>Season in Review 2008/09…November…

After a good October that saw the Cobblers lose just one game, November was a more mixed month with an FA Cup tie took to a replay and an incredible couple of games with Leeds in the space of a week.

The month kicked off with a disappointing defeat at Walsall as goals from Chris Palmer, Anthony Gerrard and Troy Deeney had the hosts 3-0 up just after the hour mark. Leon Constantine struck with twenty minutes to go with only his second goal of the season but little did we know that this would be his last goal in Cobblers colours.

The following Friday night saw us thrust into the national spotlight as the FA Cup First Round game at Leeds was being screened live by Setanta Sports. Scott McGleish had just rejoined the club on a month’s loan and had played at Walsall but netted his first goal back at the club early on to stun Elland Road. Giles Coke was sent off just before the half hour mark and a controversial penalty, finished by Andy Robinson, drew the home side level. But a brave performance by the Cobblers’ ten men meant that the game would go to a replay.

Back in the league and Oldham claimed all three points from Sixfields just two days before the cup replay as Andy Lidell scored from the spot with fifteen minutes to go to give the visitors all three points.

And so to the Leeds replay and Setanta again sent their cameras down to take in the game. This time though, we were totally outclassed and Jermaine Beckford scored four times to sink Stuart Gray’s men and send us crashing out of the competition. Leeds were three up within forty minutes through Beckford, a Mark Hughes own goal and a Ben Parker strike. Jason Crowe pulled one back before the break but Beckford had time to net another one to make it 4-1 at half time. He added his fourth ten minutes after the restart and Crowe’s late consolation barely raised a cheer as Leeds ran out 5-2 winners.

We would bounce back in the league a few days later though as second half goals from Danny Jackman and Ryan Gilligan secured the Cobblers’ second away win of the season at struggling Hereford United.

That win was followed up on the Tuesday night by a stunning 2-1 win over Leeds at Sixfields just a week after the 5-2 defeat to the same side in the F.A. Cup. Stuart Gray’s men took the lead through Liam Davis’ well hit shot from outside the area but Leeds looked to have earned a point through that man Beckford again. But on loan striker Nicholas Bignall was on hand to head home a dramatic winner with three minutes to play and we had recorded a famous victory.

November didn’t end as well with Colchester taking all three points at Sixfields in a 2-1 win. After two headed goals from Clive Platt and former Cobblers man Paul Reid, Danny Jackman scored with a long range free kick that deflected in but it wasn’t enough as we ended the month on a poor note.

>Too soon to forget?

>So how soon do you start to look towards next season? Just over a week has passed since that deflating day at Elland Road and attention at camp Cobblers has immediately turned to 2009/10 with talk of contracts, buoyant messages from chairman and manager alike and the arrangement of the first friendly game.

With playoffs and the like still going on it’s hard to fully draw this season to a close and talking about the next campaign is almost like those people who look forward to Christmas in January. The Cobblers are taking the approach of trying to lift the spirits of the town with all the right noises coming from those involved at the helm. I wouldn’t imagine a lot of true Cobblers to be listening just yet and it feels like I’m personally still mourning the end of last season.

It’s far too soon for me despite the dates that have been set this week for the fixtures coming out etc and I liken it to the death of a pet…we’ve not had time to mourn, let alone think about getting a similar breed in the vague hope that it lives up its predecessor.

Of course we will all be hoping to swap last season’s pussy cat for a brave and proud lion in 2009/10. Let’s have a bit of time to get over relegation first though.

>Season in Review 2008/09…October…

The season finally got going in October with the Cobblers recording three straight league wins, starting at Crewe.

We hadn’t won away in the league all season despite twice winning on our travels in the Carling Cup and taking Sunderland to penalties in the same competition. But that away day hoodoo was put to bed when the Cobblers won 3-1 at Crewe in the opening game in October. Danny Jackman’s free kick started us off before the home side equalised through Tom Pope. Adebayo Akinfenwa put the Cobblers back in front though before Abdul Osman headed home the third to seal a good win at Gresty Road.

It was two wins on the bounce for the first time in the season the following weekend when on loan Preston striker Karl Hawley scored in the seventeenth minute to win the home game with Hartlepool United at Sixfields.

