ANFIELD – ONE YEAR ON: PART FIVE

For the final part of the Anfield series of articles, here’s some of your tweets and messages that have found their way to me over the last few weeks as Cobblers fans remember The Greatest Night!

@EnkyJenky This is why we stay so loyal – through nights of despair when we questioned why we do it. Beautiful

@DHCobbler_NTFC I guess, it’s the only thing we can look back and say “We were proud supporters”

@KathrinaN I remember thinking we were going to get tonked but it’s not every day you get to go to anfield

@robdunkley lessons even in row five if it rains you will get drenched do not use merseyside police to give you directions!

@KathrinaN being soaked to the skin! random text messages from work colleagues about football!! having to teach Btec first with no voice

@hazapots1 all I can say is what a night and I got Paul Rodgers shirt I still wear it to remind me of good times

@Iest_ntfc random anfield memory, driving home with 3 half naked blokes, I should have listen to the mrs when she told me to tale a coat

@Des_Wes anfield was incredibly atmospheric. It was our version of liverpool’s champions league final. Pure elation from all our goals

To finish off, here’s those glorious highlights once again 🙂

 

 

ANFIELD – ONE YEAR ON: PART FOUR

The final ‘eye witness’ account of the Liverpool game comes from Haydon Spenceley with an article reproduced from the excellent The 72 website just a day after the big night.

Unforeseen glory by Haydon Spenceley

So it’s the afternoon after the (very late) night before. Having written on Tuesday about Northampton’s chances of success last night, and then seen, with increasing disbelief and joy, the events which unfolded, I really had to write an “after” piece, if for no other reason than to acknowledge just how gloriously, blissfully, fantastically wrong I was.

By now, you’ll know that we won. Just stop for a second. Northampton, 17th in League Two, with one league win to their credit so far this year, and with a talented squad, but one which was severely stretched by injuries to key performers last night, won away to Liverpool. They did. It actually happened.

Not only that, but, for long periods, we outplayed them. Liverpool had one shot on target in 90 minutes, and we had seven corners to their two in that period. At Anfield. It did happen.

Not only that, but after the pandemonium of celebrating two goals, and seeing the potential heartbreak of being pegged back late in extra time, the lads held their nerve to win the penalty shootout and send our 5,000 strong support (more than we get at home, incidentally) into total, justified, once in a lifetime, absolutely sopping wet but we don’t care, delirium.

A chasm in cost

This was an epic night, a probably never to be repeated experience. For large swathes of a 120-minute contest, Liverpool’s collection of fringe first team players and supposedly up and coming talent were outplayed, taught a footballing lesson even. Only when the lively Pacheco and Jovanovic sought to create on pacy breaks did they really threaten, and in only two periods, during the first quarter, and the last five minutes of extra time when victory was sniffed, did they appear likely to win.

Many high-profile journalists have written about Liverpool today, commenting on the demise of the club, the malaise surrounding it, the shocking legacy left by Rafa Benitez, and Roy Hodgson’s poor utilising of it, and questioning his team selection.

But the fact remains, the starting eleven fielded by the home side last night cost £31million, while Northampton’s consisted entirely of free transfers and loanees, included two products of the club’s youth team, and several who have tasted non-league football in the last five years.

Different class

Michael Jacobs, scorer of the second goal, at the Kop, at eighteen, spent time at Nuneaton last season, as did Kevin Thornton, whose probing and passing put the work of the “enigmatic” Lucas to shame.

Abdul Osman, scorer of that majestic winning penalty, which capped a career-defining night’s work in which he controlled the midfield, moving them forward as a unit and defending doggedly, was signed from Gretna, having been spotted playing for Maidenhead.

Best of all, Courtney Herbert, whose twists and turns embarrassed Mark Wilson even before he caused the chaos which induced the second goal, was signed last season from Long Buckby, of the United Counties League. How many of you knew there was a place called Long Buckby, let alone that it had a football team? Honestly? You couldn’t make it up.

Tip-top tactics

It doesn’t matter how you dress this up, it shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and as much as Hodgson and his team of flops will be criticised for it, Ian Sampson, Malcolm Crosby and their coaching team deserve plenty of credit today.

Wins like this do indeed come around once in a lifetime, but this was no fluke. Tactically, the mobility of the five in midfield, their adaptability and workrate, was too much for Lucas and his partner Jay Spearing, who were pulled around the park on numerous occasions as they were outnumbered and outmanoeuvred.

