Northampton Town v Oxford United
Saturday, May 3rd 2014
One game of football sits between the Cobblers and what looked like the most unlikely of survivals even as recently as three or four weeks ago. A startling 3-0 home defeat by Bury had left us in a perilous position three points from safety with just six games left to turn things around. Three wins from the following five games later, though, and we’re staring safety right in the face.
We all know the permutations – Town need just one solitary point from the meeting with Chris Wilder’s old side Oxford United to guarantee League Two football again for another season. Wycombe Wanderers must beat relegated Torquay at Plainmoor to stand any chance of saving themselves and despite it all being in our hands it’s almost guaranteed that radios will be glued to ears and social media will be constantly being refreshed should Oxford silence a sold out Sixfields by taking a lead.
The last week has been spent picturing every scenario under the sun – an Ivan Toney thirty yarder in the last second to save the day, a 5-0 trouncing of Oxford to really go out in style, a gritty and heart churning draw…I’m sure you’ve all been having dreams and nightmares of similar outcomes.
The only thing that we can do is place our trust one more time in the eleven men charged with taking us over the line. We’ve got to the point now where if the worst does happen then it’ll be that bit harder to take but with momentum with us and spirit in the camp arguably the highest they’ve been since Wilder’s arrival there’s confidence in the air.
Wilder’s January jump to Sixfields was one of the big talking points of the League Two season and as soon as it was confirmed the Oxford support was talking all about the implications of this meeting on the final day of the season. The U’s, at that point, were sixth in the division and just four points from the top. They had a comfortable seven point gap between themselves and the sides outside the playoff places and chances were high that Wilder’s old side could not only relegate his new one but confirm a promotion or a playoff place at the same time.
Nineteen games later and fortunes for both sides have dramatically changed. The Cobblers, six points from safety and bottom of the table on Wilder’s appointment, are now within a point of guaranteeing league football again next season whilst Oxford have dropped to eighth and are seven points away from a playoff place that was completely lost after a 2-1 home defeat to Accrington Stanley last weekend.
That run of form for both sides doesn’t make the nerves any easier though … it’s difficult to comprehend that we’re down to one game to decide it all. After this one there are no more ifs, buts or maybes, no more fixtures to look at and plot a route out of trouble and no more chances to redeem a bad performance.
This is it…
The Cobblers have no new injury worries ahead of the game with the only injuries being the long term casualties Lee Collins, Alex Nicholls and Lewis Hornby. Joe Widdowson’s ankle problem is also keeping him out once again but apart from that Town could line up in a similar way to how they did in last week’s win at Dagenham.
Oxford boss Gary Waddock may take the chance to blood a couple of the younger members of his squad with no chance of making the playoffs and a virtual guarantee that they will finish in eighth place.
Previous Six Meetings…
12/10/13: Oxford 2-0 Cobblers (League Two)
Oxford moved up to third in League Two with this victory against the Cobblers back in October. James Constable put the U’s in front just before half-time and the lead was doubled just a minute later when Constable was brought down in the area and Danny Rose converted the spot kick.
23/03/13: Cobblers 1-0 Oxford (League Two)
This was a crucial win for the Cobblers towards the end of last season as Ben Harding’s goal on the stroke of half-time kept up the tremendous run of form at Sixfields that was to be the main reason for reaching the playoffs.
24/11/12: Oxford 2-1 Cobblers (League Two)
James Constable put the U’s in front on fifteen minutes at the Kassam Stadium. Clive Platt looked to have earned a point for the Cobblers but Jon-Paul Pittman struck back again for the home side moments later with the crucial deciding goal. To compound our misery, Clarke Carlisle was sent off in the final minute of the game.
06/04/12: Cobbler s 2-1 Oxford (League Two)
A cracking Good Friday match under the Sixfields lights saw Luke Guttridge score inside the first minute to give the Cobblers the lead. Christian Montano equalised before Neal Kitson saved his second penalty in as many games to keep us in it. Right at the death, Brett Williams chased down what looked like a lost cause, cut inside and curled in one of the most important goals of the season to earn a simply massive three points on the way to Football League safety.
17/12/11: Oxford 2-0 Cobblers (League Two)
This was my wedding day so I barely knew we were playing this match until my best man reminded me with a sneaky score update during dinner. Those that were concentrating saw Town comfortably beaten thanks to goals from Tom Craddock and Deane Smalley.
22/01/11: Cobblers 2-1 Oxford (League Two)
Andy Holt gave the Cobblers the lead at Sixfields going into half-time but Tom Craddock pulled things level two minutes after the break. Leon McKenzie sealed a big win, though, by putting in the winner with a quarter of the game to go.
23/10/10: Oxford 3-1 Cobblers (League Two)
Alfie Potter scored early on in this one but Leon McKenzie equalised on fifteen minutes. Josh Payne would give the U’s the lead back right on the stroke of half-time and when John Johnson was sent off for a foul in the area on ninety minutes, Tom Craddock stepped up to seal the victory for the hosts.
The man in the middle…
The referee who will hopefully remain quiet and not become a figure of folklore is Scott Duncan who has shown four red cards in his last five games. Duncan last took charge of the Cobblers in a 2-0 home win over AFC Wimbledon in September 2012.
Do I dare predict how this is going? Go on then…I’ve been keeping faith for a long time and the ‘R’ word has never been something I’ve really accepted and I’m not changing now. It’s not likely to be a clear passage to safety but I think we’ll get what we need. 1-1.
As mentioned yesterday there’s a group of Cobblers fans making the journey to Sixfields via a couple of pit stops in town…for all the details check out the chat I had with Jake Moore here or see his blog at http://northamptontownimproudtobe.blogspot.co.uk/
The man himself, Pat Gavin is going to be in attendance and presented to the Cobblers fans before the game!