The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: April and May

With six games to go and an overwhelming sense of doom hanging over the Cobblers, the season looked as lost as Terry Fenwick in a manager’s coat ahead of what was, on paper, a terrifying trip to London Road to face The Posh.

The damage to Jimmy Floyd’s Cobblers reign had been done many times over ahead of the derby and the fact that the eventual 2-0 defeat was seen as something of a relief to have not been hammered told you everything about the last few weeks. Hasselbaink had no way back and following a pre, during and post-match rant by previous derby hero Ian Sampson on BBC Radio Northampton it was confirmed that the Cobblers were indeed parting ways with the former Chelsea man.

Dean Austin was the man charged with salvaging something – anything – out of the season with relegation highly likely with five games to play. Austin had been mainly in the background as Jimmy’s assistant over the previous months and was really in a no lose scenario as caretaker boss until the end of the season.

Austin’s first game in charge stuck with the norm as Town succumbed to a disastrous 3-0 reverse at Blackpool and hope was fading fast that he could mastermind a complete change of fortunes.

But sometimes hope makes you suffer more than the reality as the Cobblers and Austin suddenly came to life, playing with a heart and a desire that had arguably not been seen since the League Two championship winning side.

First came three points at fellow strugglers Bury. Town took the lead through Ash Taylor before The Shakers, all but down before the game, levelled a few minutes later thanks to Peter Clarke’s close range goal. Sam Hoskins raced through for 2-1 but Danny Mayor looked to have put the hosts’ relegation on hold with Bury’s second equaliser. Taylor then majestically swooped like a woken starling to hammer in Dan Powell’s cross with two minutes to go for the Cobblers and that winning feeling had returned in dramatic style.

There were still a whole host of games in hand to be played but with the Cobblers three points from safety there was that glimmer of a chance that we could pull of what would have been a miraculous escape. Even more so after playoff chasing Plymouth Argyle came to town.

This would be the performance of the season and the one that may well have earned Austin the full time job. The Cobblers played with verve, hunger and passion and deservedly beat their high flying opponents in front of a Sixfields atmosphere to match. John-Joe O’Toole deflected the ball home just before the break before Sonny Bradley’s own goal made it two on the hour mark. Suddenly, with two of the three teams above us to play in the last two games there was something to fight for again.

It would, though, come to the cruellest of ends in true Cobblers style. The trip to Walsall, with a mass of claret humanity urging the side on, was one of THOSE games. Town hit the woodwork twice and had the ball cleared off the line before a frantic finale. Austin decided to go for broke and the home side sensed a chance at the other end as George Dobson steered the Saddlers towards their own safety and sent us to the very edge of the drop, now needing a huge goal swing against Oldham on the last day to survive.

Oldham still needed to match Rochdale’s result to survive themselves and looked well on course when George Edmundson struck early on. But a Matt Grimes penalty and an Ash Taylor scramble set nerves jangling in the away end. When Rochdale took their lead in their game against Charlton that became full on panic and even though the visitors levelled it wasn’t enough and the Cobblers had dragged them down to League Two with us.

It was an exhausting final few weeks but it was all given to us by Dean Austin bringing in a completely new way of playing, by instilling belief and fire into the players and really putting himself out in front in the running to become permanent boss. Yes it still resulted in relegation but the Cobblers fans had their club back, the players were united with us again and we could actually look forward ahead of a season back in League Two.

It came as no surprise, then, that Austin was named full time manager just after the seasons’ end and we can hopefully look forward to better things to come over the summer and into a challenging League Two campaign.

Twitter Said:

@chronsport “The Cobblers did not just beat Plymouth, they battered them. If 2-0 could ever be classed as a thrashing, this was it. Those in the away end may claim their side played poorly but the truth is they were made to look poor by a transformed Cobblers team.”

@James_ChronNTFC Tell you what, never mind the manager’s job. Dean Austin deserves a knighthood for getting a performance like *that* out of the Cobblers. Sensational. 2-0 flatters Plymouth.