The number of times Osman, and latterly substitute Nathaniel Wedderburn, found space in the middle of the park to pass the ball out wide to the wide quartet of John Johnson, Liam Davis, Paul Rodgers and Michael Jacobs, was indicative of Sampson and Crosby outthinking the stubborn but usually-astute Hodgson.

Kevin Thornton’s link-up with Billy Mckay, both of whom are not of great stature, seemed to befuddle Liverpool’s defensive axis of Daniel Agger and Sotirios Kyriakos. Watching the team grow in confidence as they stroked the ball around the lush Anfield turf, and their total commitment to the cause, typified by Andy Holt’s finest hour in a Cobblers shirt, and a splendid display from loan debutant Ben Tozer, I was proud to call this team my team.

Boom time

Certainly I never thought a win was attainable, as you would see from my previous post, but here was a team united, working for one another, and with skill and creativity aplenty to go with it.

The game could have been won in 90 minutes, just as it could in extra time, and the courage shown by the quintet of penalty takers at the end was almost superhuman. The scenes of celebration between players, staff and supporters at the end almost brought a tear to the eye, a display of incredulous unity which will live long in the memory.

Just as this was a horrific night for Liverpool, and clearly showed why the depth is not there for that great club to challenge English football’s upper echelons over the next few years, so this was a historic night for Northampton Town. A night to say “I was there”. Even my dad danced about at the end. That never happens.

Summing up

In the cold light of the glorious following day, some final points.

Firstly, League Two, while a very average league, contains a lot of quality. The reason players play at this level, often, is not through a lack of quality, but consistency. When things click into gear, even the most mighty of mighty (or previously most mighty of mighty) can be made to topple.

Secondly, there is nothing like watching your team, whatever level at which they play, win a game completely unexpectedly, and in such dramatic fashion. This is the beauty of lower league football, that the possibility of nights such as this even exists at all, and that it wonderfully, magisterially comes to pass once in a generation, or even in a lifetime. You can keep your Premier League.

Thirdly, it shouldn’t be underestimated what a fillip this might provide to our club, and even to the area. There’s already been much discussion of the financial ramifications of last night’s game, which appears to have enabled the club to break even this season, quite an achievement.

The road ahead

More than this, the press response to the game might induce a few more spectators to Sixfields, giving momentum to the team. On a wider point, people in the town centre were even smiling this morning. This is unusual!

And now what? Well, on Saturday comes the draw for round four. Another big draw would be lovely, but let’s not be greedy. Of course, there’s the small matter of Bradford at home, followed next Tuesday by the visit of Chesterfield to contend with now.

But whatever happens in the rest of this season, the events of September 22nd 2010 will forever be etched in the annals of Northampton Town.

An incredible story, an incredible night.

ANFIELD – ONE YEAR ON: PART THREE

A massive thanks to one of the Cobblers’ most loyal supporters, Charles Commins, as he talks us through his version of the night we will never forget…

The Night We Didn’t Walk Alone by Charles Commins

The Carling Cup isn’t a competition that many in the top tier of English football take seriously. It has been the norm for some time now for teams such as Arsenal to blood their young, up and coming superstars in the competition, sometimes all the way through to the showpiece final at Wembley.  For lower league teams this can represent their best opportunity of creating an upset, something Northampton Town have been seizing upon over the last few seasons.

A year ago the Cobblers reached the fourth round of the competition for the first time in decades having beaten eventual League 1 Champions, Brighton, in the 1st round and Play Off finalists, Reading, in the 2nd before visiting one of sports’ greatest stadiums, Anfield, in the 3rd round.

It was a dreary day in the North West and having finished work at 4:30 I boarded the train at Warrington Central dressed all in Claret, wearing that year’s away shirt underneath a jumper and my favoured home shirt from 2008. There were no other Cobblers fans on the platform, only a smattering of Liverpool shirts that seemed uninterested in my get up that included bar scarf and huge Sixfields Boys flag. On the train I found myself surrounded by business men and women on their way home from a hard day’s work. The first interesting aspect of my evening was listening to four suits talk about their door to door sales exploits from the day. One lad seemed to revel in telling his story about how he had managed to get a “dear old lady” to sign herself up for a 12 month phone and internet contract that she “wouldn’t be around long enough to see out”. I was shocked but soon found my attention dwindling, my mind wandering into a daydream of how good it would feel to watch my team win at Anfield.

