The magic…

FA_Cup_logo_(2014)Northampton Town 3-2 Northwich Victoria

FA Cup Second Round

The magic of the FA Cup is often measured by how big a giant killing is, how obscure a player scoring a winning goal is or how far a minnow can travel through the rounds. But today at Sixfields we saw magic of a different kind. Yes, Northwich Victoria are some ninety league places below the Cobblers but that made what happened in the final few minutes no less enthralling and no less of a cup moment for a Cobblers side for whom everything is falling at the moment.

Northwich will be heartbroken this evening and with every reason. The Evo-Stick Division One league leaders gave every single ounce of themselves in effort, heart and application and go home with nothing but rightful pride in a performance that on most other days would have been making back page headlines.

The visitors soon let Town know that we were in a battle and settled the better of the two sides in the wind at Sixfields. There were no real clear cut chances but Northwich were forcing the issue more than a Cobblers side without the experience of Marc Richards, who was dropped to the bench in favour of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The youngster was struggling to take hold of the game and help the team to control the ball up front as Rico does so well and the first period became more and more disjointed.

Northwich, then, deserved their shock lead which came in sloppy circumstances at the back. Zander Diamond failed to clear properly twice and Jimmy Ball finished well with a controlled effort from the edge of the area. The away fans were dreaming and won’t have seen anything in our play to suggest that it was to be a smash and grab effort. Ryan Cresswell’s header that was well saved was our only moment in front of goal before the opener and the non-league side were deservedly in front at the break.

It was the introduction of Rico at the break and then of Ricky Holmes on the hour mark that started to finally give us some hope with Holmes’ return from injury in particular creating a buzz around the ground. But it was Northwich who struck again to completely stun Sixfields when Brian Summerskill robbed an unusual hesitant David Buchanan and chipped the ball over Adam Smith onto the bar and Richard Bennett tapped in.

As seconds ticked by, all hope of even being in the hat with a draw looked more and more lost. But then the sprinkle of magic was spread and a ten minute period, not to be forgotten for a long, long time I’m sure, began.

First, Nicky Adams’ shot took a lucky deflection off Sam Hoskins and arrowed into the corner of the net. Game on and a much needed platform to build on for the final few frantic minutes of the game for the Cobblers. Then, a free kick from the left hand side just seconds later was met by the head of Jason Taylor and the ball nestled into the other corner for 2-2. The visitors were crestfallen and were cruelly beaten in the next couple of minutes.

Taylor fed Holmes on the right and his right footed cross with the outside of his foot found Calver-Lewin’s head for the most dramatic of winners.

Alex Byrne still had time to bring a fantastic close range save from Smith in the Cobblers goal but we held out for a victory that puts us in the Third Round draw for the first time in ten years. 2006 saw us go out in that Third Round to Crystal Palace but was also the year of a second place finish and promotion to League One.

For Northwich, they earned a lot of respect this afternoon and go out with their heads held high. They’ve lost just once in the league this season and will surely use this momentum to push for a promotion of their own. They looked a side well above their level and have a manager in Jim Gannon who knows exactly what he’s doing. Good luck to them.

The Cobblers go into Monday’s draw as Number 50 and it’s going to edge of the seat stuff with heavyweights like Leicester City thrown into the mix. Being in that hat is nothing short of a miracle after the events that gave us our own piece of FA Cup magic.

What this means – summed up in 90 minutes.


If ever Northampton Town and, in particular, prospective new owners needed a case study of what this football club means to so many people then Saturday’s gutsy, passionate and thrilling victory at League One high flyers Coventry City came at the perfect time. The Ricoh Arena, awash with over 2,500 Cobblers fans, can’t have been expecting what was to come on an afternoon that could well be mentioned in the same breath as THAT night at Rotherham and THAT life or death experience at Shrewsbury Town.

Maybe in terms of what it means in the grand scheme of things it won’t end up having similar effects but the feelings behind a win like that, on prospectively a last ever away game for the club, cannot be underestimated. Live or die, this one will be with everyone who was there or who was following from afar for a very, very long time.

