Cheltenham Town 1-1 Northampton Town
Saturday, February 1st 2014
The Cobblers came home from Cheltenham on Saturday with renewed hope. A point is just a point but the manner in which Chris Wilder’s new side battled back from a goal behind in the opening few seconds to scrape a draw showed vigour that we’ve not seen this season and it gave the new manager something solid to build on ahead of a clear week to work with his new signings and those left behind by Aidy Boothroyd.
Wilder, before joining the Cobblers, was unbeaten in all league away games with previous club Oxford United and with our awful record on the road it was hoped that he could turn around our travel sickness. After just a minute of play in Wilder’s first game in charge though it seemed as though we were about to ruin his unblemished form – it would have been typical of the Cobblers to end such a run – as Matt Duke’s rush of blood to the head let in Jamie Cureton for his obligatory goal against us. It was a hopeful lob up field that saw Duke completely misjudge the wind and Cureton nipped in for one of the easiest goals of his career. The perfect start to Wilder’s reign it was not.
The only positive from that was that there were still eighty nine minutes to pull ourselves back into the game and with new signings Alan Connell and Ricky Ravenhill slotted into starting places and Emile Sinclair and Leon McSweeney on the bench there was a new freshness about our options. Ian Morris, recalled to the side by Wilder, smacked the inside of the post in our first real chance before Duke somewhat made amends for his earlier error by tipping a good Sam Deering effort wide of the post.
With conditions playing their part it was always going to be a scrap and the game seemed to turn on a double substitution by Wilder on the hour mark as Sinclair and McSweeney replaced Connell and Tozer. Sinclair was lively for a man who had only signed for the club late the previous evening and he set up a chance for Darren Carter before we eventually got the crucial equaliser. Morris swung the ball in the right and Matty Blair tucked it in at the near post for his first in Town colours. After missing a sitter a couple of weeks ago against York City it would have been that bit more satisfying.
The final fifteen minutes weren’t just about holding out for the point either as the Cobblers boldly started to go for the three points but clear chances were limited. The fact that we weren’t just satisfied with one point says a lot about Wilder’s success and where we’ve been going wrong so many times away from home this season when holding out for a draw and coming home with nothing thanks to endless late winners.
The draw leaves us with plenty to do still but the gap between ourselves and deteriorating Wycombe who now sit in 22nd place is still six points. Wilder has a week to prepare for his Sixfields bow and this is where he must start picking up points in threes. The most important thing right now is those six points and how quickly we can bridge the gap and get on a level with the others embroiled in the relegation scrap.
Games like this go a long way in restoring the confidence of everyone at the club and having come through a really tough afternoon we must now really go for the jugular back at home. Some big, big moments need to happen at Sixfields if we’re to be playing in League Two again next season. With renewed back up on the road maybe it’s not such a lost cause after all.