Dagenham and Redbridge 0-1 Northampton
***The below match report was kindly provided by my buddy Jamie, the honorary Cobbler, who was in attendance last night. You can follow him on Twitter @jamesfarrier or visit his blog, The Backpass, should you so wish!***
A thrashing of your local rivals, a stupendous second-half comeback or an unexpected underdog victory over champions-elect are all results that stick fondly in the memory. Sometimes, however, it’s the spirit of forcing through a chilly Tuesday night one-nil over relegation candidates at Victoria Road in East London that can make you realise what matters most for a season campaign: the result. The Cobblers have made a big statement in the case for retaining their place in next season’s Football League.
That this was the rearrangement of the winter fixture turned the psychology of the game on its head; Northampton entered the game fully into their stride of Aidy Boothroyd’s revival, having traded places with a Dagenham and Redbridge side now occupying their opponent’s former position at the very bottom of League Two and looking doomed to dropping back to the Conference.
Northampton, unchanged again from victory against Aldershot, asserted their newfound confidence and joined-up team ethic in the opening 20 minutes, applying controlled attacks with a fine mixture of Bayo Akinfenwa’s aerial threat and sterling work by Michael Jacobs and Toni Brito da Silva on the left and right flanks respectively. Silva, in particular, imposed himself with a series of darting runs, tenacious dribbling and some sound efforts at goal.
The Daggers, however, were not a team to roll over and found their way into the game, eventually producing an excellent fingertip save from Matt Duke on the stroke of half time.
The second half saw Town produce the same drive, albeit with the nagging feeling that shots on target weren’t forthcoming. Eventually, though, the Cobblers found the breakthrough when Jacobs’ blocked shot saw the ball break loose for an unmarked Silva to slot cooly home from the right of the six yard box for his first goal with the club.
Silva’s skills were only impeded by a touch of selfishness as he failed to provide the correct deliveries for the waiting Bayo and Guttridge in the centre, often losing possession unnecessarily, and his substitution following the goal was the right decision. Bayo was also withdrawn for Webster to shore up the defence, leading to another tense finish that saw Daggers pile forward. It all came down to another hearts-in-mouths finish with another fine save by Duke at the very death, when Josh Parker really could have done better with a low header from point blank range.
The Cobblers held on and the visiting support clambered around the entrance to the tunnel to give the players and manager a triumphant exit. It was no less than the 669 traveling fans had given for the previous 90 minutes, producing a terrific voice to make the claret proud. I’ve been among my fair share of barmy army away visits, but tonight’s support was one of the best. It was a stark reminder of what fans can do for a side when they need the positivity and encouragement to see a game like this through to a winning conclusion.
These three precious points sees us up to 19th, with a game in hand over those around us, and with discernible daylight emerging between us and the relegation zone. It’s by no means certain safety, but this could be the sort of result that will be remembered if we manage to make an effort of properly consolidating our league status rather than narrowly surviving by the skin of our teeth.