Accrington Stanley 0-1 Northampton Town
Saturday, April 5th 2014
The Cobblers live to fight another day. League safety is still the same distance away as it was at the start of the day but the victory over Accrington Stanley at the Crown Ground was absolutely pivotal given that both Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth, the two teams directly ahead of us before kick-off, also picked up three points. You could see it as another weekend of frustration with those results going against us but had we not picked up a morale boosting victory of our own those curtains would start to close.
It was the best possible response to a week that featured an outpouring of emotion from Cobblers fans after a shocker of a performance at home to Bury last weekend. And it took just a few minutes to produce something clinical to hang on to for the rest of the afternoon as Chris Hackett raced onto a through ball, knocked it around goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli and finished from a tight angle. There was just three minutes on the clock but if Chris Wilder asked for his players to come racing out of the blocks then he most certainly got his wish.
With limited chances at either end of the pitch, it was down to Darren Carter to give us the other significant talking point of the first half as he picked up his tenth booking of the season which now means a two match ban for a man who has become as influential as anyone in recent weeks. Carter has had a renaissance in the second half of the season and his absence from the Burton home game and what is now looking like a season definer at Wycombe is a massive blow.
There was one final chance in the opening forty five for the Cobblers as Emile Sinclair took the ball around Bettinelli but was denied by a defender tracking back for the hosts. That could have given us significant space to play with in the second half but as it was we were all on tenterhooks once again and just willing the clock to tick down.
It was becoming more and more apparent that those above us weren’t going to give an inch so we had to dig in and try to hang on to what we had. Leon McSweeney made a massive saving tackle on the hour mark as Stanley threatened before John Marquis hit the post with a late header. Then it came down to the final few minutes and the home side were throwing more and more at us as expected.
Tom Aldred forced Matt Duke into a good stop as Cobblers fans’ hearts were tested once again – thoughts turned to the crushing blow of Wimbledon’s leveller at Sixfields deep into stoppage time and we couldn’t afford for that to happen again. A couple of late flurries tested our nerves but this time we clung on to three gutsy and priceless points to breathe fresh and much needed life into our survival bid.
The away form this year is the unexpected fuel to that bid with Sixfields instead holding us back at the moment. Town have won four out of eight away from home since the turn of the year, drawing three and losing just once. Chris Wilder has continued his winning formula on the road having come through the first half of the season with Oxford unbeaten away from home and it’s becoming an unexpected safety net after more frustrating home results.
The main relief is that we’re still fighting and have arrested the ill feeling from last weekend when it looked like everything may be slipping away. The challenge now is to bring that away form and the connection being felt between player and fan back to Sixfields. The barriers of fans turning up and waiting to be entertained, grumbling when we go behind, is hard to break but it’s not impossible.
There is still time. There is still hope. And, most importantly, there’s belief once again. Over to the players to keep it going against Burton to set up what is set to be a monumental game at Adams Park on Good Friday.
Hang on in there!