That winning feeling!

Nicholls…winner

Northampton Town 2-1 Rotherham United

League Two

Tuesday, August 21st 2012

We had no right to win this – we really didn’t! The Cobblers came up against title favourites Rotherham United on Tuesday night and came away with a 2-1 victory that will do wonders for the spirit of the team, supporters and the believing manager of our club for the season ahead. Not because we played wondrous football (we didn’t) and not because we dominated the game (we definitely didn’t) but because we grafted out a stunning victory from nowhere by defending well, keeping strong as a unit and having a sheer desire to win with a bit of luck along the way.

This was the first I’d seen of the new look Cobblers and after sitting through plenty of dismal performances last season it was refreshing to see us standing up to a side hotly tipped to be promoted to League One come May. On this showing they will certainly be up there as they possess a strong mix of characters that opened up the Cobblers on numerous occasions and who could well have won the game this evening.

The Cobblers looked completely transformed from last season, particularly at the back. In front of the outstanding Lee Nicholls in goal, John Johnson, Kelvin Langmead, David Artell and Joe Widdowson were solid as a unit and that’s a great base for a successful side. Langmead in particular seems like he’s had a top summer work out and is in better shape than ever before having been handed the captaincy by Aidy Boothroyd. Widdowson is a left-back of good quality and when you look at last season’s alternatives in that position you see an immediate difference and improvement.

Of the other new recruits, Chris Hackett stood out and opened the scoring with a blistering left footed shot after cutting inside from a quickly taken throw in from Alex Nicholls. The goal came after a decent opening from the Cobblers who had begun the game in confident fashion.

Rotherham came back into it as the game wore on, though, and were rewarded for an extended spell of pressure when Ben Pringle’s deflected shot flew into the corner of the Town net. It came seconds after Luke Guttridge had seen a glorious chance go begging by slamming a clear effort from inside the eighteen yard box down the throat of visiting keeper Scott Shearer.

Town really needed the half-time whistle and would have been happy when it came around with nothing more added to the score line. The visitors were looking stronger and stronger as the half went on and looked a real threat coming forward.

The second half saw a slow start turn into Rotherham domination for some periods and they looked overwhelmingly like they would be the ones to take home all three points with chances going begging for Kieran Agard in particular.

With ten minutes to go we were talking about taking a point and that we would have taken it if we had the offer, such was the pressure from Rotherham. But then came a real Sixfields moment to savour.

A Rotherham corner was cleared and Chris Hackett fed the ball to Clive Platt who in turn found Alex Nicholls roving forward. Nicholls composed himself and found himself one on one with Shearer in the Millers goal. Sixfields held its breath as Nicholls rounded the keeper and slotted in an extraordinary winner from out of nowhere!

Rotherham will undoubtedly be in the promotion mix come the final reckoning in League Two this season. Steve Evans is the only blot on their copy book and continues to wind up anyone who doesn’t follow his side. Constant berating of the fourth official, hands waving at every decision and general anger makes him a prime target for the pantomime villain role and tonight he played his part very well indeed. That made the late winner from Nicholls that bit sweeter as the Cobblers made it four points from two games.

It’s far too early to be shouting our mouths off that we’re ‘in the top seven’ of course but just to have this utter joy of winning a game, to feel the emotions of a late win and not come away dejected and wondering where the next victory is coming from is more than enough for now. This Cobblers side has transformed themselves from a weak, walk over of a side to a strong unit who can grind out results and I don’t care if it’s not pretty.

This winning feeling is hard to beat and however we get it is the right way as far as I’m concerned!

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