From the moment Marc Richards headed in to make it 2-1 at the end of a frantic first quarter of the game the Cobblers faithful – who had shared bucket collection duties with some terrific Coventry City fans before the game – sung as if it truly was the beginning of the end of Northampton Town in their current form.

If Kelvin Thomas and the consortium he’s representing was watching on from somewhere he would have seen exactly what the club is to us. It’s meeting with friends, family and strangers to share in the trials and tribulations of THEIR local team. It bonds us, it breaks us, it divides us yet brings us together again in times of ultimate highs or dreadful lows. Thomas would have seen a sea of claret that’s come to the fore whenever a big game comes along, especially away from home. He would have seen a team that wasn’t being paid a week earlier pull together and produce a performance of heroic proportions. And he would have seen unity from every single person involved.

That’s what the powers that be need to draw on in any arguments, debates and discussions over the next few days. This is more than a football club, a whole lot much more than a business.

It’s a life time of memories, one of which was etched into hearts and minds on Saturday. This now becomes THAT day at Coventry.

Round Two…

Next up, presuming that we make it through the next week still in business, is a handy home game against either Boreham Wood (struggling in the Conference Premier) or Northwich Victoria (third in the Northern League First Division). It represents a cracking chance of making it through to a potentially huge tie in the Third Round but of course nothing can be taken for granted. Just making it to that game at the moment will be a success!

Wednesday saviour?

Murmurings around the Interweb today have seen strong rumours emerge that a deal for completion of the takeover could happen on Wednesday. Paperwork to defend the club in the High Court needs to be in by Friday so I only hope and pray that this becomes a reality. It may be one final bit of hope to cling on to but it’s all we have!

Can the BBC save the FA Cup?

FA_Cup_logo_(2014)The FA Cup is a competition that’s apparently lost its glow in recent years, one that’s being treated with disinterest by some top clubs as they put all their energies into finishing in the top four of the Premier League, looking to pull all the riches they can from European competitions and some struggling top flighters desperate to not disturb their survival hopes.

So it was a welcome relief to see the cup back in the capable hands of the BBC this season with Adrian Chiles and co left to watch from the sidelines to see just how you handle and promote the greatest cup competition in Europe.
To me, the FA Cup hasn’t lost any of its glitz…the early rounds in particular are fantastic at giving small clubs their moment or moments in the spotlight.

It’s not just about the games themselves, though, this year with the Beeb putting on a very good show of the First Round draw. I wasn’t completely on board with the Monday evening slot at first but placed at 7pm and including a live audience and managers involved in the draw was a master stroke.

Not only did a prime time audience come within reach but also a competition was given its rightful and important billing. If this trend continues and the future draws are also given their own slot I can’t wait to see Arsene Wenger live in the studio complaining that he didn’t see it, Louis Van Gaal calling Phil Neville ‘stupid’ or Jose Mourinho being made to stand next to the grass cutter of Ebbsfleet United. An improvement indeed on Chiles, Andy Townsend and Clarke Carlisle rocking up on a Sunday and pointing out that Bromley’s left back earns as much as Diego Costa’s first three breaths of the morning and smugly laughing at crooked corner flags that look like Deirdre from Coronation Street.

A lot of the public’s view of the cup is down to how it’s communicated to them and ITV have once again dropped the ball over the last few years. All it took was one draw for half an hour on a Monday night to convince us that the magic is waiting to be captured once again.

As for the Cobblers, well we’re paired with League One Rochdale this time out and play the role of underdog. Any sort of win won’t cause many stirs but we can at least be safe in the knowledge that the big stories of the weekend will be covered with professionalism and with the understanding of the glorious history of the competition.

Can the BBC save it? You wouldn’t bet against it.

Concentrating on the league…

fa_cup_6057891Grimsby Town 2-0 Northampton Town

FA Cup Second Round

Saturday, December 7th 2013

Grimsby fans finally got their joyous moment against the Cobblers. In 2006, as they were waiting to party and invade the Blundell Park pitch, Ryan Gilligan stunned them all and the rest is history. On Saturday, the cup celebrations and the Mariner’s progression into Round Three, where they will meet Championship side Huddersfield Town, would have gone a long way to replacing their previous memories of games against Northampton Town.

