>Northampton Town 2-4 Bury
Saturday, April 9th 2011
I woke up in a cold sweat on Sunday morning. Whether or not it had anything to do with the events of Saturday and the impending end of season run that could see the Cobblers become a non-league side had anything to do with it I don’t know but going downstairs to watch a repeat of the Football League Show in the early hours brought it all back and twice flashed up a league table I’ve not seen the likes of since my first games at the old County Ground. That was 1993 and now eighteen years later we’re in a similar predicament.
The heroics that kept us up at Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury in a come from behind, off Pat Gavin’s behind, win prompted everyone involved to think “never again”. But now in 2011 we’re poised just two points above the relegation zone with five games to go thanks to a relentless Bury side who showed no signs of compassion at all for our predicament by slamming home four goals before the hour mark at Sixfields.
The Shakers tore a fragile defence apart and never was there a worse time to come up against League Two Player of The Year Ryan Lowe and strike partner Nicky Ajose. Gary Johnson had the team prepare in the East Stand dressing room in a bid to freshen up the lead up to the game but Bury were having none of it and eased into the automatic promotion places.
Lowe was the first to strike, with a neat close range finish past substitute Steve Collis. Chris Dunn had left the pitch on a stretcher early on and we’re yet to know the full damage from his brave block on the advancing Damien Mozika.
Ajose got in on the act a few minutes later, racing on to a through ball to finish well past the Cobblers second choice stopper, whose debut was not going to be a memorable one in the slightest. A deflected shot that gave Collis no chance from Mozika’s shot made it three before the break and the gloom surrounded Sixfields once more.
Ajose would strike again early in the second half for 4-0 and with Barnet leading at Crewe and Hereford starting an excellent trouncing of Chesterfield it meant that we were staring down the barrel.
Shaun Harrad provided relief for the few that stayed behind after the fourth goal went in by providing a glimpse of what he’s capable of when put through on goal. First, a fine finish just seconds after the Bury killer strike and then a lovely lob over the keeper to make it 4-2. The second came in stoppage time though and was far too late to give renewed hope to a recovery of Newcastle v Arsenal proportions.
It means we’re in the mire again and the point in midweek becomes even more important. Burton’s games in hand are running out and defeat by two or more goals to this Bury side on Tuesday will see them replace Barnet in the bottom two following the Bee’s 2-1 home win over Crewe. They’re the ones on form, the team looking every bit like survivors. It could well come down to who’s more up to the fight between ourselves and Burton, both sinking to a dreadful conclusion.
Bury have a lot to say in this relegation matter because after Burton on Tuesday they meet Barnet on Saturday while the Cobblers face the most daunting of trips to Wycombe.
It’s starting to feel ominously like the last relegation, from League One at Elland Road, where no-one thought it was possible that we could go down in the position we were in. As hard as that was to take, if we are to go into the last day at Morecambe knowing we need to win to stay up, it will undoubtedly be the most nervous day I’ve ever had supporting the Cobblers. For those at Shrewsbury in ’93 who said they never wanted to see it again, it could be their worst nightmares returning. For everyone else, the unthinkable may yet provide us with a repeat of dark, dark days.