I was soon snatched out of my dream like state by a group of girls who, it turned out, had been asked by their boyfriends to quiz me on my football colours. Having managed to force my eyes away from one of the perkiest pair of breasts I had seen that week, I informed the girls that I was a Northampton fan on my way to Anfield. A moment later the girls were gone and had been replaced by a burley looking teenager who quipped to me about how I would feel about being beaten 10-0. I ignored him and started to pray that the train would hurry up and arrive at Liverpool Lime Street.

On my arrival I headed straight to the nearest Wetherspoons to meet the other half of the Warrington Cobblers Supporters Club. Having taken the day off work, Steve had already managed to drink three pints before I met him and straight away advised me that he had broken all the rules and decided to wear two pin badges that identified him as a football fan and Cobbler. After quickly supping down two drinks and a burger we headed off to Anfield in a taxi that was driven by an ardent Liverpool fan. In fairness to the Scouse chap he did drop us right outside the pub that was full of other Cobblers fans who had erected a huge flag across one of the windows, claiming the pub as our own.

After fighting our way to the bar and eventually getting double the amount of drinks required in an effort to ensure we wouldn’t need to fight our way back to the bar anytime soon, a huge roar of Fields of Green rose from the centre of the pub. The noise was incredible. It seemed 6,000 Cobblers fans had crammed themselves into the small public house and were intent on enjoying themselves. Such was the volume of the gathered punters a couple of police officers entered through the door in an effort to maintain civil order. They needn’t have bothered, spirits were high and not one person was bothered about their presence, some laughing and joking about the size of one of the officers and questioning how he managed to make it through the door so easily.

Soon it was time to get out of the pub and make our way to the turnstiles. This presented my first opportunity to visit the Hillsborough memorial outside the Shankley gates where I was interviewed by an LFCTV cameraman. I say interviewed, it was more a case of Steve and myself shouting down the camera lens about how good it was to be there and how much respect we had for the young Liverpool supporter who had joined us moments before for a nice chat and a bit of banter.

It was then that the problems started. Steve found his brother, who had driven up from Northampton with Steve’s ticket, and off they went inside to take their seats. I wasn’t so quick to follow him. News had come in that one of the supporter’s coaches was running late and may not make it before the whistle blew to start the match. Typically it was this bus that my Dad, and more importantly, my ticket was on. Disaster. Not only was my viewing of such an anticipated match at threat but my bladder was also starting to throb. I needed that coach to arrive there and then. To make matters worse the heavens had opened and I was starting to believe that the whole world was against me. I was frantically looking for a place to relieve myself but every corner was home to either a member of Merseyside Police or a Liverpool FC Steward.

I was watching hopelessly as my Cobbler counterparts entered the turnstiles and the wandering soles outside began to disapate. Soon I was on the phone to my Dad almost shouting down the phone at him as if it was his fault that the bus company had sent a driver who had already used his alotted driving hours by the time they reached Birmingham. The news soon came that the bus had arrived but my ticket was still agonisingly far away on the other side of Stanley Park. By this time my bladder was about to burst into a thousand messy pieces. I was left with no alternative but to disappear behind the nearest burger van and hope that no one had noticed.

After an eternity I stopped peeing and my Dad and Sister turned the corner, ticket in hand. Nearly grabbing the ticket out of his hand I pushed my Dad to the nearest turnstile and walked into the Anfield Road End of Anfield half way through the prematch rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. My nerves were shot and the team were already out on the pitch. When the game kicked off I was just settling down into my seat, so relieved i completely forgot to shout my ritual “Come On Cobblers” at the top of my lungs.

When the half time whistle went the Cobblers were 1-0 down to a clinic Javanovic strike that finished a top class, Premier League, move. Spirits were still high, everyone just loving being there. This presented myself with an opportunity to take a photo of the three of us and look to see if there was anywhere I could hang my flag. For a stadium and football club well known for their flag waving there was nowhere within easy reach or view to hang it so i decided to wrap it up and place it under my seat. Looking around I gave myself the chance to really take in the size of the Kop and the rest of the stadium. I was actually expecting it to be bigger. I’ve been to Old Trafford and the Emerites and both those grounds seem to be able to fit Anfield in them easily. Maybe this is more down to the retrospective view I’m giving the day but it’s a serious thought even if it’s one that may not exist had I experienced the game standing on the Kop

It was during half time that I started to reflect on just how many Carling Cup away games I had attended over the previous few years had ended in an incredibly positive result. West Ham, Bolton and even Sunderland have given me incredible memories while following the Cobblers. I’ll admit that I spent the next five minutes dreaming of what might be in an hour’s time.

