It’s never straight forward following the Cobblers, particularly at this time of year and last night was no different as I sat perched on the edge of my seat suffering the torture that is radio commentary of a Northampton Town football game. The Cobblers somehow survived a flurry of late corners and free kicks to record what could be the most telling of all victories in the run in.
The fact that we’ve gone to a tough place in Blundell Park with the hosts battling and scrapping for every point on a windy Friday night with a passionate home support shows some serious mettle despite the home side being reduced to ten men for over half an hour. Grimsby will feel very hard done by and you have to feel a bit for the team who we pipped to promotion in 2006 and who are now desperately four points from safety with Cheltenham, their nearest rivals, holding two games in hand.
The Mariners had come into the game off the back of a 4-1 drubbing at leaders Rochdale but boasted home wins over promotion hopefuls Bournemouth and Shrewsbury in recent weeks. This was never going to be as straight forward as league positions would suggest.
It was, however, the Cobblers who took the lead on eighteen minutes when Liam Davis staked his claim for a new contract once again by finishing well from the left hand side. Davis is one of those looking to prove himself to Sammo and after a poor performance at Lincoln this puts him right back on track to still be with us next season.
Davis would come close again before Grimsby levelled the game and built up momentum for the second half when Michael Coulson beat Jason Steele from just inside the area to give the hosts parity for half time.
The Cobblers went close to restoring a lead when Davis once again came to within whiskers of making it 2-1 when he picked up Billy McKay’s pass to slam a shot off the post.
Our cause was greatly helped a few minutes later though when Grimsby’s Oliver Lancashire was given his marching orders for an elbow on Billy McKay. The game was still in the balance though with both sides looking like they could snatch the winner.
It was Sammo’s men who, crucially, got the final goal of the game though when Luke Guttridge, recalled to the starting eleven, put in a good cross that Bayo Akinfenwa rose to meet and head us back in front with a quarter of the game to go.
The final ten or fifteen minutes saw Grimsby piling on the pressure and you just wanted to turn off the radio but couldn’t. Corner after corner seemed to reign down on us before an injury time free kick just outside the area was dealt with. You started to think of Ryan Gilligan’s late, late goal in 2006 and whether the Mariners would gain revenge but mercifully it was over following four minutes of time added on and we had a precious three points before everyone else plays this afternoon.
That’s an impressive seven wins from nine away games in 2010 and promotion form indeed. It’s also a welcome relief that our season wasn’t seriously damaged at Easter after the last couple of years that included a damaging double defeat last season to put us closer to relegation and a defining 2-1 loss to Nottingham Forest at Sixfields the season before.
The Easter period has started in dramatic style and we must not keep all fingers crossed that the likes of Bury (at Notts County), Chesterfield (home to Rochdale), Aldershot (away at Macclesfield), Rotherham (home to Port Vale) and Bournemouth (home to Bradford) drop points this afternoon.
If even two of them don’t win, the winnable home game with Torquay United on Monday gives us a huge chance to take another step towards the most unlikely of playoff finishes.