The Cobblers suffered from sloppiness at the back and a lack of desire to go and win the game. We were inevitably caught out going for the draw and the replay that would have satisfied many. Grimsby weren’t messing about though and although our game plan worked up until a certain point it was destined to be shot down in the second half as the hosts pressed more and more and clinched it with two decent goals.

First, Shaun Pearson rose to meet Scott Kerr’s free kick and looped a header beyond Matt Duke to get the home crowd off their seats, from which they never really returned for the rest of the afternoon. Jacob Blyth was cutting a lonely figure up front and it was always going to be difficult for him to get in the game with the tactics so much leading to a defensive display.

After the goal, we did start to try and get back to where we wanted to be in clambering out a draw but the introductions of Clive Platt and, much too late in the day, Ishmel Demontagnac and Luke Norris, had only minimal success. Platt carved out a good chance on the turn but his left footed effort flew over the bar.

Grimsby kept trying to kill the game off and as we pressed for number two, Patrick McLaughlin wriggled his way through to seal it in stoppage time. It was one of the ‘upsets’ of the day with pretty slim pickings in the rest of the fixtures in that respect and the Cobblers now go back to the age old adage of focusing on the league.

That league campaign is still on dodgy ground despite the recent upturn in performances and we simply cannot afford to go for a draw at Bury on Saturday in what is an absolute crunch game against one of our rivals at the foot of the table. We’re severely lacking in goals away from Sixfields with 2013 a shocker of a year for results on the road.

If we can defeat the Shakers, though, we would be guaranteed to jump out of the bottom two at the weekend – that’s surely incentive enough for a group of players and the manager who need to get this cup exit forgotten about right away.

Finally, best of luck to Grimsby for the rest of the season and if they carry on the way they are we could well be rekindling the old rivalry once again come August!

Grimsby Town v Northampton Town – FA Cup Second Round Preview

fa_cup_6057891Grimsby Town v Northampton Town

FA Cup Second Round Round

Saturday, December 7th 2013

Going into the FA Cup First Round tie at Bishop’s Stortford there were more than a couple of questions over the future of Aidy Boothroyd. But three wins in five, including that victory over the Conference South outfit and a creditable draw at Chesterfield, have saved the Cobblers manager from serious interrogation from Cobblers fans and the board – for the time being at least!

It’s saying something, though, when you come into a cup game against a lower league opponent and feel like the underdogs. Indeed, you’ll struggle to find a bookie that have Town at shorter odds than the Mariners going into the weekend.  Grimsby are fourth in the Conference coming into the game and haven’t been beaten since mid-October, making them as dangerous a non-league side as we could possibly come up against at this point in the competition.

After easing past Rushall Olympic in the Fourth Qualifying Round, they were paired with local rivals Scunthorpe United in the First Round. A goalless draw at Blundell Park in the first game was followed by a famous victory for the Mariners in the replay as Lennell John-Lewis and Clayton McDonald scored either side of a Terry Hawkridge goal for the Irons to set them up for the Cobblers tie.

The game will once again be in the spotlight from the TV audience, albeit as one of the main games on the highlights show on Saturday night, so there’s again the sense that we could be on the end of an “upset”. Big emphasis on the inverted commas there!

We’re one step away from a potentially huge game in Round Three so the gradual transformation of this season could be accelerated big time if we can come through this latest cup examination.

O' Donovan...back in the squad

O’ Donovan…back in the squad

Team News…

Grimsby are without Liam Hearn who limped out of last weekend’s victory over Barnet with cruciate ligament damage. That could that mean young forward Dayle Southwell gets another chance after scoring a second half hat-trick in Tuesday night’s FA Trophy Second Round victory over Coalville Town. Andy Cook, meanwhile, is expected to be fit after coming off in the last few minutes of that game.

The Cobblers are without Izale McLeod who has already played in the FA Cup this season with MK Dons but Roy O’Donovan is back in full training after recovering from a double hernia operation so could return in his place. Clive Platt made a strong return last week and will do battle with O’Donovan, Jacob Blyth and Luke Norris for the starting places up front. Chris Hackett served a one match ban in the win over Accrington Stanley so he returns to the side but Stuart Dallas hasn’t been given permission to play in the cup by parent club Brentford so he misses out.