The second half got underway and the Cobblers came out fighting. When Billy McKay scored in front of the 6,000 other Cobblers supporters I went mad. It felt like the whole stadium was rocking. It was an incredible feeling that put a smile on the faces of everyone around me. The belief was so strong in the Anfield Road End at that point and when the game went to extra time I was shaking with excitement. Even my sister, who had only come because of her supposed love of Liverpool that is only there due to a certain Michael Owen. “He doesn’t even play for them anymore” I had said to her on the phone one evening but it didn’t stop her from shouting and cheering for the boys in white as loudly as any other Cobbler.

One of the sad things about the night is that no one seems to remember that it was Michael Jacobs that scored our second. People tend to focus too much, in my opinion, on Kevin Thornton shushing the Kop in celebration. I’m not saying that I didn’t love that moment but Kevin should remember that his shot was poor and easily saved by Brad Jones which then led to ‘Crackers’ smashing the ball into the net. The atmosphere moved up a notch and died almost at the same time after the goal. People seemed to be thinking that although they should support the team, if they said anything too loudly, the dream would end. I don’t really remember what happened when David N’Gog equalised right at the death. I think I felt it was all over in that moment. I was proud but disappointed we hadn’t quite done it. I couldn’t imagine us beating the mighty Liverpool on penalties. They were the kings of the shootout after all, it was how they last won the European Cup in 2005.

I wrapped my flag around my shoulders during the penalties, just as I had done at Sunderland two years previously. Then as Steve Guinan stepped up to the spot my Dad and Sister pulled it around themselves too.

It was horrible to see Giunan’s penalty flying over the crossbar and into the Kop. “This is definitely it. We’re out. After all that effort.”

Then N’Gog smashes it wide. “Get in, we’re still in it!”

Thornton scores. “Thank god for that!”

Shelvey scores.

Davis scores. “What a penalty! Brilliant!”

Agger scores.

Jacobs steps up. “He’ll miss this,” I said to my Dad. “Too much pressure.” Jacobs scores. “Told you!” I say followed by nervous laughter.

Eccleston misses. “Wooooooooooooooooooooo”

At this point everyone is trying to work out how many penalties have been taken. Then someone nudges me from behind and tells me that if we score, we’ve won. This only makes me shake violently and almost stop breathing. This is it, we could actually win. As Abdul Osman walks from the centre circle the thoughts rushing through my head are those of a true Northamptonian. We won’t win. It never happens to us. A pessimist to the end.

I didn’t see Osman wheel away from the Kop with his arms outstretched. I was far too busy jumping, shouting, hugging, kissing. It was overwhelming. I’d never experienced so much joy at the football in all my life. We could have gone on to win the cup at that point and it wouldn’t have felt any better. I watched as the players congregated on the pitch in front of us, dancing and singing along with the fans. It’s all a bit of a blur to be honest. I only know what happened after we won because I have watched the DVD several hundred times since. The euphoria was too great. I have no idea how long I stayed inside Anfield for. It could have been hours.

The realisation of what had happened didn’t quite reach me until I stepped outside and found Steve with his brother and nephew amongst the exuberant people. It was raining hard. Harder than I realised. I hadn’t brought a coat. I didn’t care. It was well past the last train home back to Warrington. Neither myself or Steve cared. Steve’s brother offered us a lift home in his van; it was only round the corner he said. We were talking gibberish about the match. Each of us so proud of the performance, trying to relive what we had just been through. Every corner we turned we apparently got closer to our vehicle home. At this point we were soaked through. The van seemed to be further and further away with each step we took. By the time we found it we had walked from one side of the city to the other. It was only supposed to be round the corner, Walking through Liverpool at night is only fun when your drunk or extremely high with emotion after a great win at Anfield.

The journey home along the M62 isn’t really something I would usually write about but I think it’s important to say how I lived in fear for those long 20 minutes. Being a van, there were no back seats, only a large space which included a hard hat and workmen’s tools. At one point I found a hack saw and suddenly felt very vulnerable. It wasn’t the end to the night I was expecting in all honesty. Every turn the driver took, the saw moved closer to my leg. I was soaked through, full of emotion and now had a fear of being cut by a saw. It was the most surreal night I had ever had and I loved every minute of it.


