>Cod Army give Cobblers almighty scare

>The drama and magic of the FA Cup brings with it all the nerves not usually associated with a game against a non league side. Fleetwood Town visited Sixfields and put up a hardy fight and deserved more than they got in a strange game that saw us stretched to the point where we so nearly made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The cod army were in full voice as kick off approached on a chilly November evening and as the start of the game drew near I found myself getting more and more nervous about facing the Conference North side. The beauty of the FA Cup is that it brings, year after year, a break from the league in which anything goes. We should have been easily too much for Fleetwood but by the same token Shrewsbury Town should have been too good for Staines Town, Grimsby Town for Bath City and Hartlepool United for our neighbours Kettering Town. It just doesn’t work like that and we have to be grateful that all we got was a scare on the way to round two. A big scare, but just a scare all the same.

It was a full strength side that took to the field for the Cobblers with Bayo and Steve Guinan leading the attack and Dean Beckwith returning in defence. It was, of course, the visitors who settled quickest and the early going saw just flashes from the Cobblers but real bite and a will to win from Fleetwood. Sixfields suddenly turned into an anxious cauldron, matching the shakiness of the players.

Fleetwood could easily have taken the lead in the first half with some hasty defending from Sammo’s team. But we thought that we’d got off the hook as the break approached when one of our only quality players, Luke Guttridge, got on the end of a right wing cross and turned the ball home into the far corner. Surely that would settle us? No such luck…this is the FA Cup remember.

That defending, or lack of it, I was talking about cost us before the half time whistle as a mix up from a long ball let in Sean Clancy to score with a neat left footed finish, sending the 400 or so away fans into delirium as they smelt the upset.
We needed a kick up the proverbial at half time and we at least came out with a better sense of control for the second 45. The visitors, though hard working, lacked any real end product but the Cobblers always looked dangerous despite fluffing our lines before finally getting the breakthrough mid way through the half.

Guttridge was again the man to edge the tie back in our favour with a rocket of a free kick that swerved in the air to leave the Fleetwood keeper motionless. That should have been that but of course it is the cup and back came the non league visitors. They were lucky to keep all eleven players on the pitch following a dreadful late challenge on Chris Dunn, the second time in a week that a booked player was glad of the referee bottling a second yellow.

After that scuffle, there was five minutes added on at the end of the game and we had to suffer through a nervous ending as Fleetwood came agonisingly close to taking us to a replay. It was harsh on the Conference North outfit who gave everything in this game and will be gutted that they couldn’t at least take us back to the Highbury Stadium.

The boot will be well and truly on the other foot in Round Two as we were drawn against Southampton in a bizarre repeat of 2004/05 where the Cobblers met the Saints in both the League Cup and FA Cup and that’s the case once again. This time we’re at home and will be the underdogs as a place in Round Three goes up for grabs. Fair to say that if we give anything like the effort the underdogs here gave we’ll stand a very good chance indeed.

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