As the Cobblers entered September 2009, Stuart Gray was well and truly on his last legs. The month would see a managerial change, a shocker at Meadow Lane and the start of a Cobblers legend stamping his mark on the team.
Gray earned himself a small stay of execution with a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory at League One Wycombe Wanderers as an entertaining 2-2 draw ended with the Cobblers going through on penalties. Wanderers managed to miss all three of their spot kicks to help us on our way through to Round Two.
But Gray wouldn’t last much longer. The home league game with Barnet on the following Friday night sealed his fate. Despite Ben Marshall continuing his early good form after joining on loan, Barnet went top of the table by striking three times in twenty second half minutes through Ahmed Deen, Paul Furlong and John O’Flynn.
Gray was sacked in the days following that defeat and his then assistant Ian Sampson took charge, temporarily at first. His first mammoth task was to try and sort out a disorganised and demoralised team for a trip to big spenders Notts County.
Alex Dyer gave us a surprise lead at Meadow Lane but then it all went wrong in front of a dejected away following, many of whom left before the full time whistle. County hit back and were 2-1 up by the break through Matt Ritchie and Lee Hughes. The home side went on to score five with Hughes completing his hat-trick and Ritchie getting a second to completely obliterate the Cobblers. By the time Andy Holt scored a consolation to make it 5-2 the game was long over and there weren’t many of our fans left to see it!
The performance was at least a lot, lot better the following week in Sammo’s first home game in charge and despite Rochdale coming away from Sixfields with a 2-1 win there were signs of better things to come. Ryan Gilligan got the Cobblers goal.
A 3-0 defeat at Shrewsbury was another depressing afternoon though and it was looking gloomy for Sammo’s chances of taking the job full time but there was to be a break through in the final game of the month at home to Rotherham.
Ryan Gilligan hit the opening goal and had us in front by half-time before the emergence of young Courtney Herbert saw him bag his first ever senior goal to make it 2-0 just after the break. The tide was turning and Ian Sharps’ own goal all but sealed the points for the Cobblers with Adam Le Fondre’s late penalty not enough for the Millers.
Sammo had given himself some leverage and was just a couple of weeks away from getting the job full time. After a dodgy start to 2009/10, things were starting to look up!