>Stockport County 2-2 Northampton Town
Monday, April 25th 2011
The Cobblers were never going to be the most popular team yesterday with the rest of the country appearing to will Stockport on to a big win that would create the most unlikely of chances to save their skins. All the talk was that the Great Escape would be back on should the Hatters win at Edgeley Park but, in another roller coaster of emotions, the Cobblers recorded a third straight 2-2 draw to keep the nerves jangling and the run of winless games going to eighteen.
Barnet’s draw, by the same score line, means it’s as you were apart from the fact that Lincoln are a bit closer to the drop following another defeat, this time at he hands of Cheltenham who are now surely safe.
Gary Johnson had to make changes once again with Byron Webster added to the injury list and Ben Tozer coming in at the back rather than midfield as he started Friday’s game. Paul Rodgers began at the back meaning Guillem Bauza was pushed to the right hand side of midfield and Leon McKenzie started up front with Shaun Harrad.
Bauza would give the Cobblers the dream start. Only two minutes were on the clock when a cross from McKenzie was bundled home by the Spaniard and after falling behind in a dreadful first half on Friday, it was a crucial moment in getting our noses in front.
The first half continued cagily and County would slowly get into it, creating a couple of half chances before equalising mid-way through the half. Adam Griffin found space to get on the end of a cross and Paul Rodgers, scorer of another own goal on Good Friday, was unlucky again to be credited as Griffin scored via the former Arsenal man.
The Cobblers were on the back foot and only the offside flag denied Anthony Elding an equaliser a couple of minutes later. Leon McKenzie then had to leave the game after half an hour through injury, Andy Holt replacing him. It’s not know whether McKenzie will play again this season and with his contract up we have to hope that it’s not his final game for the club.
Half-time came at a good time for Town and a regrouping was definitely in order.
The break freshened up County as well though and soon after James Walker shot side and Steve Collis had to match a good effort from Matt Mainwaring and tip the ball over the bar.
The tide turned again though. Bauza volleyed over before Harrad struck the post. It was anyone’s game and the nerves of everyone present and listening at home were stretched to their limits.
But with ten minutes to go, we thought we had it. Andy Halls brought down Guillem Bauza in the area. As the last man he was lucky to only see yellow but at the time our thoughts were solely on the upcoming spot kick. Harrad confidently stepped up and blasted the ball home. 2-1 and all we had to do was hang on and we would be sealing that first win in eighteen.
We had to do it without Collis, who had been hauled off (another injury victim to add to the list) and Paul Walker was brought on for his debut in goal, a baptism of fire if ever I heard of one
Cure more drama and a significant moment in the season. County were relegated as things stood. But they somehow earned a stay of execution when substitute Greg Tansey produced a goal of the season candidate with a scorching effort from all of 35 yards that beat Walker. The young keeper had no chance. The Cobblers had to settle for another draw.
Barnet’s lives are hanging in the balance just as much as ours and their draw at home to Oxford keeps them tight on our heels, just a point behind. As long as we match their results for the two remaining games then we’re safe but to go to a final day would be absolutely agonising. Shrewsbury in ‘93 will more than likely come up in the next week should Stevenage prove too tough on Saturday and we may yet need the same sort of luck that saw Pat Gavin’s backside become thing of folklore.
The spirit is there, that’s for sure and we now need to match that with defensive quality because scoring goals isn’t the problem. Harrad, Bauza and McKenzie, if he returns, all have goals in them but if we can just shore up at the back for two games then we’ll be safe.
Sounds easy, but something tells me that this time next week we’ll be talking about another painful last day of the season ahead.