Northampton Town 1-4 Wycombe Wanderers
Saturday, December 21st 2013
It was gone 5:45pm on Saturday afternoon and the BBC Radio Northampton team were still waiting for Aidy Boothroyd to emerge from the dressing room at Sixfields after a 4-1 trouncing by Wycombe Wanderers. That, in itself, started the alarm bells. Sure enough, a few minutes later Gareth Willsher was instead making his way to speak to the media in place of Boothroyd and the expected announcement was here – Aidy Boothroyd has left Northampton Town Football Club.
Most Cobblers fans would have had a pretty good idea that it was coming. Wycombe had ended their eight game winless run by powering aside a Town side that did have a terrible rub of the green but were, at the same time, masters of their own downfall. It took the Chairboys just fourteen SECONDS to get on the score sheet as Jo Kuffour continued his goal scoring run against us by getting on the end of a Sam Wood flick to stun Sixfields.
The Cobblers were all over the place and could easily have been more behind in the first ten minutes and it was no real surprise when Kortney Hause headed in number two soon after. An uphill struggle to say the least with the only thing on our side being time at that stage of the game.
Ian Morris came off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by everyone’s favourite hot head Ishmel Demontagnac before Clive Platt was hauled off for Roy O’Donovan. It’s still unclear as to whether Platt sustained an injury but that was two substitutions before the half hour mark – something that would come back to haunt us later on.
Town at least settled before the break and created a couple of chances through Mathias Doumbe and Izale McLeod and were back in the game just after half-time as we briefly dreamt of a fight back that would have saved Boothroyd’s skin. McLeod nipped in for 2-1 after a flick from half-time substitute (the third and final one, crucially) Luke Norris and it was game on. For a while.
Matt Duke kept the visitors at bay with a couple of fine saves but the big moment of the second half came when Doumbe had to come off injured and we had no more subs to make. Ten vs eleven for the final twenty minutes and the task just got a whole lot bigger. That was just the invitation Wycombe needed.
With ten minutes to go, Stuart Lewis finished low from the edge of the area and that was that with Dean Morgan’s effort making it four a few minutes later and sealing a memorable win for his side whilst at the same time hammering home that final nail in the coffin of Mr Boothroyd.
It’s been a long few months for the outgoing Cobblers boss and in all honesty everything started to go wrong for him on that fateful May afternoon at Wembley – at around 2pm to be precise!
Not starting his leading goal scorer and talisman Bayo Akinfenwa and instead leading with Clive Platt in the biggest game the club has seen in many a year was a shocking oversight by Boothroyd and though that was not the only reason for the outcome – Bradford were outstanding – there’s not one Cobblers fan who can surely say that the decision of who started up front was the right one.
After the Bantams ended our League One dreams it was rebuilding time but just how much change occurred in the summer was another key element in this tale. Bayo, inevitably, departed, and despite apparently having a list of sixteen candidates to replace him (all of whom were better than Rene Howe, one of the potential options) we instead began the season with only the injured Platt and Roy O’Donovan as genuine striking options other than raw youngsters.
Luke Guttridge, a particularly key member of the Wembley squad, was also on his way out and in his place came the likes of Darren Carter and Gary Deegan, neither of whom adequate warriors in the middle of the park to compete in League Two. Kelvin Langmead’s injury meant that the spine had been ripped out of a starting eleven that had clamoured its way to the League Two showpiece final.
The season began horribly with just the 3-1 home win over Newport County providing any cheer at all with six defeats in the opening seven games in all competitions. Two points from four league games in September was followed by the rarest of away wins, at Wimbledon, but it didn’t give us the necessary lift to escape the early season gloom.
Critical signings of Luke Norris and Ricky Ravenhill saw us slowly return to something resembling good enough with Ravenhill finally giving us that dog fighter in midfield that we’d sorely been missing. Victory over Bishop’s Stortford in the FA Cup and then a stunning finish in the 1-0 win over high flying Fleetwood Town was enough for us to dream of better things once again with even a 2-0 loss at Hartlepool soon forgotten with a very good point at Chesterfield and a 1-0 home win over Accrington Stanley.
But that’s where the recovery ended and the cup exit at Grimsby saw Boothroyd’s tactics again coming under immense scrutiny as he admitted himself that he’d been looking for a draw. Last weekend’s point at Bury was OK but this afternoon’s hammering was the last straw and we’re here once again looking for a new manager with Boothroyd having served for just over two years and having come completely full circle. We were bottom of the table when he came in and, as he packs his belongings to leave, we’re now back to where we started from.