ANFIELD – ONE YEAR ON: PART TWO

The Cobblers' away end at Anfield

In Part Two of the Anfield reminisces, here’s my buddy Jamie’s account of the night. For those who haven’t followed the blog for long, Jamie is a Chelsea fan originally but decided one day to accompany me to Underhill to watch the Cobblers take on Barnet. Somehow that trip made him thirsty for more and since then he’s been as much an honorary Cobbler  as anyone despite witnessing only minimla victories in our trips to watch the Town together!

So here’s Jamie’s thoughts on that night…

 

The Greatest Night as told by The Honourary Cobbler

I still make a point of keeping my old Chelsea shirts. The ones with Coors or Autoglass sponsors on them. I may be a young(ish) man, but I’m of the pre-Abramovich stock of Blues supporters. I was there during the days when our most glamorous foreign signing was Norway’s ginger hardman Erland Johnson and Stamford Bridge was still a half-finished abomination of a stadium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not embarrassed now Chelsea is in to its halcyon era, but the world loves an underdog and I pine for the days where the only thing my supported team were consistent at was being inconsistent. We’d beat United and lose to Bolton in the same week.

But when Chelsea scooped their first title in 40 years, enter stage right Daniel George Brothers: third year flatmate and class of ’06 Media Writing at Southampton Solent University, and best friend ever since. And of course the glue that holds pretty much all matey friendships together is the shared love of footy. It was with some surprise to discover Danny had shunned the Premiership bandwagon and stuck with Northampton Town, his local childhood team. It was admirable to find a local-team supporter, so much so that he easily cajoled me into trekking up to Barnet on a chilly December afternoon to get a taste of life in The Football League. Four pints, a questionable half-time burger and a Scott McGleish spot-kick winner later, I was in love. This was real football.

I recall in Danny’s closing thoughts of his Liverpool match report, he said:

This is why we stay so loyal – through all the trips to Carlisle, Yeovil, Rochdale and Morecambe, through years of “Cobblers” jokes and through nights of despair when we questioned why we do it.

Prior to the game I was in that place too. I’d put in the hours and clocked up hundreds upon hundreds of accumulated miles journeying up to Sixfields or wherever it was possible to catch an away game. And boy, did we pick ‘em. I felt the agony of injury-time defeats at Torquay and Yeovil. I was there when we went down to Posh at London Road, and when we squandered the points not once, but TWICE in consecutive seasons against Aldershot. I was there when we were hammered by Leeds at Elland Road and felt the pain of relegation. In fact, I have living proof of that last one, as my hands-behind-the-head despondency was handily photographed and printed in the Chronicle & Echo’s relegation pull-out special. But then one afternoon I watched the League Cup fourth round draw in incredulity as we were paired with the mighty Liverpool. I grabbed the phone and moments later Danny and I were making plans. It had to be done.

I went ripe bananas – everyone did – when Abdul Osman slotted home from 12 yards to claim the Liverpool scalp. What a moment, what a night. But more than that, I felt the pride of seeing a club I’d adopted as my own play so incredibly well against a team of top quality players (and Ryan Babel). Earlier on when Milan Jovanovic had opened the scoring inside 10 minutes I sat back in my seat and smiled at the familiar sound of thousands of home fans celebrating in the face of our inevitable dejection. If we’re in for a drubbing, I thought, at least we can sing our hearts out and not care too much for the fact that we’re here and we’ve had a go at it. It’s always nice to take comfort from that. But it was evident very shortly after the restart we were doing much more than just having a go at it. We were playing with inspired tactics to boss the game with clever passing. Liverpool are always a proud club, and there’s nothing more brutal for them to have to face up to the fact that they were outfoxed, outplayed, outpassed and outclassed as the game wore on. It’s tough for them to admit it, but this was without a doubt not some fluke; this was a proper upset. From Billy McKay’s equaliser to Cracker’s finish in front of the Kop to send Northampton Town into the lead and the faithful into raptures, it was all about believing in the underdog. Even after Liverpool snatched their equaliser late into stoppage time in extra time, Danny and I knew we were favoured team to win the penalty shoot-out. No more jinxing it, no more ‘kiss of death’ moments. For one blissful night Northampton Town of League Two looked pretty darn close to invincible.