Previous Six Meetings…

02/04/10: Grimsby 1-2 Cobblers (League Two)

As the Cobblers rose back up the league towards a near miss on the top seven, Grimsby were teetering dangerously in the bottom two. Liam Davis gave us the lead before Michael Coulson levelled just before half-time. The game turned on Grimsby’s Olly Lancashire being sent off ten minutes after the break and Bayo Akinfenwa scored the winning goal to send the hosts closer to the Conference.

14/11/09: Cobblers 0-0 Grimsby (League Two)

There were more red cards in the other game between the sides from that season as the Cobblers’ Peter Gilbert and Grimsby’s Rob Atkinson both saw red in an otherwise uneventful Sixfields clash.

21/11/06: Grimsby 0-2 Cobblers (FA Cup First Round Replay)

After a Sixfields draw in the first game, the Cobblers – finding their feet in League One – came through a difficult replay thanks to a Justin Whittle own goal and Joe Burnell’s strike just on half-time. There would be disappointment in Round Two, though, as Town crashed out 4-1 at Barnet.

11/11/06: Cobblers 0-0 Grimsby (FA Cup First Round)

Ten days earlier, the sides played out a tame goalless draw at Sixfields to set up the replay.

06/05/05: Grimsby 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

With the Cobblers having been promoted a week earlier, we headed to Grimsby ready for a party and looking to prevent the Mariners from earning that win that would have taken them into League One with us. It looked to be going very much to plan for them when Jean-Paul Kalala stroked home a penalty with fifteen minutes to go but there was still time for the most dramatic of finishes to the season. Leyton Orient, in fourth place and chasing Grimsby going into the final day, suddenly scored a last minute winner at Oxford United and it was suddenly all on events at Blundell Park. With home fans preparing for a pitch invasion, Ryan Gilligan stunned them all with an injury time equaliser that meant that it would be Orient promoted in Grimsby’s place. They never really recovered from that moment, losing in the playoff final and suffering relegation to the Conference in 2010. More on that game here.

11/11/06: Cobblers 0-0 Grimsby (League Two)

A much less eventful game earlier in the season saw the sides share the spoils in a disappointing game at Sixfields.

The man in the middle…

The official charged with taking this one is Scott Mathieson. Mathieson was recently involved in Fleetwood’s epic 5-4 win over Mansfield Town in League Two and last refereed a Cobblers game just over a year ago in the 2-1 defeat at Oxford United, during which he sent off Clarke Carlisle.


I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I would take a replay and a place in the hat for Round Three from this one. Grimsby are in a fine run of form in league and cup and proved against Scunthorpe that they’re not to be messed with. I’m going for a draw and to get them back to Sixfields following what could be a big cup draw on Sunday. 1-1.


Grimsby Town: 2 Moments, 2 memories…

wembleyticketgrimsbyWhen I think of Grimsby Town there’s two moments in time that spring directly to mind – one of a devastating childhood memory and one of some sort of morbid redemption years later. As we prepare to visit Blundell Park to attempt to write another chapter in our historic tussles with the Mariners I look back below on two vivid days in recent times involving the two clubs.

Wembley 1998 – What might have been…

I was still a relative nipper in 1998 when the Cobblers, fresh off the back of the first Wembley appearance and arguably the biggest day in the club’s history, made their way into the shadows of the Twin Towers again to meet Grimsby Town for the chance to play in the second tier of English football (Division One, now the Championship). Back in those heady days of enormous team spirit and unity of the town, it felt that it was our destiny to win back to back promotions.

Grimsby, though, had other ideas and would edge a game that will be with us almost as vividly as the first Wembley game twelve months previously. It was settled mid-way through the first half when a slip in the Cobblers defence was capitalised on by Kevin Donovan who skipped through to fire past Andy Woodman for what would be the only goal of a tense game.

Woody would have his moment, of course, with a second half penalty save but even after that it never felt like our day. The one other abiding memory is that miss from Dean Peer from just a few yards out late on that could have turned the tide but it just wasn’t to be.