@TomalinJames Cobblers essentially get relegated, and I get blocked on Twitter by the Shadow Home Secretary! #oneofthosedays

Moment of the Month:

The 2-0 win over Plymouth at Sixfields – superb on and off the pitch.

Player of the Month:

Ash Taylor summed up the newly found spirit in the camp. Sam Hoskins had an excellent month too.

Song for the Month:

 

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: March

“Am I meant to be playing left back, Jimmy?”

After a two week mini winter break, it was on to the final furlong of the season as the Cobblers looked to hold on to their position just above the bottom four in League One.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had dipped into his Orange Pages just before the trip to Bristol Rovers to bring in fellow Dutchman and striker Kevin Luckassen, formerly of AZ Alkmaar, Ross County, Slovan Liberec and SKN St Polten (thanks Wikipedia!) to bolster the attacking ranks. His luck was indeed in as big Kev scored within moments of his debut by coming off the bench to nod in an equaliser at Bristol Rovers in a 1-1 draw to kick off March.

Playing at Sixfields was Hasselbaink’s worst enemy though after he’d come out and publically showed his anger at home fans booing after the 0-0 draw with Oxford United at the end of February. The murmurings were getting louder and louder after another dismal performance at home, this time against playoff bound Rotherham United who took a comfortable 3-0 win back to Yorkshire.

Better was to come on the Tuesday night with a good 1-1 draw with high flying Shrewsbury that was all going right at the break as Shay Facey put the Cobblers in front. But when John-Joe O’Toole and Abu Ogogo decided to bring some WWE skills into proceedings, earning them both an early bath, any flow was unsettled and Jon Nolan would earn his side a point.

A crucial trip to fellow strugglers Fleetwood Town was up next and it would prove to be a critical point in the season and in Hasselbaink’s reign. A poor performance, a 2-0 defeat and a long trudge home led to many believing that this was the beginning of the end for the season and for Jimmy.

Those thoughts were compounded in the final game of the month as Charlton Athletic won 4-0 at Sixfields in an afternoon stroll on Good Friday. With a trip to arch rivals Peterborough United up next, the gloom surrounding the club was palpable and it was, from here, only a matter of time before the Hasslebaink reign was, mercifully, brought to an end. With just six games to go and with Town back in the bottom four, the writing was very much on the wall.

Twitter Said:

@ian_townsend JFH is the only manager who makes unfathomable selections that not one cobblers fan would make he must be a genius we’ve not recognised it yet

@alan0015 Well that was a soggy and cold afternoon at Sixfields. Lost 0-4 to Charlton who were decent to be fair, but Cobblers looked clueless. #ntfc #goingdown

@TheRealCase Well, that was a bit of horror show by the Cobblers at Sixfields today. Rotherham were good, but Town allowed them so much time and space. Playing at home looks to have become a real problem for some of this team, and that does not bode well for their survival chances #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

Not a lot to go on so I’ll go with Luckassen’s first touch in a Cobblers shirt finding the next at The Mem.

Player of the Month:

Next…

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Bye bye Jimmy, hello Dean and relegation despite a renewal of hope.

 

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: February

As February came into view, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink seemed to finally have his marbles in order, his team in some sort of shape and his new signings playing ball and it was time to look up the table rather than down it, powered on by the momentum gained in a spectacular (by our standards) January.

What better way to start than with a home game against a Rochdale side distracted by a fine run in the FA Cup? Obviously this game appearing like a beacon of hope for three pocketable points should have been a warning sign. Dale promptly came, saw and took home a single goal victory thanks to Calvin Andrew.

The Cobblers were, though, putting out their best work on the road and the away form was helping to keep our heads just above water. Goals from Matt Grimes, Matt Crooks and Daniel Powell helped us to an impressive 3-1 success at AFC Wimbledon to keep up an unbeaten away run in 2018 that would stretch through the first couple of months of the calendar year.

