After defeat at one promotion rival, Gillingham, at the end of January, the Cobblers travelled to another at the start of February with Rotherham the destination this time. The Millers were on a three game losing run going into the game but that was ended when Daniel Nardiello’s spot kick was added to by Ben Pringle and David Noble late in the game to give them all three points. Clarke Carlisle got one back in stoppage time for a Cobblers side struggling to find momentum away from Sixfields.
We were still well involved in the running for the top seven despite the back-to-back defeats and Sixfields was starting to become a fortress with Rochdale the next visitors. Clive Platt headed in from a Chris Hackett cross to give the Cobblers the lead but Jason Kennedy had ‘Dale, back on form after the return of Keith Hill as manager a few weeks earlier, on level terms. The scores didn’t remain level for long, though, as Kelvin Langmead grabbed the latest in a line of goals by poking in from close range. With fifteen minutes to go, Chris Hackett was tripped and Bayo Akinfenwa stepped up to seal the points.
There was an interesting sub-plot to the next fixture, away at Southend, with the Shrimpers’ mercurial talent Bilel Mohsni returning to the side for the first time in nine months. The controversial figure was always likely to leave his mark on the game and it proved to be in our favour when he was sent off half an hour in, this after new loan signing Roy O’Donovan had given the Cobblers the lead. There was never going to be a better chance to get back on track away from home for Town but Matty Lund equalised for the ten men mid-way through the second half. We looked to have let a massive chance go until that man Langmead once again headed in a stoppage time goal to nick a crucial victory and we were back in the playoff places having been knocked out of them in midweek thanks to others playing when we didn’t.
Next up was another away day, this time at AFC Wimbledon on a chilly Tuesday night. The game was delayed when the stadium’s lights went out just fifteen minutes before kick-off and when it did get going the Cobblers were slow out of the blocks. Alan Bennett gave the home side the lead as they looked to leap off the foot of the table but after a second half reshuffle by Aidy Boothroyd Town got back into gear and won a penalty through O’Donovan being brought down by veteran keeper Neil Sullivan. Akinfenwa stepped up to coolly slot in the spot kick and to earn a point, though Chris Hackett could easily have won it late on.
Still, four points from two away games was a big improvement and now we had to back it up at Sixfields again with two home games seeing out the month. First up came Plymouth Argyle and in a tight contest, Clive Platt got the only goal after a mistake from Jake Cole allowed him to scramble the ball home.
Bristol Rovers provided the last opposition of February and it was a similar, if more dramatic, story for this one with Town leaving it very, very late to win it through a neatly taken Ben Harding chip which meant that it was seven victories in a row at Sixfields.
With just eleven games to go we were right in the mix for the top three, sitting just a point away from Burton Albion going into the crucial month of March.
League Position (at the end of the month): 4th
Highlight of the month: Another Langmead moment at Southend, scoring the winner in stoppage time.
Lowlight of the month: The only defeat of the month, 3-1 at Rotherham United.