After two years of glory that had seen the Cobblers capture the imagination of the entire town it was a sudden bump that we didn’t come back from for many a year. Relegation followed just a year later and so began a period of rebuilding with Ian Atkins sacked near the start of the 2000/01 and old monetary issues rearing their ugly heads once again a couple of years later.

As a young teenager and with a relatively small amount of Cobblers supporting experience behind me, this was the first real moment of utter disappointment that I felt. Fortunately there were happier days ahead that made these days somewhat worthwhile…

ryan_gilligan_670070 (1)Blundell Park 2006…Gilligan spoils the party…

It was the final day of the 2005/06 season and one week ago I had one of the best individual days (and nights) that I have ever had. It was a few days after my final week of university and the Cobblers were up against Chester City at Sixfields.  On the same day, my housemate and emerging Cobbler, Jamie, was watching on as his first love, Chelsea, won the Premier League at lunch time. Before I travelled to Northampton from Southampton, the base for our uni life, we had provisionally planned a night out should two things happen: a) Chelsea won the league and the Cobblers were promoted and b) I got home in time!

After Chelsea had done their bit for our personal celebrations, the Cobblers won 1-0 to seal promotion and after the on-pitch party, I raced back to Southampton to eventually find a now unfortunately defunct, almost all night venue, the Frog and Frigate to be the perfect setting for sing alongs and celebrations.

That party mood was still in full swing when we visited Grimsby on the last day of the season a week later with a sold out away end ready to see it out in style. The Mariners, though, came into the game in third place and needed one more victory to seal their own promotion. They seemed confident and it appeared that we would all be singing along to “We are going up” by the end of the afternoon.

Leyton Orient and Ryan Gilligan had other ideas.

Orient were fourth at the start of play and needed us to do them a favour as well as having to win at Oxford United to edge Grimsby out of the final automatic promotion place. If the events of that afternoon had happened further up the footballing pyramid they would still be showing repeats to this day.

It was as tense as you like until Grimsby found a break through with fifteen minutes to go when they were awarded a penalty and Jean-Paul Kalala converted to give them a direct ticket to League One. With Orient drawing at the Kassam it was all pointing towards a Grimsby promotion. Until the final seconds of the day unfolded, that is.

Suddenly, and almost at the same time, two goals changed the course of history.

I’m not even sure what happened first but just remember a haze of astonishing celebrations. The Cobblers won a corner in stoppage time and the ball broke to Gilligan. As Grimsby fans hovered on the edge of the pitch ready to begin their own party, Gilligan swept the ball into the net for 1-1, sending shockwaves around the ground. At the same point, Orient broke away at Oxford and scored themselves and, in a split second, were promoted in the Mariners’ place!

We were celebrating alone, after all, in the away end at Blundell Park but Leyton Orient will forever thank us for coupling their victory with a crucial goal that sent Grimsby into the playoffs, eventually to defeat in the final against Cheltenham Town.

A few years of struggle followed for them and ended with relegation to the Conference in 2010 – you’re unlikely to find a more convincing point of reference for where the slide began other than this day in 2006.

While this one didn’t directly replace the disappointment from 1998 it went a long way to healing old wounds when you talk about Grimsby Town to Cobblers fans.

On Saturday afternoon, any high will be nowhere near the high felt from that game and any low won’t come close to Wembley ’98 but as we meet again, there will be plenty of fans from either side shuddering as they consider their opposition.

Cup date set as Grimsby upset the Iron

After last night’s dramatic FA Cup First Round Replay at Glanford Park, we now know that the Cobblers will be reunited with Grimsby Town in the Second Round with the teams now just one win away from the ‘big guns’. The Mariners overcame their rivals thanks to goals from Lennell John-Lewis and Clayton McDonald with the victory the final straw for the powers that be at Scunny – manager Brian Laws was shown the door today.

The next round now sees the Cobbler travelling to Blundell Park for the first time since a Good Friday encounter back in 2010 that we shaded 2-1. The sides have met in the competition before, the First Round in 2005/06 when we won through after a replay. The tie will take place on Saturday, December 7th and has been chosen as one of the main games for that night’s highlights show on ITV so the upset hunters at that organisation get another go at highlighting a potential banana skin for Aidy Boothroyd!