Then it happened. I’m sure how to describe it other than an atrocity of a first half performance. A team that had looked so good at Wimbledon was suddenly looking as abject as anything put out in many a year, especially at a stunned Sixfields. Gillingham could and should have been more than 2-0 up at half-time in a game that even Terry Fenwick would have despaired at. The fact that Town pulled one back in the second half through Ash Taylor did nothing to hide the abomination of that first forty five yet we could easily have nicked a point. Hildeberto Pereira’s red card for falling for Lee Martin’s tricks and reacting to the former Town man in a way that many in the stands would have liked to have reacted put the seal on a dismal night.

This was about the time in the season where Jimmy’s tinkering grew to whole new levels and his relationship with the Cobblers faithful took a turn as players began popping up in strange positions and his post match reactions attempted to hide the baffling nature of his teams performances.

Next up was a trip to Scunthorpe United and Town took the lead twice through Chris Long and John-Joe O’Toole but both times the hosts hit back to earn what, on paper, was a very good point. It was the form at Sixfields, though, that was dragging us down, so much so that a 0-0 draw with Oxford United a week later was seen as something of a success despite a smattering of boos greeting the full time whistle.

Town ended the month in 19th place but most sides still held plenty of games in hand over us, setting up a frantic few Tuesday nights in the run-in as gaps started to close and the net began closing in.

Twitter Said:

@James_ChronNTFC: HT: Cobblers 0-2 Gillingham. Just when you think you have this #ntfc team figured out, they throw in a 45 minutes like that. Beyond bad. 2-0 flatters them. Cue boos.

@chronsport HT Cobblers 0 Gillingham 2 – and so ends a truly awful first half from the Cobblers. Clueless as an attacking force, all over the place in defence. It can only get better #ntfc

@dannybrothers #ntfc form is like a toddler having constant tantrums and then coming back downstairs with a heartfelt apology every time.

Moment of the Month:

The 3-1 victory at Wimbledon looked a huge result at the time.

Player of the Month:

Richard O’Donnell picked up the official award after a strong start to his Town career.

Song for the Month:

Coming Up: March blues as Jimmy’s reign unravels and the Cobblers drift towards eventual doom. Looking forward to it…

 

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: January

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. It’s a new year. Welcome to 2018 everyone! It had been a horrific couple of months barring one or two decent results and the Cobblers, Jimmy Floyd and Kelvin Thomas were up against it in a fight to stay in League One. But never fear, the transfer window was here to save the day!

In came Richard O’Donnell, a solid stopper at this level as well as the promising right back Shay Facey, the all-out attacking left wingback Jo Bunney, central defender Jordan Turnbull and, erm, Jack Bridge. Also coming in was Hildeberto Pereira, a flashy yet fiery character last seen on these shores at Nottingham Forest. Finishing off the recruitment was a man who even got his own promotional signing video from the club – it’s Jimmy’s fellow Dutchman Kevin Van Veen of course, here to save the day. Joking aside, Van Veen signing was seen as a real coup at the time and one that could propel us right out of the bottom four single handedly. Oh well…

Jimmy had a small clear out of his cupboard as well with strikers Marc Richards and Alex Revell on their way back to League Two with Swindon and Stevenage respectively while George Smith, who had made that outstanding start to Hasselbaink’s reign by setting up the first goal of the Hasselbaink era within twenty seconds, was sold to Chesterfield to make way for Bunney.

On the pitch, things seemed to be continuing in the same vein (Van Veen?) as Town were beaten by league powerhouses Wigan Athletic at Sixfields but the 1-0 defeat saw a small improvement in terms of performance that would be built on over the best month of our season.

Southend United came to Sixfields on a poor run and defied usual Cobblers logic by not actually ending a barren sequence and losing to Town. John-Joe O’Toole’s opener and a Jason Demetriou penalty had the game in the balance at half-time but second half strikes from Matt Grimes, also from the spot, and Alex Revell handed us a huge three points. Revell stormed towards the bench like a runaway train following his cameo and goal to scream “that’s why” at Jimmy and the bench. That’s why you don’t need to sign another striker presumably. He was right, in some ways.