Danny’s got many reasons to be proud: it’s his club, his family’s club, his patch, his lifelong support. But I’m happy doing my bit as The Honourary Cobbler. I still pull on the claret shirt just as often as I’ll wear the blue. I’ve learned along the travels that League Two football is about going along, clicking the turnstiles to help your club pay the bills and adding your voice to the clutch of hardy supporters. And what’s more, your own voice can be heard by all your comrades, the players and the opposition if you sing and shout loud enough. You don’t get that benefit when you go to a Premiership match.

It’s terribly corny and sentimental, but whether it’s a pathetic 4-1 drubbing at Underhill or a dream victory on one incredible night at Anfield, I’m just as proud either way to be able to say “I was there”. Aren’t you?

Jamie Shoesmith

ANFIELD – ONE YEAR ON: PART ONE

One year ago today I woke up on the morning of a game that I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy no matter what the result. There was surely no chance that a struggling Cobblers side could even think of competing with Liverpool in the Carling Cup Third Round…was there? In the back of my mind there was 1% of my brain telling me it ‘could’ happen but realistically it was ridiculous to imagine. The only thing I was worried about was being trounced by six or seven goals and vowed to simply take in the atmosphere of Anfield and enjoy watching the Cobblers in this world famous venue.

What was to follow was one of the greatest nights in the Cobblers’ history, if not THE greatest night. My report of that night is reproduced below and we have loads more to follow today so stay tuned for more accounts of a truly amazing evening…


Liverpool 2-2 Northampton Town (Cobblers win 4-2 on penalties)
Carling Cup Third Round
Tuesday, September 22nd 2010

The Carling Cup. “Meaningless”. “For the reserves”. A “Mickey mouse” cup. Just some of the descriptions of this competition over the years as fans of Premier League sides exiting the cup console themselves by saying that it isn’t that important anyway. But I can tell you now – after witnessing last night’s game first hand – that the Carling Cup deserves a hell of a lot more credit than just being seen as the playground for the second strings of our Premier League neighbours.

I usually have feelings ahead of the game when I know that something special is about to happen. I had it pre Rotherham, pre Mansfield and pre Bristol Rovers so when those feelings didn’t return ahead of this game, despite the sun beaming down on Sixfields, I thought that was that and it would just be a case of enjoying the trip to Anfield. Of course, there were other reasons for a bout of pessimism about the result in that Liverpool are one of the most world renowned clubs in the world, let along England, boast a clutch of internationals even in their reserves and have home advantage to boot. No-one could predict what was about to happen. Those that did, did so with a smile and a tongue very much in cheek. What unfolded in the following few hours will become folklore in the history of Northampton Town Football Club.

Jamie accompanied me on this trip to Anfield along with my Dad and we’d started the day in fine fashion by taking part in a tour of Wembley Stadium – the venue for the final of course. A ninety minute gander at the home of English football is highly recommended if you get the chance and provided a perfect start to the perfect day.

Onwards to the coach north then from Sixfields and after a small delay we were off and with the weather darkening as the journey went on we knew that it would be a good backdrop for a potential upset with rain teaming down. But still our threats to sneak a win against Liverpool seemed empty and overly optimistic when we really should have been concentrating on winning a corner first!

Arriving at Anfield in good time, we found our seats, very handily placed in Row 7 of the Anfield Road end, and looking around it appeared that the Claret faithful had taken up the full length of the stand behind the goal. The atmosphere kicked in, the army began to gather their voices, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” greeted the players on to the pitch and the Cobblers would be attacking the Kop in the first half. Never in my life did I expect to be writing that!

Liverpool had named a decent side with £12 million Dutch striker Ryan Babbel partnering Daid Ngog up front and former Rangers defender Danny Wilson handed a debut. The Cobblers lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with Leon McKenzie missing and Billy McKay handed the thankless task of leading the line on his own.

It didn’t take long for the script to begin to unfold as expected. Despite a good start from the Town, Milan Jovanovic got on the end of a through ball from Daniel Agger to finish very well past Chris Dunn. In League Two, that would have been a half chance – on this occasion it was a straight forward opportunity that the man signed on a free transfer in the summer was only too happy to accept.

This was the point when Liverpool got a bit cocky. They should have continued to pick us apart. We expected a drubbing following that start but slowly realised that we actually did have a chance here. Kevin Thornton tested Brad Jones and a soaring header from Michael Jacobs flew over the bar as we began to give the home side something to think about.