Big league games to get through before that though with our build up containing a long trip to Hartlepool United on Saturday and then to Chesterfield on Tuesday night before a crunch battle with Accrington Stanley at Sixfields. The Mariners, currently fourth in the Conference Premier, face Barnet in the league, Coalville Town in the FA Carlsberg Trophy and Welling back in the league ahead of hosting the Cobblers.

There’s plenty of recent history between the clubs with Wembley in 1998 and then that final game of the season in 2006 so it should be a good battle, especially with the carrot of Round Three dangling there for the winners.

First, though, let’s get more league places between us!

Cobblers escape with victory despite late cup scare

Danny EmertonBishop’s Stortford 1-2 Northampton Town

FA Cup First Round

Sunday, November 10th 2013

We can all breathe a big, fat sigh of relief. The banana skin has been avoided, the upset did not materialise like the rest of the country hoped and the Cobblers progress into Round Two of the FA Cup with only a late scare to offer any sign of an alternative outcome. Town made hard work of their Conference South opposition and should have sealed the game by half-time but the most important stat is the score line that sends us through to a less enticing trip to either Grimsby Town or Scunthorpe United.

The hosts made us work hard for the victory and on another day could well have nicked a replay at the death but ultimately the Cobblers did a professional job and were deserved winners in deepest Hertfordshire thanks to goals from the recalled Danny Emerton and striker Luke Norris.

ITV had earlier built up the underdogs as usual and the ever dreary Adrian Chiles did his best to convince the viewing public that the upset was on the cards. As the team line-ups were flashed onto the screen, so too were the part time occupations of the Bishop’s Stortford first team with the stage apparently set for us to fall.

Fortunately the Cobblers weren’t listening to the hype and came flying out of the blocks. An early corner led to Mathias Doumbe’s header being cleared off the line before Norris got on the end of a Chris Hackett cross to test home keeper Joe Wright. As Town continued the early pressure, Kane Ferdinand hit the bar with a looping header.

As the half wore on, though, Stortford settled and were invited back into the game. They hit the bar themselves before Norris was once again denied by Wright at the other end.

Chris Hackett was then sent clear through on goal on the right hand side and after he lobbed the keeper, just missing out on giving us the lead, he was clattered by the Stortford keeper and had anyone at all dressed in black kept their eyes on the incident we would surely have had a penalty alongside questions being raised over whether Wright would have stayed on the pitch.

Reece Prestedge found an opening late in the half but Paul Reid did well to block his effort at the end of a decent spell for his side but the half ended goalless with the Cobblers needing the break more than the increasingly confident Blues.

We came out in the second half much like the first and after a couple of half chances the breakthrough came on the hour mark. Danny Emerton picked the ball up on the left and curled in a superb effort into the top corner. The former Hull man ran directly to Aidy Boothroyd to celebrate and no-one in the ground would have been more relieved than the Town boss.  

The first goal was always going to be crucial and we built on it almost immediately with a second that should have completely killed the game off. Hackett did well again and raced into the box to see his shot palmed away by Wright into the path of Norris who side footed the ball into the net.

That should have been that but being the Cobblers it always felt like there could be a twist to come. We were right to not be sitting completely comfortably.

Prestedge was to be the man to give us the late jitters as he made the most of a break in the area to blast in an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net with ten minutes to play. That was enough to raise his side for one last effort but the Cobblers reduced them to a few dangerous crosses. Somehow the officials found five minutes of stoppage time to play on our nerves even more but it wasn’t enough for Stortford to claim an unlikely replay.

It wasn’t the vintage and blowing away performance that Boothroyd may have wanted and big questions are still a long, long way from being answered. Blyth and Norris have real potential as a front two but it’s a short term fix as things stand. Both played well but I got the feeling that Blyth tired after his recent spell on the sidelines. By the time there is real synergy between the forwards at least one of them will likely be back at his parent club.

Ricky Ravenhill had a decent debut and had some bite about him whilst Kane Ferdinand flitted in and out of the game whilst making an awful lot out of a brush to his cheek in one incident. Watching someone writhe around on the floor after a mild touch from an opposition player isn’t what we need right now and he could be another luxury player.