Even more joyous occurrings followed at Bradford of all places – not usually the best hunting ground for the Cobblers. John-Joe headed home again and Chris Long set up an unexpected victory despite a late goal from the home side’s Paul Taylor.

We were on a roll! The playoffs were in sight! Well, maybe not, but this was fun. Two wins out of two was enough to send anyone potty so imagine the scenes when we actually made it three in succession by defeating the sinking MK Dons at Sixfields. Joe Bunney channeled his inner George Smith by storming down the left to assist the opener, from O’Toole again. MK threatened to ruin the party by equalising soon after but Chris Long got on the end of a Sam Hoskins cross to make it nine points from nine, pulling the plastic population down towards danger in the process.

JJOT was already being touted for League One Player of the Month even before yet another goal, this time at Ewood Park as Town nicked another excellent point. Danny Graham got the home side’s goal late on but it didn’t prevent January from being touted as a real turning point in the Cobblers’ season.

We had climbed out of the bottom four by the month’s end and were three points clear of MK Dons in 21st as the second half of the season kicked into gear.

Twitter Said:

@JoeAFC: Kevin Van Veen signing for Northampton..What a signing for @NTFC. Hasslebaink showing a clear statement of intent! Proven goalscorer in League One!

@ntfcbrasil Grande resultado! Nesta tarde, os Cobblers receberam o MK Dons, e a vitória veio novamente! John-Joe O’Toole e Chris Long marcaram e selaram a nossa vitória por 2 a 1!

@NQNTFC A goal and assist for John-Joe O’Toole at Bradford. Such an important cog in the Northampton machine. Amazing how far he has come at the Cobblers. A cult figure and for good reason. #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

For the first time in a while there’s an actual choice for this! Three big wins and perhaps the most impressive was the victory at Bradford.

Player of the Month:

John-Joe O’Toole had a huge month and deservedly won the League One Player of the Month award as well as the club award.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Steadying the ship ahead of the final furlong, Berto madness and one of the worst 45 minutes ever seen by a Cobblers team at Sixfields.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: December

It’s Christmas time…there’s no need to be afraid. Well, actually, there was for Cobblers fans. Still deep in trouble in the bottom four and with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink still trying to formulate some sort of plan of escape it was to be a crucial period of the season and looking back on it, this is where major cracks appeared.

Drawing the final game of November with fellow strugglers Bury at home wasn’t ideal and even the Checkatrade Trophy couldn’t provide light relief this time as Portsmouth disposed of Jimmy’s men in the first knockout stage, winning 2-0 at Fratton Park.

So with the Cobblers out of all cup competitions, it was full focus on the league and a trip to Oldham got as many alarm bells ringing as that Bristol Rovers hammering early in Hasselbaink’s reign. While you could put the Gas defeat down to ironing out some early issues, there was no excuse for a 5-1 hammering here. Sam Foley got the only Town goal but it was all but lost at 3-0 by that point and the home side simply kicked on again to easily dispose of a poor looking Cobblers side.

A response was needed and one came briefly with a 2-1 home win over Walsall with Erhun Oztumer’s early strike reversed by a Chris Long brace. It was, though, to be our only December victory. Amadou Bakayoko was sent off late on for the visitors.

As had been the case with much of our season up to this point, fresh signs of hope faded quickly to make way for unfathomable defeats and dropped points. Once again it looked like we were doing something like playing football and grinding out results following the Walsall win and there was even an excellent home point gained from Blackburn Rovers two days before Christmas.

But December closed with back to back away defeats, 3-0 at Doncaster Rovers and 3-1 at Pompey. Town took the lead in the game on the south coast but there was never a real belief that we were about to hang on and end a pretty bleak calendar year in style.

