4 Years. 43 Days. 22 Hours

faithexeterExeter City 0-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, January 10th 2015

It’s all about the timing. As soon as I found out I was becoming a father back in 2010, one of the first things (after panic, nappies and putting Ikea cots together) that came into my mind was the moment when I would walk through a football turnstile for the first time with my child, introducing them to all the wonders that following the Cobblers brings. Wembley, thankfully, seemed too early. Some games were discounted because of the emotions involved (E.g. Dagenham, Oxford). But for some reason, a blank Saturday last weekend coupled with the Cobblers being within a couple of hours away from my exiled location in Exeter it just felt like the right time for an adventure. Faith Brothers would be introduced to Northampton Town Football Club on January 10th 2015 – 4 years, 43 days and 22 hours after coming into the world.

After preparing her for a couple of days in advance, Faith had begun Saturday by excitedly making a flag from an old paintbrush and tissue paper and we were ready to go – an adventure to cold Devon via a couple of trains and endless games of “I Spy.”

There were other reasons for choosing Exeter as the venue for Faith’s first game – Martha lived in the city for six months in our ‘courting’ days and memories of a commute to travel down to see her came flooding back as the train pulled in to Exeter Central. What would usually be a pub stop turned out to be a cup of juice and a bacon sandwich at a local café and we were into St. James’ Park by 2:30 (looking back it was a little too early!). The feeling was a bizarre one but definitely felt like it was the right time in the father-daughter bonding experience to make the step from Sunday morning TV highlights to the big stage of a live League Two battle.

Anyone who’s taken their kids to the football for the first time will tell you that certain things are very different from any match you’ve ever been to before. You start looking for other families to sit near rather than taking up a place next to the loony/drunk fan that’s starting all the songs. Luckily City had a family seating section available for away fans which, despite a few pillars, provided a good vantage point and a friendly atmosphere. You also find yourself much more relaxed because of you have to change your language from “Get into him” to “Uh oh, that was a close one” or “Go OOOOON” to “Ooooh what’s going to happen?!” The whole thing brought me back to my own innocent eyes watching the Cobblers for the first time and was a healthy return to the things that made me fall in love with the game in the first place.

So this is what Faith’s match report would look like:

“We wanted yellows to win. Reds nearly score three times. Yellows score! Yellow score again! I don’t like the sudden loud cheers. Oooh crisps! Want to break my flag now. Yum, sandwich. Something else happened. Bit bored now. Time to go.”

In the interest of people who clicked this blog to read a more ‘grown up’ report, here’s how I saw it:

The Cobblers started shakily and the home side were producing some good chances with through balls over the top of the Town defence. A Lee Collins slip let in Tom Nichols early on but the City striker shot tamely at Matt Duke who palmed the ball wide. The Cobblers were taking time to settle and could have been a couple of goals down by the half way mark of the first 45. Nichols went close again after racing through and lobbing Duke before Aaron Davies almost broke the deadlock with an effort from range that Duke did well to palm over the bar.

Seemingly out of nowhere, though, Town found a breakthrough against the run of play. It was that man Marc Richards once again who set us on the way by stopping low to nod in John-Joe O’Toole’s flick for the opening goal. City keeper James Hamon presented Richards with a golden opportunity to quickly double his tally for the afternoon moments later but Rico uncharacteristically shot wide.

It was left to O’Toole to make it 2-0 as he finally got off the mark for the club. His was an overall performance that was arguably his best since signing in the summer and with a greater focus on acting as a forward target rather than a drifting midfielder he seemed to flourish. Some good work on the right from Lawson D’Ath, a man who has impressed me every time I’ve seen him play, O’Toole latched onto a through ball to beat Hamon to the ball and slid it in to give us an unexpected control of the game.

O’Toole could have had a second early in the second half but headed wide before Alex Nicholls entered the fray to applause from both sets of fans. He had a good chance to halve the deficit but headed straight into Duke’s arms. The Cobblers were holding firm and it was always going to be a different second half as we protected a precious lead.