Chris Hackett was named man of the match and rightly so. The winger was given the freedom of the right wing and created chance after chance for the front two. What is vital now is that it continues for him back in the league – we need that version of him back, and soon.

Another man we could do with having back is Kevin Amankwaah. The right back position was filled by Lee Collins and then Ben Tozer and neither looked comfortable there – more clinical opposition will expose their weaknesses and really exploit them.

A word on Bishop’s Stortford, though, and I thought that they were terrific battlers to the end and can be proud of their efforts. They seemed overawed by the occasion early on but once they settled caused plenty of problems. Star striker Kyle Vassell was kept quiet before coming off injured but it felt like some of the home side’s belief waned after his departure from the play.

All in all, then, a good afternoon and the fact that we’ve avoided an embarrassment is reason for cheer in a run of form that’s been lacking in any – even small – pieces of good news. The true test of Aidy Boothroyd’s ever changing side, though, comes back in League Two and with the visit of league leaders Fleetwood Town next weekend. Any adversity in that one will measure the character of the squad more than this game did, as tricky as it was.

Victory against the Cod Army, though, and this result won’t just be one that acts to hide our current problems. 

Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town: FA Cup First Round Match Preview

fa_cup_6057891Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town

FA Cup First Round

Sunday, 10th November 2013

The Cobblers live on TV in front of the nation early on a Sunday afternoon away to a non-league outfit – it’s a perfect recipe for disaster and evokes shuddering memories of defeat to Canvey Island in 2001. Everyone tuning in that’s not a Cobblers fan will be baying for blood and almost expecting an upset as they finish off their Sunday lunches.

The game couldn’t be much more set up for a shock. Conference South Bishop’s Stortford have won all of their last seven games in all competitions while the Cobblers have been plummeting to the bottom of the Football League, plugging massive holes in the squad with short term loan deals and feeling confidence drain out of them bit by bit.

Stortford have beaten Hendon (5-0), Chipstead FC (6-1) and Conference Premier side Forest Green Rovers (1-0) to get to this point and will be confident of their biggest scalp so far against a shaky Town side.

What has happened this week with the re-signing of Jacob Blyth and the arrival of Ricky Ravenhill does shake things up enough to make you believe that Aidy Boothroyd is recognising his mistakes in the summer transfer window and his comments after last week’s latest injury time defeat makes you think that the dressing room is not a nice place to be right now. But Stortford won’t be worried a bit about that, nor should they be – this is their big day and we have to make sure that we’re not splashed all over the back pages come Monday morning!

Blyth...back at Sixfields

Blyth…back at Sixfields

Team News…

Bishop’s Stortford could be giving Kyle Vassell his final game for the club with Peterborough United appearing to be close to signing the striker. Vassell has scored sixteen times this season and has also had scouts from the Premier League tracking his progress.  Tommy Fletcher is available after joining on loan from Wycombe Wanderers this week whilst Manny Sackey has re-signed in time for the game.

The Cobblers, meanwhile, will give a second debut to Jacob Blyth who starts his second loan spell of the season from Leicester and he should partner Luke Norris up front should he, and fellow Brentford loan man Stuart Dallas, receive clearance to play in the game from his parent club. Also featuring will be new temporary signing Ricky Ravenhill who joined from Bradford City this week. Ravenhill hit the deciding penalty for the Bantams in their FA Cup First Round Replay victory over the Cobblers a year ago. Kane Ferdinand has been given permission to play by Peterborough United and we could end up with five loan players on the pitch! Elsewhere, Matt Heath, Kelvin Langmead and Alex Nicholls are long term absentees whilst strikers Clive Platt and Roy O’Donovan aren’t ready to return just yet.

The last five seasons in the FA Cup…

2008/09: Bishop’s Stortford were eliminated in the Fourth qualifying round after a narrow 1-0 defeat at Dorchester Town whilst the Cobblers held Leeds United to a 1-1 draw at Elland Round in the First Round but were demolished 5-2 in the relay at Sixfields.

2009/10: Stortford were knocked out in the Second qualifying round a year later thanks to a 3-2 home reverse against Thurrock. The Cobblers beat Fleetwood Town in the First Round but Southampton claimed a 3-2 win at Sixfields to put us out in Round Two.