So it was that with twenty five games played, the Cobblers had collected just 23 points and needed a huge improvement in the second half of the season to fight against a tide that was building and building towards the relegation coast line.

Twitter Said:

@James_ChronNTFC FT: Oldham 5-1 Cobblers. League Two isn’t so bad. We’ve had many woeful afternoons and this is another one to add to the collection.

@CobblersPast Amadou Bakayoko  the Walsall striker was the 96th player to be dismissed against the Cobblers since the club was formed in 1897! @ntfc #ntfc @cobblerspast

@Somerset_Pompey I don’t think I’ve ever seen a side look so scared as Cobblers were today, especially their defence. Looked as if they thought the ball was going to explode anytime it went near them, couldn’t get rid of it quick enough. Worst team I’ve seen this season by a Pompey mile.

Moment of the Month:

Winning a football match.

Player of the Month: Chris Long popped up with the goals during the only real high points.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: New faces, new results and the shoots of a possible recovery (again)…

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: November

As the Cobblers entered November 2017 off the back of a good run of seven points from three games following a shocker of a double home defeat there was fresh optimism in the air at Sixfields as the FA Cup First Round rolled in. High flying Scunthorpe United came to town and in a rough and ready battle took the game back to Glanford Park for a replay after a 0-0 draw that didn’t really satisfy either side.

Scunny would be regular foes in November with Town eventually facing them three times in a matter of weeks in league and cup.

First up, though, was the Checkatrade Trophy and a bizarre run in the competition continued. With Southampton’s Under 21s (don’t get me started!) 3-0 up at Sixfields and Town doing their upmost to go out of the much maligned trophy we instead chose this night to produce the best comeback of the season. In front of 1,118 people. And it featured a wonder goal. If that’s not all typical Cobblers then I don’t know what is! The comeback, thanks to Sam Foley, Lewis McGugan’s rocket and Ash Taylor meant that for a third tie in a row we were facing penalties. A 4-2 shootout win later and Town were through to the knockout stage having not won once in three group games during ninety minutes. Next, please.

While that result didn’t exactly get the pluses racing, a few days later the Cobblers produced one of the few moments in the season that will be remembered, at old foes Oxford United. Taylor put us in front before Wes Thomas equalised just before half-time. But seconds later, Chris Long was racing through on goal, beating defenders to the final touch and finishing with aplomb in front of the Kassam car park. Over 1,000 Town fans were in attendance that day – hilariously a larger number in total than the entire attendance for the Checkatrade Trophy game a few days earlier – and we held on for a big three points and yet another win at Oxford, a third in a row at the home of the U’s.

Games were coming thick and fast and the cup replay against Scunthorpe was up next and with a mouthwatering second round tie away at Doncaster Rovers to play for, the home side nicked it thanks to the impressive Hakeeb Adelakun’s worldy.

There was to be no repeat of that as part three of the Cobblers-Scunny trilogy played out that Saturday. Oh no, we wouldn’t let them sneak it by a single goal this time. Indeed not…we lost 3-0 instead and clouds began to circle once more.

Going into the clash at Plymouth Argyle, Town were four points ahead of the Pilgrims so it represented a good chance to create a bit of distance between ourselves but it was the home side that kick started their own season instead, winning 2-0 thanks to a Sonny Bradley brace. Argyle would, of course, go on to finish just outside of the playoff places thanks to an almighty run in the second half of the campaign.

Another side right in the thick of it were Bury who were at Sixfields for the final game of the month and November ended just as it had begun, with a goalless draw that left both of us deep in the mire. Unlike Plymouth, though, neither the Shakers or ourselves would really get out of danger again all season.

Twitter Said:

@dannybrothers 16/02/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 26/12/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 11/11/17 – Oxford 1-2 Cobblers

Cheers lads! #oufc #ntfc

@James_ChronNTFCFT: Cobblers 0-3 Scunthorpe. Horror second-half. #ntfc back in the bottom four and now have a huge two games coming up.

