Happy Birthday Sixfields: 18 Memories for 18 years!

Ok so this could have waited, and probably will be revised, until the 20th birthday of our beloved home of football. But I thought I would make a start and challenge myself to a run-down of the top eighteen moments of the last eighteen years at Sixfields. There’s not one memory per season whilst some seasons contain two top moments but that’s understandable given some of the more barren years during this time!

I was a wee nipper of just ten years old when the Cobblers moved from the County Ground to the ‘plush new surroundings’ at Sixfields and my interest in football was just coming to the fore of my mind so it was perfect timing. I’m happy to say that I did get to experience the wonders of the County Ground before we moved with a couple of seasons of one off games standing on the front of the family enclosure terrace training me in lower league football.

I was suitably impressed with Sixfields when it first opened after a small delay in 1994. Everything felt fresh and ready for a new beginning despite a shaky status on the pitch. Eighteen years later and that novelty has, of course, died down as much as the atmosphere inside the ground but I’m still convinced that on the right day we can make a great noise. As long as we have memories like the ones below, we’ll always know that big moments can just be around the corner and that new memories are able to be created in an instant.

I’ve opted out of putting them in order but I’m happy if you fancy debating it…the comments ‘speech bubble’ at the top of the page gives you that option should you want to try to make a top five or anything like that. Hopefully your favourite moment is in this list but if not, let me know and I’ll be happy to mention it later on.

Here we go then, my top eighteen memories of Sixfields from the first eighteen years of it being our home…

15/10/94: Cobblers 1-1 Barnet – Where it all began

After a delay extended the long anticipated move to Sixfields we finally played our first match in the new stadium as the late, great Martin Aldridge scored the very first goal at our new home. The goal won’t be the thing that people remember though with Aldridge performing a flip that Faustino Asprilla would have been proud of! Aldridge tragically died in a car crash in 2000 at the age of just twenty five but his contribution to the history of Northampton Town will forever be etched inside the walls of Sixfields Stadium.

January 1997 – Goals, goals, goals and Larry’s hat-trick!

So this is a bit of a cheating one as it includes three games but I felt it too big a period of said season not to add. With just three games played in January 1997, all of which coming at home, the Cobblers needed points to continue the path towards an unlikely playoff place under Ian Atkins. I remember at least one of these games only going ahead because Town fans went down to Sixfields to clear snow off the pitch on the morning of the match. After being Cardiff 4-0, the second fixture saw us trounce Chester City 5-1 with five different goal scorers and the month was rounded off with a 3-0 win over Hartlepool United.

Neil Grayson was, and still is, my all-time favourite player and cemented his place in Sixfields folklore by diving into the snow after scoring the fourth against Cardiff whilst he also netted a hat-trick inside just four minutes either side of half time against Hartlepool. The rest of that season is glorious history.

14/05/97: Cobblers 3-2 Cardiff – Playoff Semi-Final Second Leg

After an unexpectedly good season under Ian Atkins and with the Cobblers in their centenary year, it just felt like it was meant to end with a trip to Wembley Stadium. After a 1-0 win at Ninian Park in the First Leg of the Division Three Playoff Semi-Finals, Sixfields hosted its biggest game up until that point for the second. Ian Sampson headed Town into a 2-0 aggregate lead before Cardiff’s Jeff Eckhardt was sent off a couple of minutes later. Jason Fowler struck before half time to give the visitors hope but goals from Ray Warburton and John Gayle would send the Cobblers to Wembley on a historic night for the club. Simon Haworth added a late consolation but it was our night and the final step en route to the unforgettable win over Swansea City in the Playoff Final.

25/04/98: Cobblers 1-0 Fulham – Peer’s moment of glory

A crucial match towards the end of the 1997/98 season in which Fulham were going for automatic promotion and the Cobblers were hoping to solidify a second successful playoff campaign, this time in Division Two. Fulham brought their newly inherited ‘money bags’ of a squad to Sixfields and even installed cameras to beam the game back to Craven Cottage but it was a sell-out Sixfields who would roar Town home thanks to what is arguably Dean Peer’s finest ever individual Cobblers moment as he netted the only goal in front of the North Stand just before the hour. A week later and a point at York set up the Playoff Semi-Finals where we would meet Bristol Rovers…

13/05/98: Cobblers 3-0 Bristol Rovers – Playoff Semi-Final Second Leg

Almost a year to the day from the previous season’s win over Cardiff came what many, including myself, feel is the single greatest Sixfields night in its history. I wrote about this night in greater detail here but the condensed version is as follows: Bristol Rovers led 3-1 after the First Leg at the Memorial Stadium and were odds on favourites to reach Wembley for the Playoff Final. What followed was nothing short of extraordinary. Sixfields was absolutely buzzing like it never had been before, perhaps never will be again, from the off despite the deficit and when Carl Heggs scored to put us one up on the night we believed. Ian Clarkson hit the second on the hour (what WAS he doing up there?!) and Ray Warburton rose majestically to head in the goal that made Sixfields shake to its very core. For passion, pride, desire, hunger and a sheer belief from everyone in that stadium on that night that night will be very, very hard to match.

