Northampton Town 1-0 Fleetwood Town
Saturday, November 16th 2013
There are moments in football that can, in one second, take away weeks of trauma on the pitch, wipe away the misery of late defeats and bring the sort of relief that reignites a season. This afternoon the Cobblers got just that. A stalemate was broken with one stroke of a football and the anguish felt by us all over the last few weeks was released in an outpouring of emotion not seen in a stadium containing Cobblers fans since the playoff semi-finals last season.
Luke Norris, the man who is seemingly on a one man mission to save us from the abyss, scored the wonderful, beautiful goal that bagged us three points on an afternoon of few clear cut chances as the top and bottom sides in League Two cancelled each other out. It was a true ‘Sixfields Moment’ – not one that will necessarily stand out in our history but definitely one that will linger in the memory banks for many a year.
Its importance cannot be underestimated. Not only did it mean that we beat the league leaders coming into the day but also gave us a lift that our battling, gritty and determined performance deserved. In the league table, too, two points more than we could have had if the game had ended 0-0 keep us right in touch with the rest of the pack where we could have still be lingering.
Sixfields was a nervous place to be and everyone knew that this would give the new look starting eleven, again containing four loanees, a much sterner test than Bishop’s Stortford did last Sunday. The Cod Army were confident enough but in the early goings it was the Cobblers pressing hard for an opening.
After David Ball had smacked the post in a rare Fleetwood attack, we started to get a run of corners and long throw opportunities with the recalled Ben Tozer re-introducing his potent weapon into the Town attack. But with Ryan Cresswell, one of those ‘proper League Two’ centre backs that every team in the division wishes they had at their disposal, conducting his side there were few chances for a breakthrough.
The best first half chances fell to Jacob Blyth and Norris but neither effort properly tested the visiting keeper Scott Davies. Referee Mr Sutton was doing his best to ruin things by stopping the game needlessly for both teams and it was no surprise that it was goalless at the break.
Fleetwood came out after half-time with much more intent and were starting to pick apart the defence with flashes of quality associated with their league position. Matty Blair tested Matt Duke before Jeff Hughes had chances to put his side in front. But after more dogged battling Town fought back and set up the finish that could yet be a turning point in the season.
I didn’t see exactly what caused the free kick that was awarded on the ninety minute mark, not that I cared a bit. Right on the very edge of the penalty, it was a prime spot even if it did seem a little too close to get the ball up and down and past Davies. Plenty of interest was shown in taking it but Norris won the argument and stepped up to create a huge moment to add to his growing vault of Cobblers goals.
Norris stepped up, curled the ball over the wall and it nestled majestically into the corner. Sixfields erupted and Aidy Boothroyd punched the air, leapt about and danced like the rest of us and reflected the mood of those in attendance and thousands more around the country.
There was still four minutes of stoppage time to play and going by recent form that’s enough time for two goals against the Cobblers! But hang on we did after a couple of nervy attacks from Fleetwood and the final whistle was the most welcome sound of the season so far.
It’s hard to look beyond the goal and back at what came before but there were real positives to take (not the usual fake positives that are spun out!). Ben Tozer had the best game I’ve seen him have in months and could have had a genuine shout of being man of the match – a sentence that I really didn’t ever expect to write, especially with Tozer playing at right back. He gets a biscuit for that.
Elsewhere, Ricky Ravenhill provided the bite that we’ve been missing ever since Luke Guttridge was shown the door in the summer. He’s just what we need in the middle of the park and hopefully he signs on a more permanent deal at the end of his loan. The other loan rangers up front, Blyth and Norris, were starved of chances for most of the game by that Fleetwood defence and some wasteful set pieces but are still coming to the type of understanding that will need more than the length of their respective short term contracts.
It’s the sort of day that can change seasons and we won’t know until later in the season just how crucial it could turn out to be but what it does do is give everyone associated with the club that belief so desperately needed.
As a final note, here’s the commentary of the big moment, featuring a screaming Terry Angus.
That’ll take some coming down from…let’s hope we don’t have to for a while!