Northampton Town v Stevenage
Saturday, April 30th 2011
The tension is becoming too much. For every podcast and newspaper I come across that discusses the permutations of the next couple of games or recalls last day of the season memories there’s a hint of a sickly feeling entering my body.
Why oh why could this not have been over before the last two games? Why did Aldershot have to score so late to equalise in September? Why did not one of the long drawing sequence in January and February turn into a win? It’s these questions that will haunt us should Stevenage beat us on Saturday, for that will guarantee that one way or another this relegation fight goes to the wire irrespective of what Barnet do at Accrington.
I’ve got a good feeling that Stanley will come good so that would leave us with needing a win to bring it home but there’s not a lot more trickier opposition around than Stevenage when you need three points. They themselves, probably working slightly in the favour of the Cobblers, need a win to strengthen their playoff claims which should see them come out and play a little bit at least.
Graham Westley, love him or hate him, has done a fine job in getting his side into the reckoning and will be just as desperate for the points having come this close and this far.
When Ryan Gilligan scored the only goal in a somewhat surprising and rare away win at Broadhall Way it was meant to be the Cobblers that began a run to the top seven, the start of the regular surge in the second half of the season. But those draws began, Sammo was removed and now Gary Johnson has began a surge of his own, leading us to the brink of the Conference! Time for talking about him is not now and we must trust in the players to unite with the new boss to get this result to at the very least put it in our own hands.
Johnson has been at loggerheads with Westley but stands to lose a lot more should his new band of struggling players not get the job done. Westley and Stevenage, having propelled themselves into sixth place with a much needed 1-0 win over Port Vale last weekend, face a worst case scenario of just missing out on the playoffs while Johnson has a reputation at stake and losing his own battle would mean catastrophe if Barnet come up with the goods.
The problems continue off the field with injuries forcing Byron Webster and Leon McKenzie out for the season and Chris Dunn being rushed back into goal with a protective face mask. Kevin Thornton may return after missing a couple of weeks and Marcus Hall and John Johnson may still give him extra defensive options after recovering from their problems.
With tension at the top and bottom for this one, I spoke to Stevenage fan Matthew Kett about his thoughts on the game. Matt runs popular blog FCBoro and gave his views on his team’s manager and playoff expectations…
You’ve shot up the league in recent months, what’s been the secret?
Consistency. Westley seems to have found a team and a system that has worked and stuck to it. An important player in our last 8-10 games has been Luke Foster as he has allowed the likes of John Mousinho and Michael Bostwick to come out of their shells in midfield. Mousinho in particular has been very influential.
There’s been some complaints that Stevenage have been overly physical…is that a fair reflection or is there more to it?
It seems to be the tag line that every opposition manager uses after playing us. I don’t see it to be fair. We have some strong players like Ashton, Roberts and Bostwick, but we are not a “big” team. I think the opposition just use the “physical” tag because of our direct style of play. It isn’t pretty to watch, but it is effective.
Graham Westley wasn’t a hugely popular choice of manager on his return to the club…what’s he done to change people’s minds?
He’s been successful. He was the last person that the supporters wanted to take over back in 2008, but he has built a formidable side that has been winning games consistently for nearly 3 seasons now. You can’t argue with that, even though the football isn’t the most entertaining.
If you do make it to the Playoffs, who do you fancy coming up against based on this season? And who would you be worried about?
I think the final four play-off positions will consist of ourselves, Shrewsbury, Accrington and Gillingham.
I don’t fear any of them, but would rather not have to go to Accrington again. It’s an absolute hole.
What’s your thoughts on the Playoff Final being played at Old Trafford rather than Wembley? Would it take away any of the magic for you?
It wouldn’t take any of the magic away. We’ve been to Wembley 3 times since it’s opening in 2007. We could do with a year off!
Who will be the Cobblers’ main threats this weekend?
John Mousinho and Lawrie Wilson. Mousinho has been superb recently in a more attacking midfield position. If he plays well then the team usually follows. Wilson is also in good form and will give Marcus Hall a tough afternoon at left back.
Are you ready for League One?
Yes and no. The table doesn’t lie and at the moment we are the 6th best team in this division. However, I think it would be very, very tough in League 1 if we got promoted. That’s not to say we wouldn’t be able to survive. This team is always learning and improving and some of our players like Ashton, Bostwick and Mousinho could easily play at that level.