February 2011 would become a historic month for the Cobblers in more ways than one as a playoff hunt dried up and we began to slip worryingly down towards the wrong end of the table after a series of draws.
The month began with an incredible Tuesday night at Sixfields that saw the Cobblers put six goals past Crewe on the night when Shaun Harrad made his debut in a claret shirt. Harrad had been snapped up towards the end of the January transfer window and made an immediate impact, scoring after eleven minutes to equalise an early strike from the visitors’ Ajay Leitch- Smith. From then on, everything flew in. Michael Jacobs’ free kick and a Dean Beckwith header made it 3-1 before the break and Andy Holt put us further in front just after half-time. It was five soon after when Abdul Osman found his way through the Crewe defence to rattle in number five. Billy McKay’s goal late in the day meant that we had notched six goals for the first time at Sixfields. There was a late consolation for Crewe but we had started the month in fine style, setting up a potential push up the table.
From then on, though, the month would become the beginning of the end for Sammo as circumstances continued to go against him with an unwanted record rearing its head.
The six goal hammering of Crewe led many to believe that we were in for a late charge for the playoffs and that Barnet would suffer a similar fate on the following Saturday. But the Bees had other ideas and held us to a tame 0-0 draw at Sixfields as we came crashing back to earth with a thud.
A better point was just around the corner with a sense of déjà vu about the trip to Port Vale. As in the reverse fixture at Sixfields, Abdul Osman was sent off but we once again held out for a fine draw. By the time Osman was shown his marching orders, Justin Richards had put Vale in front from the spot and Leon McKenzie had quickly equalised three minutes later and despite a backs to the walls performance from then on the Cobblers earned a good result and got seemingly back on track.
There was more drama on the Tuesday night in a 3-3 draw with Morecambe at Sixfields. The Cobblers were in front three times, through John Johnson, Kevin Thornton and a McKenzie penalty but were pegged back each and every time with Paul Mullin’s third leveller three minutes from time stunning us for a third time.
Draw number four came at home to Aldershot. Ben Tozer finished in cool fashion following a goal mouth scramble but once again we would end with just a single point with another late equaliser, this time from the Shots’ Peter Vincenti.
Another Tuesday night fixture made it five in a row with a 1-1 draw at Hereford. We would again lose a lead, given to us by Andy Holt’s thundering header, as Wade Fairhurst headed in to frustrate Sammo yet again.
It was becoming a worrying pattern that the Cobblers were dropping leads all over the place and a playoff chase was becoming a distant memory as we headed for Southend in the final game of February. It was to be another similar experience. John Johnson scored a fine goal on twenty seven minutes to give us the lead but Barry Corr struck back within minutes and it was six draws in succession to end the month, equalling the club record for consecutive draws.
That latest draw meant that by the end of February the Cobblers were in fifteenth place, eight points from a playoff berth with one game in hand but eleven clear of the bottom two. Things would change dramatically during March to give us all a finish to the season that we couldn’t possibly have imagined.