2010/11: Bishops’ Stortford again failed to get past the Second qualifying round – having been held by Bromley in the first game they lost out 2-1 in the replay. Meanwhile, Town eased past Forest Green Rovers before coming up short again in Round Two and again by a 3-2 score line, this time at Sheffield Wednesday.

2011/12: After coming past Canvey Island and Burnham, Stortford were one game away from the First Round but were beaten at home by Salisbury City and missed out at the last once again. The Cobblers lost 1-0 at Conference Premier side Luton Town and that was enough to cost manager Gary Johnson his job.

2012/13: In last season’s competition, the Blues beat Enfield Town 4-1 in the Second qualifying round and then came past Chalfont St. Peter in a replay before progressing into the First Round proper by winning 3-1 at Welling. Eventually, they lost 2-1 at home to Hastings United, who would end up going all the way to Round Three. We had no luck once again – having held Bradford to a draw at Sixfields, a youthful Cobblers side battled to a 3-3 draw after extra time at Valley Parade before missing out on penalties.

The man in the middle…

Stephen Martin will take charge of Sunday’s clash having been the official in games in all three Football League divisions and in the Capital One Cup this season. The last time that he was the referee in a Cobblers game was the 3-3 Sixfields draw with Southend United in August of last year.


I’ve been trained to expect the worst in this type of game, especially when we are struggling and the opposition are a high flying non-league outfit but I think we’ll scrape through. It won’t be easy so I think we’ll nick it by the odd goal. 2-1

More preview blogs:

Part One: Meet Bishop’s Stortford

Part Two: Meet the manager – Rod Stringer

Part Three: The Stadium – ProKit UK Stadium 

Part Four: Fan Feature, with Padraig Curran

FA Cup Week: Part Four – Bishop’s Stortford Fan Feature

The FA Cup First Round draw takes place on Sunday afternoon

Part Four of the FA Cup Week special blogs sees us catch up with Bishop’s Stortford fan Padraig Curran, a former stadium announcer at the ProKit UK Stadium. He discusses past glories, who the key men to watch will be on Sunday and predicts the outcome of the big game. You can follow Padraig on Twitter at @PadraigSCurran.

How did you come to support Bishop’s Stortford?

PC: I’ve lived in Bishop’s Stortford all my life and Stortford were always my local club, my Dad was born and bred and has lived all his life in the town and used to watch Stortford at Rhodes Avenue when he was a kid. My Grandad was also a Stortford fan and even played for the club for a little while, so I guess it’s in the blood really. I got my first season ticket aged 14 but used to watch the club fairly regularly before that.

What have been the highlights of your time supporting the Bishops?

PC: I’ve had some great experiences supporting Stortford with some great trips to away games and some brilliant matches at home. Watching Dwight Gayle at the club a couple of years back was fantastic and I’m glad that he’s made the move to Palace and is now a Premier League player. On a personal note, my highlight was being Stadium Announcer at Woodside Park for 2 seasons from the age of 16 up until the point I left for University. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed working at the club.

Who are your key men to watch?

PC: All of them!! Reece Prestedge has always been a great player for us, a commanding midfielder and really sorts the team out. From what I’ve seen so far this year from a distance, Kyle Vassell looks like a cracking player and has scored some great goals too for us so far not least the one only last weekend against Tonbridge Angels. Those two are probably the two to look out for next weekend.

What have been the key reasons behind your excellent start to the season?

PC: This is all down to the great work by our boss Rod Stringer and his coaching team. Rod has been fabulous since he came to this club, we had tough times in the North but he took us successfully through that difficult period in our history and we’re now reaping the rewards for his work on the pitch back in the South. He has brought in some great signings and has brought back a sense of confidence, self-belief and his team really gels together and is such a strong unit.

Any famous fans?

PC: Not that I know of! I suppose the Arsenal legend John Radford who was also our manager could count and also the BBC Radio One DJ Greg James who comes from the town.

Finally, a score prediction for the game?

PC: Stortford to nick it 2-1. Vassell to get them both!


Bishop’s Stortford Links…

Official Website:




Local news site: