useful as well. Again it hard to answer and say who really stood out because we were playing against ex-pros and people who know the game and not fellow fans who have turned up for a kick about on a Saturday morning before they go to the match. The two Football in the Community lads were very hard to catch and physio Stuart Barker plays some good stuff as well.

And the man of the match for the Shoemakers?

Everybody played exceptionally well throughout the game but our keeper Matt Cockerill made some quality saves on the night so I would have to plug for him. It is easy for a keeper to come into the firing line in a big game situation and make stand out mistakes but Matt dealt with everything thrown at him. Many fo the crowd picked him afterwards too.

**Above photo courtesy of Pete Norton**

>Torquay promotion brings back the memories…

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As Torquay United celebrated their promotion back into the Football League at the second attempt at the weekend, it was hard not to reminice about a day at Plainmoor in May 2000. Chris Hargreaves, a former favourite at Sixfields, and Tim Sills scored the goals as the Gulls saw off Cambridge United at Wembley and as we prepare to meet them in League Two once again, memories come flooding back.

The day in question was a typical end of season day, the sun beaming down on the hoards of coaches leaving Sixfields for Devon. A win would see Kevin Wilson’s men promoted and Cobblers fans had sold tickets on all four sides of Plainmoore, quite an achievement for an away following!

The quiet town was invaded by claret that day as nervous Cobblers fans milled about before the game, coaches dropping us off hours before kick off to soak up the sun on the beach. There was the sense that something special was going to happen but as we piled into the now cramped ground at Plainmoor, it was the home side that looked set to spoil the party with their own playoff ambitions at stake.

Tony Bedeau hadn’t read our script and gave The Gulls a seventeenth minute lead and nerves began to jangle. We needn’t have worried with a strike force in place that would shoot us to promotion. Steve Howard and Jamie Forrester had forged a partnership that forced the Cobblers into a top three place. Forrester hit back on twenty six minutes before, delightfully, Howard made it 2-1 and the party had began.

A nervous second half was then observed as Cobblers fans didn’t dare to celebrate too soon. But on full time, the claret faithful from all around the ground streamed onto the pitch at Plainmoor and, sportingly, United fans applauded our achievments. I remember the players coming out to celebrate and Torquay were hospitable enough to allow them to do so in their own home stand.

A quite memorable day and having sat through two weeks of unhappiness at our relegation, one win for a now ex Conference side seems to help get over it just that little easier. Now let’s wait for the fixture list and see if we get the Gulls away again on the final day in 2010, what will be ten years on from this proud moment in recent Cobblers history.