So it’s been a while since my last post thanks to what’s looking like my busiest year in a long time but since my last musings on these here pages the Cobblers had gone from strength to strength and royally involved themselves into the playoff race up to Saturday’s defeat at Plymouth. That reverse alone halted a superb run of form that had blipped a little on a cold Tuesday night in Hartlepool but picked up with a stunning win at Shrewsbury and a home success over Portsmouth. All in all, the loss at Home Park wasn’t a disaster but how we bounce back now with a home double against struggling sides will more or less define the season.
We stand five points off the top seven – a position that at Christmas looked impossible – and a point away from the 51 targeted by Chris Wilder at our lowest point of the campaign. Town have been impressing with the football being played through energetic and gritty performances coupled with goals from all over the park and now we’re heading into a critical stage where keeping up that standard will be that bit more difficult now injuries and suspensions have started to affect our smaller squad.
The main loss, obviously, is Marc Richards’ Achilles problem that’s likely to keep him out until the end of the league season and only a successful entry into the playoffs will see him return to the squad if that. With ten yellow cards for the season threatening over the likes of John-Joe O’Toole and Jason Taylor and Joel Byrom already serving a ban we’re treading a very thin line and if we are to end the season with a shot at the playoffs then it will be how we cope with the break-up of the eleven that were bringing home the points week after week that will ultimately decide it.
Such was the form of that side that you just never thought of it changing but Wilder now has a new challenge to instill that confidence in the players who come in. Darren Carter suddenly sees his chance again while Ivan Toney will have the goal scoring pressure piled onto him despite the arrival of on loan forward James Gray. Replacing the league’s top scorer is asking a lot, though, and only time will tell as to whether this turns out to be the crucial blow to a crazy old season.
Back to back home games bring hue possibilities and though Tranmere and Carlisle will bring players fighting for their futures Town will hopefully get on the front foot and work on both of their vulnerabilities.
The carrot is dangling ahead and the Cobblers’ season is hanging by the tightest of threads – thankfully this time around if we don’t reach the lofty goals set there’s no trap door to fall in to apart from those in that land called mid-table obscurity. If you’d given me that back at Christmas time I would have been well happy so this is a final furlong to embrace rather than to fear.
Up the Cobblers!