Capital One Cup First Round
Tuesday, August 14th 2012
It’s a set of ideals that the Cobblers have been lacking in recent campaigns – the rules as to how to kick off a season perfectly. But last night in front of an unknowing crowd at Sixfields the 2012/13 season got off to the start that we’ve been craving for many, many years. The only minor problem with the victory over last season’s League Cup finalists Cardiff City was that it was indeed a cup match and didn’t have the effect of handing us three points. Weigh that up with the fact that we’re going into the start of the league season on Saturday already in Round Two of the cup – we find out our opposition at around 12:30pm this afternoon – and I think we’ll accept it.
I never expected it. Not just the win but the anticipation, thrill and joy of it all coming streaming back to me. I’ve been intensely caught up in the Olympics, as most of us have, over the past couple of weeks and I think I’d trained my body to sit through streams of pre-season friendly results with a shrug of the shoulder rather than panic about what might or might not be worrying us during warm up games. So I was going into last night with a sense of calm. It felt beforehand very much like a friendly match similar to those played against Derby, West Ham and Spurs ‘elevens’ over the past couple of weeks.
It took just four minutes for me to realise that the season had, actually, began. My reaction to Cardiff’s first goal – a penalty converted by one of their more experienced players on this night Heidar Helguson – was not one of shrugging shoulders standard but more of “hold on, this means something.
I was into this now. I admit I had needed longer than usual to get ready for the season to start after the quick turnaround from the Olympics but it was like myself from years before came and slapped me in the face with a wet fish and told me to wake up and smell the beauty of the football season coming around again.
Luckily that meant that I was ready for the joy of what was to come as David Artell marked an extraordinary few days for him by heading in the equaliser on his Cobblers debut. On Friday he was perhaps preparing to be a part of Port Vale’s squad in this competition but by Tuesday night he had a whole new band of followers and what a way to endear himself to the claret faithful.
The fact that former Posh keeper Joe Lewis was guarding the Cardiff goal made it that much sweeter as the Cobblers peppered his goal with the words ‘flapping’ being branded across the commentary. The winner came from another ball into the box with another new boy netting his first goal. Alex Nicholls rose to nod in at the far post and the Cobblers were on the way to yet another upset in a competition we are starting to call our own in terms of upsets.
Only Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton have soundly beaten us over the last couple of seasons in the League Cup with Cardiff set to join the list of Bolton, Brighton, Reading, Liverpool and Ipswich by not posing too much of a threat to the Town goal. It seemed that we were the ones more likely to add to the score line in fact with late chances for Kelvin Langmead and Nicholls again.
It says a lot for rookie goalkeeper Dean Snedker who at 17 years old came in to fill the void left by Wigan’s refusal to allow permission to Lee Nicholls to play in the competition for us. Snedker wasn’t mentioned too much and that’s a sign that he did his job solidly. Aidy Boothroyd stressed before the match that sometimes you have to throw someone in at the deep end to see what they’re made of and Snedker answered him in fine fashion.
As well as positive debuts for Alex Nicholls, Artell, Chris Hackett, Ishmel Demontagnac and Clive Platt there was a cameo from a man who could be a key ace up our sleeve in Henoc Mukendi and a towering performance from new left back Joe Widdowson. Compare that to those making debuts at this time last season particularly that of poor Ashley Corker, and we have a lot to build on.
Of course we have to curb the enthusiasm a little bit. Rochdale is a much bigger game on Saturday and the opening month of the season is perhaps the toughest of starts we’ve had for a while.
All eyes will well and truly be on that now but I’m very happy to finally realise that football is back!
League Cup Second Round Seedings (draw this afternoon at 12:30pm)
Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Reading, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Watford, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Unseeded: Barnsley, Bradford City, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Coventry City, Crawley Town, Crewe Alexandra, Colchester United, Doncaster Rovers, Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Morecambe, MK Dons, Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, Oxford United, Peterborough United, Plymouth Argyle, Preston North End, Scunthorpe United, Sheffield Wednesday, Stevenage, Swindon Town, Tranmere Rovers, Walsall.