A memorable September began at Aldershot as the Cobblers looked to finally get that first league win of the season. It looked like the wait was over when Billy McKay gave us the lead at the EBB Stadium with a finely taken goal but deep, deep into stoppage time the Shots levelled things as Ben Harding smashed the ball home right in front of some of the travelling support.
A week later and Southend were the visitors to Sixfields. That first league win was in serious jeopardy when Anthony Grant put the Shrimpers in front with a well taken volley. But Abdul Osman levelled the game and Andy Holt sealed that victory with a bullet header from a Michael Jacobs corner to put us finally on the way.
A trip to Shrewsbury was to be a tough test ahead of the trip to Liverpool and if anyone was playing for their places you would never have known it. Matt Harrold had the Shrews in front early on before Kevin Thornton grabbed an equaliser just before half-time. But a double from Jake Robinson saw us go home pointless from the New Meadow.
Then came Anfield, arguably the greatest night in the history of the club. We all know how it went down but it doesn’t hurt at all to remember once more the incredible scenes at one of the most recognisable venues in the world. With a sensational backing, we fell behind early on and thought that it was game over and that we were in for a hammering. But slowly and surely, the players found some confidence. Not only that but by half time there was genuine belief that we could pull something off or at least score a goal. That we did.
As pressure built on the Liverpool goal, a ball was pumped into the area. Kev Thornton knocked it down and McKay blasted it home right in front of us, sending grown men to tears and hoards of Cobblers into disbelief. It would somehow get better. The Cobblers didn’t just hold out for extra time, we battered a stunned Liverpool outfit and they would have been the more relieved team to get to the extra half hour.
Extra reserves of energy were found and in the first half of extra time, Courtney Herbert stormed down the right and crossed for Thornton. His shot was parried away but young Michael Jacobs swooped to score right in front of the Kop! It was getting surreal, we led at Anfield after going a goal down. There was a cruel twist to come though as Ryan Babbel equalised with a header right at the end to make it 2-2 and send the game to penalties.
Out of breath, out of finger nails but not out of the cup, there was time for one last sign of courage. Steve Guinan missed but so did David Ngog for the hosts. Thornton put in the first successful kick before Jon Jo Shelvey did the same. Liam Davis, Daniel Agger and Jacobs all kept their nerves but then we were put within one kick of glory when Nathan Eccleston hit the bar.
That left Abdul Osman to give us a moment that we will never, ever forget. He stepped up as we held our collective breath and sent the keeper the wrong way, sent us through to the Fourth Round and sent an army of 4,000 Cobblers fans absolutely insane. We shared drama, tears and disbelief that night and I will forever hold it in my heart as one of the greatest nights of my life (a non-Cobblers related moment would, of course, top it a couple of months later!)
It was tough to even think about the league again after that and the home game with Bradford welcomed home those heroes and we once again pulled something out of the bag. With the players still on a high, the Bantams were seen off in a 2-0 win for the Cobblers with Billy McKay and Ben Tozer in the goals and we were seemingly up and running for the season. How wrong we were!
It started innocuously enough with a 2-1 home reverse at the hands of high flying Chesterfield a week after Anfield, a defeat that we could begrudgingly accept despite leading at the break. But what would follow in October would change the face of the league season in ways that we would never really recover from.