With that momentum, Stuart Gray’s men then made it three in a row as Yeovil were brushed aside 3-0 in one of the more simple games of the season. Jackman was on target again with another trademark free kick before Akinfenwa added a second on twenty minutes. Jason Crowe rounded off a comfortable day at the office for the Cobblers with ten minutes to go and it looked like the season was getting going at last.

But defeat was just around the corner on the following Tuesday night at Swindon. Billy Paynter and Simon Cox put the Robins 2-0 up and despite a late goal from Giles Coke we came home pointless from the County Ground.

October was complete with a solid display at league pacesetters Leicester City as the Cobblers came away with a goalless draw against the side that would go on to win the league.

>Fixtures date confirmed along with other key days in the calendar

The Football League has confirmed a number of key dates for the new season along with the fact that the fixtures for the 2009/10 season being released on Wednesday, June 17th. The new season will then kick off, with the Cobblers back in League Two, on Saturday, August 10th.

The Carling Cup First Round will take place on the following weekdays with the competition celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. The Cobblers knocked out Bolton Wanderers and took Sunderland to penalties last season so will be looking for another big name scalp.

Stick around throughout the summer on A Load Of Cobblers as we bring you the latest updates from Sixfields including all the big news on Fixtures day in just over a month.

>Get yourself to Sixfields this Wednesday…

The Cobblers’ fans team, The Shoemakers, take on a team of Cobblers legends in a special match at Sixfields. The fans team have been playing representitives of all League One sides this season and will be facing the likes of Ian Sampson, Eddie McGoldrick Ray Warburton and Sean Parrish.

The game takes place this Wednesday, 13th May with a 7pm kick off time. Admission prices are just £1 and that has to be worth it to see a host of Cobblers legends take to the pitch once more!

>A Dunn Deal…

Chris Dunn has signed a new two year deal with the Cobblers. The young stopper has grown in confidence over the last few months after a tough start. Replacing Mark Bunn after his departure to Blackburn Rovers was never going to be easy and he suffered from nerves in the early games before coming good with a number of impressive performances despite the slide down League One for the Cobblers.

Jason Crowe, Giles Coke and Mark Hughes all have until the middle of June to make their minds up on their new contracts but this is early good news for Stuart Gray as he looks towards next season already.

>Empty Saturdays

So it’s Saturday and I’m already feeling the emptiness of a day without football and the Cobblers. Of course there are a lot of Premier League and playoff issues to keep the armchair fan happy over the coming weeks but the fact that I forgot that even the big boys were still playing for the English title this weekend says it all.

3pm will be strange today…I’m usually gripping my phone for live scores, nervous at Sixfields or a random ground around the country or sat in a pub watching Jeff Stelling et al along with the ticker at the bottom of the screen that can ludicriously have an effect on your mood for the rest of the day.

Talk of pre-season at Sixfields isn’t doing a lot to change the mood and despite a war cry from the chairman I still think it a little to early to even think about next season after the despair of last weekend at Elland Road, a time that even now seems a million miles away as Leeds prepare for their playoff semi-final at Millwall. Good luck to the local police there.

Football on tv will have to make do until the end of May but every game will bring “what ifs,” even the playoffs where we so ambitiously said we could end up at the start of this season. With David Cardoza talking of an immediate return to League One, the pressure is well and truly on Stuart Gray. I expect him to be given ten games to prove he’s up for the job next season with so much expectation from the “highest wage bill in League Two.”

But everyone will now be gunning for us as we go from being a small fish in a big pond to a rather large one in a small pond and we need to be ready to ensure that on the first Saturday after the end of next season in a year’s time is one that we all spend relaxing and happy, in love with football again.

>Season in Review 2008/09…September…

September began how August had ended, with another defeat, this time at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Kevin McLeod got the only goal of the game to earn Albion progression to Round Two.

The big local derby with Peterborough United was up next and George Boyd gave Boro the lead on fifteen minutes. But just before half time, Colin Larkin was sent through and powered a good finish past Joe Lewis in the visitors’ goal. Jason Crowe was sent off late on but we earned a decent point following a hard fought derby game.

Another 1-1 draw followed at Stockport in midweek. On loan striker Karl Hawley gave us the ideal start but with fifteen minutes to go Leon McSweeney grabbed a point for the home side.