15/09/98: Cobblers 2-0 West Ham United – “I only weigh Freestone”

A few months after the bedlam of the Bristol Rovers game and having had a summer to take in the fact that we missed out on promotion (beaten 1-0 by Grimsby Town) that time around came half of a proper cup upset. West Ham came to town with a strong squad for the Second Round of the League Cup including the likes of Shaka Hislop, Frank Lampard, Ian Wright and John Hartson. But the Cobblers put in a gutsy performance to beat their Premier League opposition thanks to two goals, one a towering header and the other a scrambled effort, from Chris Freestone. In those days there were two legs to these Second Round games and Town held out at Upton Park until Lampard scored far too late to make a difference and progressed into a tie with Tottenham Hotspur in Round Three.

09/10/99: Cobblers 3-0 Torquay – Big ‘Nev can’t be bothered

Memorable not only for being the first match in the post-Atkins era (the manager who had taken Town to Wembley twice was sacked after relegation and a poor start to life back in Division Three) but also for the fact that Torquay had THREE players sent off. Not only that big legendary goalkeeper Neville Southall was plying his trade for Torquay on this day and after three reds for his side and three goals conceded he looked like he wanted to just slump on the floor a la Kim Book. Brian Healy, Robbie Herrera and Lee Russell were the unfortunate ones to be shown their marching orders with John Frain, Tony Battersby and Ian Sampson getting the goals for The Cobblers.

12/08/00: Cobblers 1-1 Brentford – Forrester’s wonder goal

The opening day of the 2000/01 season saw the Cobblers back in Division Two having finished brilliantly to earn automatic promotion back in May. A new look side took to the field and a moment of magic from Jamie Forrester woke Sixfields up from its summer break. A ball over the top was brought down by the diminutive striker and he proceeded to wallop it with a swing of the right boot that was as sweet a strike as we’d scored at the new home. If it wasn’t for Ivar Ingimarsson’s late leveller it would have been a perfect start to what was to be a difficult season for the Cobblers.

19/02/02: Cobblers 2-1 Peterborough United – Forrester downs the Posh

One of only two wins over the old enemy at Sixfields in its lifetime (the other coming in the Football League Trophy) came in this season of survival under Kevan Broadhurst in Division Two. Jimmy Bullard put Posh in front with a stunning free kick after just two minutes but goals from Sam Parkin and Jamie Forrester turned the game on its head before half-time and a solid second half confirmed the first ever Sixfields win over ‘Boro.

25/01/04: Cobblers 0-3 Manchester United – Ronaldo struts his stuff

When the FA Cup Fourth Round draw was made in January 2004, the Cobblers were in deadlock with Rotherham United and were about to face the Millers in a replay at Millmoor. When we heard that the winner of that game would take on Manchester United at home it immediately gave us impetus to go to the then-Championship side and win. And win we did, coming from behind in thrilling fashion to set up this memorable afternoon at Sixfields. The first meeting between the sides since the famous 8-2 defeat in the 1970 FA Cup ended predictably with a United win but featured Cobblers keeper Lee Harper saving a Diego Forlan penalty after two minutes, a young Cristiano Ronaldo strutting his stuff and a good fight from a confident group of Town players. I remember queuing for six hours for a ticket to this and the atmosphere of the day was special enough to make it worthwhile. A day when the loyal Cobblers faithful were rewarded even if we did lose out in the match itself.

01/05/04: Cobblers 3-2 Bury – We only need ten men!

The final home game of that epic 2003/04 season saw the Cobblers face a must win encounter with Bury as we chased a playoff place in League Two. Colin Calderwood had turned around the fortunes of Town since being named manager the previous October and along with that cup run had brought us to within touching distance of the top seven. Bury didn’t read the script and took the lead through John Cartledge before Martin Smith equalised. The Shakers went into the break on top, though, thanks to Dave Nugent’s goal and looked to be comfortable when Eric Sabin was harshly sent off for the Cobblers. But Marc Richards set up a thrilling finish by levelling and Derek Asamoah broke through as time stood still to fire in the winner with fifteen minutes to go. One the more forgotten games but one that will stick with me for the emotions around that season and the roller coaster ride that was summed up in one manic afternoon. Town would go on to miss out in the playoffs after more drama over two legs against Mansfield Town. That story is for another time.

29/04/06: Cobblers 1-0 Chester – Promotion finally sealed

An unprecedented move for Sixfields for this crunch final game of the season saw home fans allowed seats in the away end as all four sides of Sixfields was draped in claret for the conclusion to a three year attempt to escape League Two. Two failed playoff campaigns made the outpouring of emotion on the final whistle that bit more special as the Cobblers sealed an automatic promotion place with a tight win over Chester thanks to Scott McGleish’s goal in the first half. The final whistle saw a pitch invasion, speeches from within the tunnel area and a genuine party atmosphere with the Cardoza family completing their first mini project of promotion.

