Relief. Utter, utter relief. I’m fortunate enough to have never truly felt what relegation to non-league, or the threat of it, feels like. When I first starting going to the old County Ground we were in a similar position to this with the only difference being that the players on our books weren’t expected to be promotion candidates. I was too young to truly feel the emotions of the dog fight back then but around eighteen years on and a goal against Rotherham in the last seconds saw me let out a groan out that made my fiancé believe that we’d conceded again and not equalised.
The guilt I feel at not being at the games these days is in a way justified by the fact that I still feel things so much and have to suffer from radio commentary or rolling score tickers that will tell me whether my team are going to be still in the league next season. It’s a kind of punishment that I’m more emotionally attached to the club than ever before despite being away from the games themselves but nothing could prepare me for that moment last night.
Overdramatic you might say this is but I genuinely was close to letting out a tear of relief when Davis’ goal went in. Relegation from any league is horrible but from this one it’s double that of the panic running through me when we drifted out of League One at Elland Road. I have real sympathy for Stockport fans heading to Port Vale today knowing that if they don’t win they’re the first to fall through the trap door and it’s all because of this one moment at Sixfields.
After a first half where the Cobblers were second best, Nicky Law’s shot deflecting heavily enough off Paul Rodgers for it to be called an own goal and Ryan Taylor doubling the lead in stoppage time, it seemed all hope was lost. It wasn’t that Rotherham seemed particularly impressive but more that the Cobblers were just not up to matching them.
Cue Gary Johnson throwing caution to the wind. On came strikers Leon McKenzie and Michael Uwesu for defender Byron Webster and unfortunate midfielder Rodgers. The gung ho approach took time to get going but when it did, Claret and White Night ignited with it.
Shaun Harrad fired over from ten yards but soon after the deficit was halved as McKenzie prodded the ball home following a goal mouth scramble and it was game on. With the Cobblers’ recovery from two down in the reverse fixture back in November, the Millers must have been anxious that their playoff hopes would be hit by another turn around.
It didn’t seem like their fears would be realised as corner after corner, attack after attack rained down on Jamie Annerson’s goal. The Millers’ defence cleared off the line and despite a hearty and admirable effort from the Cobblers home support it just didn’t look like coming.
Then it happened. Deep into stoppage time, the ball somehow found its way to Liam Davis. The ground held their collective breaths and Davis smashed the ball home. Emotions poured out of the stands and onto the pitch as a mini pitch invasion was sparked. A legend in the making led the charge with an unknown fan in a wheel chair joining the celebrations on the hallowed turf. Twitter instantly woke up with #ntfcwheelchairfan tweeted double the amount of #ntfcfightback or #liamdavis.
There was no time for much more and the Cobblers had another point towards the ultimate target of safety. If it means we continue this sequence to twenty games without a win (it’s now seventeen) by the time the season ends then as long as we’ve got enough points to survive then I really don’t mind one jot.
Ironically it’s now over to last season’s hero Bayo Akinfenwa whose Gillingham side meet Barnet at the Priestfield today. If the Gills lose that one then the Cobblers’ result last night looks less impressive with a Bees win taking them to within a point of us. So Bayo, do your business big man!
We also have to keep an eye out on Burton of course as they slipped below us. The Brewers are at Aldershot tomorrow so we’re hoping for the league’s two longest unbeaten runs, the Gills’ and the Shots’, to continue. If they don’t then the fears will double up again ahead of the crunch game at Stockport on Monday. County can prolong their stay in the Football League by winning at Vale Park today and that would mean that they’ll be even more up for Monday’s tussle. We wait and see what comes out of this Saturday but either way it’s going to be another nervy one.
You get the feeling that all is far from over and that something else is bound to happen this afternoon so for now it’s recovery time for everyone at the club. It would be nice to have a week’s break now but it’s straight back into it unfortunately and I’ll be very surprised if my hands contain any finger nails at all by close of play this Monday!