A 3-2 defeat at Huddersfield followed as the Cobblers remained without a league win since the opening day of the season. An own goal gave us the lead but Andy Booth scored against the Cobblers once again to level things. Two goals from Flynn gave Huddersfield a 3-1 lead and despite a late goal from Liam Davis we couldn’t salvage a point.

Despite the poor league form, the Cobblers went on to Sunderland in the Carling Cup on the following Tuesday and came agonisingly close to causing another upset. Colin Larkin and Luke Guttridge seemed to have won it for Stuart Gray’s side but incredibly, the Premier League side came back with two Anthony Stokes goals in the final four minutes to take the game to extra time. After a gruelling period of extra time, the Cobblers got through to penalties but were beaten 4-3 after Leon Constantine missed the decisive kick.

The month ended with another 2-2 draw, this time at home to Brighton. Glenn Murray had Brighton in front from the penalty spot but Adebayo Akinfenwa equalised late on. Murray thought he’d won it with a 90th minute goal but deep into stoppage time, Akinfenwa headed home a Danny Jackman corner to grab a point.

>Season In Review 2008/09…August…

Part One of the season in review 2008/09…August…a month that saw a shaky start shadowed by a stunning cup success…

The Cobblers started the new season in true style as Cheltenham Town were beaten 4-2 at Sixfields. Three new signings, Luke Guttridge, Leon Constantine and Liam Davis made their Cobblers debut but it wasn’t all plain sailing. David Bird gave the visitors the lead in the 35th minute but it was Chris Doig that equalised before half time. Two penalties from Adebayo Akinfenwa gave us a comfortable lead before Michael Townsend scored from the spot at the other end. But it was Constantine who rounded things off following good work from Akinfenwa who unselfishly set his strike partner up for a debut goal.

In the first midweek game of the season, Jason Crowe’s goal was enough to knock Milwall out of the Carling Cup but little would we know what drama would follow in the same competition.

The following Saturday saw a disappointing performance at MK Dons result in the Dons winning the first ever meeting between the clubs. Aaron Wilbraham got the only goal of the game following a goal mouth scramble and the Cobblers had nothing in reply.

Millwall were the opponents the following weekend as we faced a quick fire rematch with the Lions after that Carling Cup tie. This time there was nothing to separate the sides and the game ended goalless.

After drawing Bolton Wanderers away in the Carling Cup, no-one would have given us a chance against the Premier League outfit. But Adebayo Akinfenwa had other ideas and scored twice in the opening half an hour to give us a surprise lead. Gary Cahill was sent off to add to Bolton’s troubles and despite a late goal from Kevin Nolan, the Cobblers recorded a fantastic win to upset the odds.

After that stunning night at the Reebok, we were brought right back down to earth though as we were hammered by Tranmere Rovers. Ryan Gilligan put the Cobblers in front but Rovers were 3-1 up by half time as goals from Bas Savage, Antony Kay and Craig Curran gave the hosts the advantage. Ian Moore scored in stoppage time to round off a disappointing end to August for the Cobblers.

>First day back…

>It’s been that difficult first day back in the office for me today. Usually after a defeat it’s tough to face the workmates who have had a comfortable weekend of football from the armchair but this has been even tougher. The fact that we’re now a League Two club has come up numerous times today and with the bank holiday giving me time to reflect this was a harsh reminder of things to come and that it will be a long summer pondering trips to Morecambe and Darlington.

News of contracts being offered and pre-season friendlies already being arranged deflects some of the news away from that forgettable season we’ve just had but the fact is that as much as we try to forget we will remember as much as we recall promotions. Back in 2003 it was easier because we were simply rubbish all season. In fact if I recall, we played Mansfield Town on the final day of the season at their place for the unwanted title of worst team in the league with both sides rooted to the bottom of League One.

This season we’ve dropped like a stone and no-one had had much time to get used to the reality of League Two football next season, something that is getting more and more distant in quality from League One by the season in terms of sides in the league.

We have to somehow take this on the chin and I’m sure there will be a time mid-summer when I get excited about next season again, most likely in the middle of June when the fixtures are announced. But for now, I’m sulking.