09/04/07: Cobblers 2-1 Scunthorpe United – Party poopers!

A coming together of Cobblers fans, a late winner and a party that was well and truly pooped were the key ingredients for this one with Scunthorpe coming to Sixfields looking to earn the win they needed for promotion from League One. Before anything could happen on the pitch, though, Cobblers fans banded together to march from the town centre to the ground to protest against the council’s delayed plans for redevelopment of the stadium and to push a quick decision on the matter. Alex Pearce put Town in front early on in the game with Billy Sharp levelling and giving the away fans hope of celebration. But deep into stoppage time, Bradley Johnson swooped to win it for a Cobblers side who would go on to steer well clear of safety in League One.

15/03/08: Cobblers 4-2 Swansea – Six goal thriller edged by Town

Swansea came into this as League One leaders with the Cobblers looking for an unexpected playoff push under Stuart Gray. This was arguably the best squad that we had assembled in many a year with young blood like Mark Bunn and Luke Chambers lining up next to top drawer signings Mark Little, Daniel Jones, Bayo Akinfenwa and Poul Hubertz and after games like this there was sense of genuine hope for the future. Hubertz scored twice in a superb first half that saw us 3-0 up inside twenty five minutes. Jason Scotland made it 3-1 before the break but Danny Jackman had us safely home with a Cobblers fourth. Scotland scored again late on but it wasn’t enough on a top afternoon for Gray’s troops.

25/11/08: Cobblers 2-1 Leeds United – Bignalls’ big moment

Leeds United would be a thorn in our side in the 2007/08 season for the most part with an 5-2 FA Cup replay win and a 3-0 win at Elland Road that would see us relegated on the final day of the season but this was one of the better nights of that particular campaign. Liam Davis fired Town in front before Jermaine Beckford pulled it back to 1-1. But then came a moment that young loanee Nicholas Bignall would never forget as he rose to meet a late corner to nod in the biggest goal of his career to that date and to create a much needed positive memory from the 2008/09 season

01/02/11: Cobblers 6-2 Crewe Alexandra – Six-Fields!

This was one of the nights where simply everything went in and one of the more extraordinary in Sixfields history. Ian Sampson was attempting to turn around a poor first half of the season that had been partially excused by the win at Anfield in September and was still trying to put together a run of form. This night was completely out of character as Crewe, going well in the league, were completely blown out of the water. Ajay Leitch-Smith actually put Crewe in front before Shaun Harrad levelled after Michael Jacobs’ free kick snuck in ere was no looking back. Dean Bowditch headed in, Andy Holt made it four and Abdul Osman’s long range effort made it completely safe at five.

Up until this point, Town had never scored six at Sixfields but Billy McKay netted that landmark goal for 6-1 before a late consolation from Crewe’s Antoni Sarcevic. The victory would put us into the highest league position that we would be at for the rest of the season as a run of draws, Sammo’s sacking and Gary Johnson’s flirt with relegation had us all on the edge of our seats…and the edge of the pitch…

22/04/11: Cobblers 2-2 Rotherham United – Enter the wheelchair man!

When Rotherham United came to visit on Good Friday 2011, Town were in desperation land. Sammo had been replaced by Gary Johnson and the former Bristol City man had failed to turn the fortunes around enough to avoid a battle against the drop. 2-0 down at half-time and there seemed no way back in this clash with a Millers side chasing the playoffs but Leon McKenzie made it 2-1 to set up a finish that will alway be remembered for the celebration of one man.

Liam Davis got the equaliser in stoppage time, sending Sixfields delirious and for one individual it was too much. Derry Felton proceeded to invade the pitch alone in his wheelchair and went from the half way line all the way to the North Stand to celebrate. It was one of those moments where you just can’t help but smile and know that this could only happen in the lower reaches of English football!

06/04/12: Cobblers 2-1 Oxford United – That Good Friday feeling again

A year on from the manic scenes against Rotherham came another late, late show that will take a while to leave our collective minds. Town were again embroiled in danger at the wrong end of League Two and faced a nervous encounter with Oxford United at Sixfields on Good Friday.

Luke Guttridge put the Cobblers in front but Cristian Montano made it 1-1 and that was how it stood up until injury time. Then, a long ball over the top was chased down by loanee Brett Williams…somehow he caught up to it, cut inside and curled in a beautiful shot that crept into the corner of the net to spark wild celebrations as Aidy Boothroyd’s men made a giant step towards safety.

So there you have it – Eighteen fine memories of Sixfields Stadium. As for the future, it’s still all a bit up in the air regarding redevelopment but whatever happens its our home and the place most of you reading this will go every other Saturday. There’s new great moments just around the corner and who knows when the next snow dive, pitch invasion, last gasp winner or stunning score line will come from.

I hope this has brought a lot back for people reading this and also that I’ve not missed anything glaringly obvious. If I have, feel free to slate me in the comments section!

Quite aptly, we take on the very first Sixfields opponents, Barnet, on Friday night at Underhill and a preview for that one should be here very soon.

Here’s to many more memories!

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