There was no real intent from Exeter to get back into the game and Town saw the game out very well indeed. If last Saturday’s draw with Southend wasn’t a turning point then this result and gritty performance could well be.

After a winter detox of players leaving the club and loans going back we seem to be in a much more positive position with an unchanged side for the first time this season. The Cobblers were wonderfully balanced with the graft of Jason Taylor in the middle of the park complimented by Joel Byrom’s clever play ahead of him and new winger Rickie Holmes producing some terrific bursts of pace opposite the always hearty and battling D’Ath.

Defensively there were one or two slips but just having solid full backs and a central partnership with decent understanding is a good start. Rico is always going to put in chances for us and may be the difference between a relegation battle and mid-table security. O’Toole is hopefully starting to turn things around and if we can get more from him then the possibility of losing Ivan Toney becomes a little easier to bear.

All in all, then, Faith’s first game won’t be one that she’ll always remember barring my wistful reminisces in years to come but no-one can take away from her the fact that her debut saw us win, keep a clean sheet and go home very happy.

As for the effects, two home games coming up makes this a big, big win and if we can back it up with a couple more positive results then the bleak midwinter blues will be fully swept away. The road to recovery has been found – now it’s all about following it through to the end.

Away Days: AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon 017Away Days: AFC Wimbledon

In the second of the series looking in more depth at away trips made this season and on-going into the future, I review Tuesday night’s trip to AFC Wimbledon. As with the look at Bristol Rovers earlier in the season, I’ll be making each item out of five and giving an overall experience rating at the end. Hope you enjoy!


AFC Wimbledon (Red Cherry Records Stadium)

Result: AFC Wimbledon 1-1 Northampton Town


I visited this ground a few years ago when Wimbledon were plying their trade in the Conference South. It was interesting to take a look back at that review (which you can see here) to see not only how the club were already on an upwards curve back then but also how far they’ve come in a short amount of time.

Here’s my thoughts on my second visit, this time in the away end as the Cobblers made only their second trip to the ground at which Wimbledon call home at this time.


Location: It was a pretty easy place to find in the end…as below, we used Norbiton station and walked the short and simple route to the stadium from there. The train took us around half an hour from Waterloo station so it was a pretty quick jaunt from there. I hear from drivers that it was OK to get to by car as well. 3/5

Parking/Trains: The ground is pretty well situated about a 15 minute walk from Norbiton station, the route we took in from central London. Once you get onto the main high street there’s easy access down to the ground past a few take aways and local shops. I knew two people who drove to the ground, one parked easily enough in the side streets near the main road and one that used the club car park. The club’s car park appeared quite cramped and tough to escape from but cars were moving at a good pace when we passed it on the way out. 3/5

Pre match drinks: There were a few Cobblers fans milling about in the supporter’s bar where we went for a quick pre match beverage. Home fans were welcoming and there was always the sense that we could mingle together with no fear of any trouble at all. The supporter’s bar housed a big screen and plenty of room. 4/5

Away end: We were allocated the terrace to the side of the pitch and when the singing was at full go there was a good atmosphere thanks to its enclosed nature. I always prefer to stand at away games so that gives it more marks just for being available! There was one gripe about not being able to see some of the action in the corner down from where we were standing but we would have moved if it was that much of a fuss. 4/5

Food: We sampled a burger from outside at the burger van and chips inside whilst waiting for the lights to come back on. The burger was run of the mill chip van material but I can’t say that I enjoyed the chips inside the ground. 2/5

Atmosphere: The home fans were pretty loud when they wanted to be but it perhaps lacks the intimidating atmosphere where teams could fear coming to. It’s a credit to their supporters that this is the case, though, and before, during and after the match there was a friendly atmosphere amongst supporters. 4/5


Overall value for money: Tickets were £15 for adults and £9 concessions which must be one of the cheapest away tickets in the division at this point in time. That makes value for money go up straight away with the only knock on it being the view from the away end when the ball was in the corner down by the home fans on our side of the pitch. That didn’t bother me enough to bring the experience down though so good marks for this too. 4/5


Final thoughts

I really liked it…you can tell that you’re playing in League Two but that’s the joy of smaller grounds like this. There’s no pretence about it and the atmosphere was pretty good, especially during the spicier moments of the game! I hope that AFC Wimbledon do find their own home eventually but for the time being this option is perfect for them and should provide a decent day or evening out for most visiting fans.

