It had been a tough month of October so November needed to be one where we kicked on again but it wouldn’t be easy with injuries mounting and youngsters being given a place in the starting line-up on a more regular basis.
Alex Nicholls had just had his season ended during the home game with Port Vale but Louis Moult continued his claims to take his place up front as he notched the equaliser in the opening game of the month against Bradford City in the FA Cup First Round. Will Atkinson had given the Bantams the lead but Moult got on the end of a Danny East cross to head home and earn a replay.
A trip to York City was up next and it was all going downhill when Matty Blair gave the hosts the lead and then Moult was sent off for a lunge on Chris Smith. But Bayo Akinfenwa saved the day, and a point, for the Cobblers in the second half, pouncing on a mistake from City keeper Michael Ingham to hand us a point.
There followed one of the more memorable games of the season at Accrington Stanley and for Akinfenwa it would be one to treasure. The big man put Town in front but goals from George Miller and Rommy Boco turned the game in Stanley’s favour. The Cobblers weren’t done yet, though, and substitute Jake Robinson – having just returned from a loan spell at Luton Town – levelled before Bayo’s big moments came. He headed home an Emyr Huws cross to make it 3-2 and then scrambled in his third of the game to seal a first ever career hat-trick. The header for 3-2 was something of sheer beauty and the victory gave the team a much needed boost in a busy period.
The Bradford replay the following Tuesday was full of drama with the Cobblers fielding a notably youthful side featuring the likes of Lewis Hornby, Lewis Wilson and, later, Ivan Toney. Will Atkinson, scorer at Sixfields in the first game, put his side in front again but Ishmel Demontagnac equalised before the break. In the final minute of normal time, Bradford won a penalty and Nahki Wells looked certain to have put his side in the Second Round by scoring it but the Cobblers went straight up the other end to make it 2-2 through Clive Platt which sent the game to extra time. Kelvin Langmead produced a moment of magic from distance with ten minutes of extra time to go but Town couldn’t quite hold on, succumbing to a Carl McHugh header in the dying seconds which took it to penalties. That was all we had left in the tank and Langmead missed the crucial spot kick to send Bradford through but it was a magnificent effort from the young Cobblers side.
Back to league action and Wycombe Wanderers were next up at Sixfields. It was to be another good home performance as Bayo scored twice, one a penalty, before Chris Hackett made it 3-0. Wycombe grabbed one back through a spot kick of their own, converted by Joel Grant, but Town had done enough to seal an important three points.
There was another good chance for more points a few days later with Morecambe in town and the Cobblers duly obliged with another comfortable victory. It took until the 56th minute for us to get off the mark but it was Bayo who was on target once more with a header from a Ben Tozer throw in – a combination that was yielding plenty of goals already. Kevin Ellison headed into his own net from another Tozer throw before Ishmel Demontagnac’s late free kick put the seal on a 3-0 win.
After two good home win it was back to the road for the final game of the month at Oxford United. James Constable had the home side in front early on with a simple tap in and they could have had more in the first half. Clive Platt looked to have given the Cobblers a point with a goal fifteen minutes from time but John-Paul Pittman arrowed in his first goal in ten months to edge us out at the Kassam Stadium.
It had been a busy but reasonably successful month for the Cobblers who were now back in the top half and into the top ten thanks to some improving form as Christmas approached.
League Position (at the end of the month): 10th
Highlight of the month: Bayo’s hat-trick, particularly the diving header, at Accrington.
Lowlight of the month: The FA Cup penalty shoot-out defeat at Bradford.