Barnet down with a whimper as Cobblers set up Rubies tie

O' Donovan...another Cobblers goal

O’ Donovan…another Cobblers goal

Northampton Town 2-0 Barnet

League Two

Saturday, April 27th 2013

It’s become a staple to see a certain set of photos and videos at this time of the year. You know the ones – supporters up and down the land with heads in their hands, tears rolling down their painted faces, weeping into their fancy dress costumes and being consoled by their fellow fan. Indeed the Cobblers have made us into those very news items over the years, most recently at Elland Road where a hardy band of souls dug deep for one last time only to see their side surrender a place in League One at the death. We suffered together in that corner of the old stadium and hoped that we wouldn’t have any feelings like that again for a long, long time.

So when Barnet came to town on Saturday looking for the victory that would ensure a fourth consecutive last day escape from the drop to the Conference you would have expected similar images all over the place when they failed to pick up anything and realised that, due to AFC Wimbledon’s 2-1 win over Fleetwood Town, this time they were down.

But what transpired was less emotional out and more physical pour out – pouring out of the gates that is, just as the Bees players came over for their consolatory greetings. The mood in the visitor’s end reflected what had just gone on in front of them. The hearty fight to the death never materialised. There was to be no more heroics, no more saviours and no more death defying and unthinkable victories that would save them this time. In fact, Barnet were relegated with a whimper and you have to feel for those supporters who appeared to have given up the ghost as soon as the second Town goal went in.

I wish them luck. It’s not easy to be relegated and particularly to the Conference where more and more it feels like a resting place for former league clubs, all battling to reclaim past glories. I don’t want to start glorifying a relegation that must have hurt so many people and would rather now focus on the brighter side of the day, that of the Cobblers’ winning end to the league campaign and what is now building up to be an exciting time with playoff tickets selling like hot cakes on the first day of release.

Town took a long, long time to get going and the first half was a bit of a haze. It felt very much like Barnet were waiting for something to happen at Kingsmeadow before making their first move. There were no scores on any doors up until the break but as soon as the whistle went for the start of the second it seemed like something clicked and you could tell that panic and realisation had finally set in with the Barnet faithful.

Just past the hour mark, word filtered through that Wimbledon had taken the lead through Gary Alexander’s header. Soon after, the Cobblers took the lead as Roy O’Donovan raced onto a through ball to coolly slot the ball into the corner of Graham Stack’s net. Home fans celebrated but there was a brief bit of hope for those to our right as Andy Mangan had equalised for Fleetwood against Wimbledon and Barnet were suddenly safe again.

Almost as quickly, though, their hopes were obliterated as Town took a 2-0 lead through a well taken Luke Guttridge shot from a fine Bayo Akinfenwa hold up and pass whilst Wimbledon won a penalty at Kingsmeadow and Jack Midson converted to seal the fate of our opposition and his former club.

Bayo had replaced David Moyo in attack in the second half and it was this change, as well as the terrific work rate and doggedness of Luke Guttridge that helped us to do our bit and at least clinch sixth place. Bayo has work to do to get back into form but his touches and all round play signals a return to form. Guttridge’s recall has arguably been one of the key elements of Town bouncing back from the home defeat to York City and giving us hope that the playoff campaign could actually end in glory.

For that to happen, we’ll need to get past a team that have done the league double over us this season in Cheltenham Town. The Rubies’ draw with Bradford City means that they dropped to fifth thanks to Burton’s good home win over champions Gillingham and they will now provide the opposition for what will be a tense and enthralling couple of games with a trip to Wembley the ultimate prize.

They’ve demonstrated in both of those victories over us that they can be resilient (coming from two down to win 3-2 at Sixfields) and determined (edging the Cobblers out 1-0 at Whaddon Road) and it’s going to be need a huge effort for us to end up walking down Wembley Way for the first time in fifteen years.

The thought of that sends shivers down spines and with tickets selling fast (only 230 Cobblers tickets for the away leg out of 1500 remain at the end of Sunday) we’re sure to have a massive backing. Thursday sees us host the first leg, another sell out for sure, whilst the return leg is at Whaddon Road on Sunday evening.

Until then, I hope you all have a good few days…from past experience the waiting is the hardest part for the playoff games and this should be no different. Get right behind the team for this and we could be etching more names into the history books to go alongside the likes of Atkins, Woody, Clarkson, Frain, Razor, Sammo, Rennie, Parrish, Hunter, Gayle, Lee, Larry, Deano Peer and Jason White White White.

Bring on the playoffs!!

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