Jacobs was so very close to an equaliser on the half hour mark with a curling shot that only just went wide. We were turning the tide – Liverpool didn’t want this half as much as we did. The Cobblers were showing real grit and doing every single simple thing right combined with a terrific work ethic and spirit. It was only 1-0 at half-time and we were damn sure still in this one. The next goal would be vital and my goodness did we take the roof off when it came our way.

A few minutes before the hour mark, Liam Davis clipped in a cross, Kevin Thornton got a nod down and Billy McKay rifled the ball into the net. To say that the massed claret faithful went barmy is a huge understatement. We had scored a goal at Anfield, we had levelled the game at Anfield. I don’t think I was the only one with a tear forming in my eyes and I’m not afraid to say it. It wouldn’t be the last of the night!

Unbelievably the Cobblers turned the tide and were now on top and frantically looking for the winner. Thornton had a twice taken free kick blocked in what could have been a replica of John Frain’s moment of glory in ’97 and we were BATTERING them. Holty threw long throw after long throw into the ‘Pool area and crosses flashed in that just needed a touch but the ball stayed out of the net for now.

Sammo sensed extra time and made all three of his substitutions in quick succession. McKay was out on his feet and was replaced by Stevie G (Mr Guinan earning the nickname for the night in the absence of the Liverpool captain!), John Johnson was injured towards the end of ninety minutes and Nathanial Wedderburn took his place while Courtney Herbert took over on the right wing for Paul Rodgers.

We saw the time out, ninety minutes was up and unbelievably the Cobblers had taken Liverpool to extra time on their own patch. Not only that but we were fully deserving of it…no luck, no freak goal and no complaints from the home support who were just as stunned as we were.

The first half of extra time was spent on the edge of our seats. Nails were already bitten off. The shaking in our bones was not because of the cold but of nervous excitement. We were hanging on. Until…

Nine minutes in to extra time we had a rare attack. Herbert appeared to run with, and lose, the ball on the right before battling back, coming away with it and somehow getting a cross in at the Kop End. Thornton forced Jones into a save but there was nothing that could be done when 17-year-old Michael Jacobs slammed the ball home to make it 2-1! A moment so early in this young lad’s career to savour and one that will live with us all as we took the lead at Anfield. The scenes were barmy…grown men hugged random strangers, claret clad supporters leaped for joy whatever their age and when it had all settled down heads were shaking in disbelief.

We held out for half time in extra time. We dared to dream. That was when the cramps kicked in. Cobblers players left, right and centre were on their knees in the second half. Thornton was pushed up front because he was out on his feet, most of them were playing out of position and it was only a matter of time before the equaliser. Lucas and Jay Spearing tested our nerves before the inevitable when Ngog actually did something of note and nodded in at the back post to break Town hearts.

Now we had to somehow get through to penalties, right? Well yes, but why not have a go! God only knows how we managed to attack, let alone have the ball cleared off the line twice in an extraordinary finish. Liverpool came back at us and Liam Davis came up with a goal saving header that had hearts in mouths. But we made it. All the way through to penalties against one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Incredible and whatever happened next wouldn’t matter too much. We had given every ounce of energy and deserved this.

The spot kicks would be taken in front of The Kop and Guinan skied the first one to delight the home fans but it was level pegging again soon when Ngog put his wide. Thornton and Liverpool sub Jonjo Shelvey both scored, as did Davis and Agger. Jacobs stepped up to make it 3-2, a monumental effort from the youngster to show such nerve. And then it happened. Nathan Eccleston hit the bar! It was up for grabs now, as someone once said! All Abdul Osman had to do was score with one kick of the football to make history for the Cobblers. We held our breathe. It took an age for it to happen. But happen it did. Osman SCORED and Northampton Town Football Club collectively went absolutely mental!

Board members, staff, management, players and supporters were united in a moment for the ages. A moment unmatchable and unbelievable in this day and age. The riches of the Premier League had been upset by a club with heart, players with a sheer will to win and a support that had been waiting for a moment like this through all the trips to Carlisle, Yeovil, Rochdale and Morecambe, through years of “Cobblers” jokes and through nights of despair when we questioned why we do it.

This is why we stay so loyal. Because once in a blue moon, something incredible happens.

I’ve never been more proud of a group of players. Young players with nothing to lose, experienced pros, in particular the phenomenal Andy Holt, and players rebuilding their careers. Of a manager that has a reward for years of loyalty to a League Two club. And of a town where I was born. Not a glamorous town, not a magnificent town. But my town. My Club.

Now, think again…is the Carling Cup really that worthless?