Away Days: Bristol Rovers (Memorial Stadium)

So I’ve decided on a new feature for whenever I make a rare trip away with the Cobblers. Starting with this weekend’s trip to Bristol Rovers, here is the first in what’s hopefully going to be a few away trips reviewed this season and on-going into the future. I’ll be making each item out of five and giving an overall experience rating at the end. Hope you enjoy!


Bristol Rovers (Memorial Stadium)

Result: Bristol Rovers 3-1 Northampton Town

Attendance: 5,166 (266 Cobblers fans)

I’ve been to the Memorial Stadium three times before this visit, witnessing one draw, one win and one defeat. This fourth outing ended with a disappointing 3-1 reverse with Anthony Charles seeing red in the first half.

Here’s my latest views on the Memorial Stadium…


Location: It’s a tricky little ground to get to. Driving in we got to the general area of the stadium fine but it was only thanks to a quick check of the mobile phone satellite navigation system that we got to within ‘floodlight vision’ distance of the Memorial. No sign posts in view until right up until the very street it’s located on makes it a difficult location. 1/5


Parking/Trains: Didn’t hear any reports from visitors on the trains but the stations seemed relatively simply placed. There used to be a big car park next to the ground but that’s now gone having been replaced by new housing so it was street parking only. Having said that, there was plenty of free parking in the streets nearby. 3/5


Pre match drinks: Despite being the only Cobblers fans in the supporters’ bar right outside the home terrace (and overlooking the pitch from the windows) there was no problems at all with us being there. Rovers have two bars at the ground, one for members and one for non-members and we were happily told by a helpful gent outside that the non-members one would let us in. Seems like that gesture is based on a match by match judgement but managed to get a pint very quickly and had no trouble whatsoever. 4/5


Away end: Away fans have the option of a terrace at the end of one side of the pitch or seating behind the goal. We went for the terrace and it was a pretty mixed bag. We were close to the action but the sun was in our eyes for the most part which obviously is not a judgement on the away end as a whole but still a small problem. We also couldn’t see the corner at the far end that we were sitting on. Opinion from behind the goal was that it seemed a better option but if you prefer your terracing then the problems I had above won’t ruin your day too much. 2/5


Food: Whilst not in the class of a Kidderminster (League Two misses Aggborough for its delicacies!) this is one of the better quality outlets I’ve eaten from in this division. There’s one reason for this and that’s the pasties, which are absolutely top notch and come in cheese and onion and meat varieties. My mate Pete actually sampled both on the day and gave them both top marks. The positioning right on the terrace makes it a bit difficult when a queue forms but that’s the only thing against it, perhaps as well as variety of food and drink on offer. 4/5


Atmosphere: This category is mostly based on context in terms of how said club are doing at the time but Rovers fans didn’t get going until they took the lead. Late on, when the points were secured they seemed a lot more relaxed and ready to let out their voices that were being rested through the rest of the match and I can see how there is potential for a good atmosphere when their side is going well. On this occasion, though, it’s not getting top marks. 2/5


Overall value for money: I have to forget the result for this one and base it on the experience as a whole which can be tricky, especially after a defeat. But based on a non-intimidating atmosphere, decent facilities and good food I’m going to give the Memorial Stadium 3/5 overall.


Final thoughts: It still has the feel of a ‘proper’ League Two ground and that can sometimes be refreshing. I hear that they plan to move in the near future to a new stadium away from the Memorial…I can’t say I will mourn the loss because of the stadium not really possessing the sufficient character of some others that have been lost in the past few years like the Vetch Field or Gay Meadow but I just hope that the pasties stay as good!