Bristol Rovers 0-1 Northampton Town
Saturday, August 8th 2015
After a summer of unanswered questions, transfer sagas and takeover mysteries it felt like the Cobblers were going into the start of the season on Saturday not entirely ready. With Ivan Toney’s expected move to Newcastle United finally done earlier in the week and a hasty replacement found in loanee Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Sheffield United there was an uncertain air about the set up as we headed to what was a big early test at the Memorial Stadium.
Facing a newly promoted side on their own patch just after their elevation is never the first match you’d put down on your preferred opposition list for opening day but Chris Wilder had the boys ready to go and three vital points were bagged on the first weekend for the second season in a row. Mansfield Town were beaten 1-0 at Sixfields a year ago and this one followed a similar pattern with a tight game decided by the single goal.
In the goal scorer, we have another strange old dilemma. John-Joe O’Toole is currently on the transfer list but seemed to have a decent pre-season and was a surprise starter against his former club. The move could have gone either way but turned out to be a master stroke by Wilder as O’Toole rose to head home a magnificently volleyed cross from new boy David Buchanen. The midfielder, who had a bit of momentum in mid-season last time out before fading, is clearly motivated by either a possible change of situation here or to be noticed but either way it worked in our favour as the Gas were put to the sword.
Just as important was the clean sheet that will give confidence to the back four and goalkeeper Adam Smith, who beat Ryan Clarke to the gloves. It can only be a good thing that we’ve got two keepers on a pretty level setting going for the jersey every week and the competition for the spot will be one to watch in the coming weeks.
There wasn’t a complete onslaught that you might expect from Rovers after we took the lead but Smith had to be on his toes to stop Ellis Harrison after Ryan Cresswell had forced Smith’s opposite number Steve Mildenhall into action at the other end.
Celebrations, then, for nearly 600 travelling fans and a relieving three points to kick off the season in the West Country. There’s more to come from both sides this season but getting away from the Memorial Stadium with maximum points is something that I can’t see many teams doing in the coming months.
Let the claret surge, version 2.0 begin!
Chris Wilder has hinted at changes for the League Cup tie with Blackpool on Tuesday night but believes that the side won’t see any reduction in quality. The Tangerines have had a tumultuous couple of years but started their League One season with a 2-2 draw at Colchester United on Saturday. I don’t believe some doom mongers who think a second successive relegation is on the cards for Blackpool and this will be a big tester and similar to a pre-season game with both sides looking to take shape.
Speaking of Colchester, the Cobblers have drawn the U’s at home in the First Round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy which takes place in the week beginning 31st August. Any home tie at this stage is a good draw and it’ll be another chance for Wilder to assess some different options.