All in all, the last few days have seen plenty to cheer and a little to raise concerns for the Cobblers but gaining a point at a current promotion rival and getting through a tough away game in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to reach the Area Quarter Finals represents a very good return despite the pitfalls that came from both games.
The Wycombe fixture could easily have been won – Town were in decent control of the game a goal to the good at Adams Park but a ludicrous red card for Gregor Robertson waiting for a sub to be made set up what was the frantic finale resulting in the equaliser. We can’t obviously land all the blame on the referee – there was still a goal scored from a set piece that Chris Wilder won’t be too happy with – but the dismissal with five minutes to go was a real kick in the teeth.
That one felt like a defeat by the time 5 O’clock came around on Saturday but when you look at it off the back of the win at Morecambe a week earlier it represents a good little run, particularly after the third away game in a row at Portsmouth on Tuesday night.
Good news was again tied in with bad at Fratton Park with the Cobblers winning a competitive game 2-1 thanks to goals from David Moyo and Kaid Mohammed but Marc Richards pulling his hamstring, ruling him out for 4-6 weeks. There’s an argument that Rico shouldn’t have played in such a game as he returns from injury but I really don’t think you can lay the blame at the manager for wanting his top scorer back on the pitch.
Rico could easily have picked up the same injury in a league game or in training – it just so happened that it was in the JPT where we could have been excused for resting him. Fair play to Chris Wilder for getting him out there, though, and showing at least a little intent on winning through to within four games of Wembley (I can dream can’t I?!).
The other highlight was Alex Nicholls’ return to Cobblers competitive action. It seems like every time we mention Nicholls’ name it’s with the words “his first…” in front of the sentence. The player must just be happy with being back in action again and when all has settled we’ll hopefully have another huge asset on our hands. It wasn’t his night at Pompey with two good chances missed but he’ll surely find his feet again. That could be sooner rather than later with Rico’s injury.
Here’s the options for the Quarter Final draw to be made on Saturday: Cheltenham/Bristol City (play tonight), Leyton Orient, Gillingham, Coventry, Crawley, AFC Wimbledon or Plymouth. The old preference of “anyone at home” would do here I think, though a trip to Coventry would raise the profile of the game that’s probably one round ahead of the “We can actually win this” round.
Overall, then, good work from the Cobblers against two sides who are probably going to be up and around the promotion places in League Two and another huge battle is ahead on Saturday when third place Burton Albion visit a Sixfields Stadium celebrating fifteen years of existence. Speaking of which, the votes have been counted for your top moment of Sixfields’ history and you will be able to see the results in the upcoming ‘What A Load Of Cobblers’ fanzine or here on the blog early next week ahead of the official birthday on the 15th.
A solid “Keep it up” mark for term number one of the season…