So that’s that for another season and it’s been another roller coaster ride without the raw emotions of the past few seasons. The Cobblers, for the first time in years, have finished in the unofficial home of mid-table obscurity – 12th place – and considering what could have happened it’s not all bad. After taking in a dramatic final day against a Wycombe side that had to eventually settle for the playoffs it’s clear that Town are well set up for next season but that the core of the squad needs to be supplemented by a stronger supporting cast.
From 1-11 there’s not a lot of positions that need changing. The goalkeeping situation is up in the air with Matt Duke’s imminent departure opening up the role to a fresh face. Duke has been fantastic for us but it’s time to move on with a younger stopper likely to come in. Shwan Jalal looked decent enough but over a full season we’ll need better. Jalal has a chance to prove himself ahead of a decision on his future but I still think we’ll bring in a concrete first choice keeper in the coming months.
I was surprised to see Lee Collins on the list of those not offered new deals. Zander Diamond and Ryan Cresswell are the out and out favourites of Chris Wilder but it would have made sense to have a backup who can also play on either side if needed. It could be a case of high wages and/or the desire of the player to play first team football but he may well be missed in the long term.
The midfield four seem solid enough and the fact that two of them – Jason Taylor and Rickie Holmes – were passed on by League Two rivals seems even more bizarre with the impact they’ve made here. The challenge for Holmes is now to keep his fantastic form going into next season…if he stays fit then we’ll be in with a chance of scoring in most games. The emergence of Lawson D’Ath has been another highlight and it’s hard to believe that he’s only 21 such is the assurance and quality he’s been showing in the second half of the season as the perfect balance to Holmes’ marauding around the opposite flank. Both wingers have set high standards that they’ll now be really in the focus when we kick off again in August.
Up top we could do with at least one more top drawer addition that not only pushes Rico and Ivan Toney but brings a whole new dimension to the attacking options. A big, rough and tumble ‘proper League Two’ striker would do the trick there (no obvious names need to be mentioned!) as well as another goal scorer to add to the mix.
It’ll then be about padding things out with a stronger sense that places in the team aren’t guaranteed. I got the feeling towards the end of the season that if (and of course, when) Rico or Holmes was laid out for a period, we didn’t have the back-up that would realistically be able to come in on a similar level.
Off the pitch, the East Stand drama goes on and on and we’re at least seeing builders returning and picking up tools again so by the end of September there may be something resembling a stand up there. It’s been a hugely frustrating wait but hopefully lessons have been learnt and Sixfields can return to being a four sided venue as soon as possible!
After a year of uncertainty and of nearly slipping into yet another relegation battle, the Cobblers are back on stable ground and a long, long way in front of where we were twelve months ago. The likes of Burton Albion have shown what continuity over a number of years can do for you and if Wilder can get his house in order early again then we may not be lost in obscurity for too long.