It’s a sad way to go into Christmas and I genuinely feel for Boothroyd who was looking to rebuild his reputation at Sixfields. I don’t understand anyone who comes on social media to vehemently abuse him – however passionate we are we must remember that a man has lost his job and will be hurting this evening.
It was pretty inevitable, though, and I think it had to happen at this point. You got the sense that there was no way back after this afternoon and that old manager rumour mill now goes back to work as we wish Boothroyd all the best. Where he goes from here is a big question but I still feel he has something to give the right club when they do come looking.
So what now? And who’s next?
The first question can be answered by firstly looking at the sheer size of our squad. Short term loans have been added to plug the gaping holes provided by those who were expected to deliver and there’s a massive group to cut down one way or another. Whilst it will provide the incoming man with a big playing staff to look at there’s also cases of loans and contracts running out in January and there’s a huge sorting job to be done. Whoever it is will also want to bring in their own type of player so the only certain thing is that there will be change coming in the next month.
The second question, of who, is a more difficult one. Here’s the current, and very quickly produced, odds from Sky Bet:
Martin Allen: 2/1
Sammy Lee: 12/1
Micky Mellon: 12/1
Gary Megson: 12/1
Andy Preece: 16/1
Steve Kean: 16/1
Andy Hessenthaler: 16/1
Alan Curbishley: 20/1
Craig Levein: 25/1
Andy Liddell: 25/1
Alan Irvine: 25/1
Alan Knill: 25/1
I can’t say that list thrills me in any way whatsoever but I completely understand why Martin Allen is the far and away leader in the betting. His history of firefighting is much publicised and he’s one that would be a good choice until the end of the season in my book. We quite simply need to get out of the relegation battle and there’s arguably not a better contender around right now that fits the bill of scrapping away from the foot of the league. Add to that his recent promotion (and his record of eleven away wins last season – something we can only dream of) with Gillingham and you have a very good and experienced candidate who is almost certainly in the running.
The rest of the list only really reflects a collection of hastily assembled names and there will be more researched and under the radar contenders emerging in the next few days. David Cardoza has gone with young coaches, experienced heads and a club legend in his past appointments but has never really dipped into the non-league pyramid. The likes of Brackley Town manager Jon Brady might be tempted if Cardoza feels that the time is right for that sort of gamble.
Allen, though, still seems the one who would be best received. Feathers need rustling, a club needs rescueing and he’s available for an immediate start. A short term contract for the former Gillingham man would be my option at this point. We’re not in a position to try anything too left field and it’s once again a massive decision for the powers that be to make.
As is usually the case, it’s a monumental job to do with the one saving grace being that we’re only one victory away from escaping the bottom two.
It’s time to close what could have been a memorable chapter in our history and begin the search for the individual who can salvage another season of potential disaster.
Bradford City 3-0 Cobblers (18th May 2013)
The start of the downfall in the League Two Playoff Final back in May as goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells in the first half an hour win it for Bradford under the arch. The decision to drop Bayo Akinfenwa for the biggest game of the season was something that was never forgiven by many supporters.
Cobblers 1-2 Torquay United (24th August 2013)
The Cobblers led through a Jacob Blyth goal on the half hour but never looked convincing and Torquay stunned Sixfields by completely turning the game around with two Jordan Chappell goals in the final twenty minutes to make it three defeats in four at the start of this season.
Mansfield 3-0 Cobblers (21st September 2013)
A simply unacceptable away performance that was rounded off when Mathias Doumbe scored an own goal on his debut to seal a heavy defeat against the newly promoted Stags. Ben Hutchinson and Sam Clucas had earlier given Mansfield a comfortable lead.
Grimsby Town 2-0 Cobblers (7th December 2013)
The Second Round of the FA Cup saw Town travel to Conference high flyers Grimsby Town and Boothroyd admitted that he was playing for a draw. It didn’t work and Shaun Pearson broke the deadlock before Patrick Mclaughlin sealed a bad, bad day for the Cobblers in stoppage time.
Cobblers 1-4 Wycombe (21st December 2013)
Today’s defeat against Wycombe was a step too far for the Cardoza’s and with the club bottom of the Football League once again it was the inevitable outcome that Boothroyd would be on his way out of the club.