Moment of the Month:

Has to be the win at Oxford. One of the few highlights of the season.

Player of the Month: Marc Richards was given the official award but Ash Taylor can’t have been too far behind once again.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: A bleak midwinter, another pummeling and not even a penalty shootout win!

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The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: October

It’s October! Welcome to the cold, dark nights, the season well and truly settling in and the Hasselbaink era’s early promise beginning to drift into a realisation that we actually won’t be storming up the table and suddenly bothering the playoffs.

 

Still, there was always the Checkatrade Trophy to pin our hopes on…even Justin Edinburgh claimed a win in this tin pot of a competition, remember. So it was that thousands 151 Cobblers fans packed settled in to London Road for a Tuesday night derby to remember pretend that we could actually beat these buggers from up the road. The fact that we didn’t even score our goal and didn’t win the game but still came away with double points again highlights the ridiculous nature of this competition. A 1-1 draw for the record with Jack Baldwin feeling sorry for us and slotting in our equaliser with an own goal to send the game to penalties. Another ABBA style shootout win meant that we somehow had four points from the group with Billy Waters slotting in the winning kick.

A home league game with Bristol Rovers followed and after a couple of tricky away trips this was the ideal chance to get back on track in the league. As everyone in attendance that day found out, though, ideal chances and the Cobblers don’t go well together. The first half was a smoke screen to the outrageous second as former Cobbler Billy Bodin (of course) opened the scoring for the Gas but Tom Nichols saw a spot kick saved by Matt Ingram and that should have been the spark for a recovery after the break. Not quite. Rovers scored five more times in a collapse reminiscent of THAT Shrewsbury home game (2-7) and Jimmy was left as bewildered as the rest of us.

That disaster made the following weekends’ 1-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon look like progress in comparison but the sinking feeling was already starting to set in for a Cobblers faithful hopeful that the corner had been turned in early September.

Getting away from Sixfields for a couple of weeks looked like a handy turn by the fixtures computer and so it turned out. First, in a dramatic game at Spotland, Rochdale’s Ian Henderson scored twice either side of a penalty miss and it looked like another down and out showing. But from nowhere, Ash Taylor and, even more incredibly, David Buchanan brought us level. In one of those Sliding Doors moments from the season, Town then won a penalty of their own and had the chance to take home an improbably three points but Joh-Joe missed it and the points were shared after an exhausting night’s work.

On to Gillingham and a couple of stunning goals gave the Cobblers a much needed win. Daniel Powell’s strike on the stroke of half time ended up winning the club’s goal of the season award but Matt Grimes’ winner, following Lee Martin’s goal for the hosts, wasn’t bad either.

After all that excitement on the road it was back to Sixfields to close off the month with a second win in succession with Sam Hoskins scoring the winner against Blackpool. So another rut overcome, another mini revival and we’re once again ready for Jimmy to kick on and take us away from danger. Right?

At the end of the month, Town were in 21st but level on points with AFC Wimbledon outside the bottom four. Considering the thrashing by Bristol Rovers and the defeat to the Wombles it wasn’t too bad an outlook. Plus, bottom club Plymouth Argyle were looking doomed already and were four points behind us heading into November.

Twitter Said:

EASISERV.com‏: #ntfc urgently need to start winning . . .  happily got #TheGas next-up, we usually beat them!

@alfie_ntfc: Daniel. Powell. Has. Just. Scored. A. Goal.

@James_ChronNTFC FT: Cobblers 1-0 Blackpool. Gritty, hard-fought and deserved victory. Sam Hoskins with the winning goal #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

The double power strike from Powell and Grimes to snatch the points at Gillingham.

Player of the Month: David Buchanan won the official award after his rare goal at Rochdale.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Mixed bag in the cups, a big win at the Kassam but Town still stuttering.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: September

Greetings, one and all, and welcome to September 2017. The Cobblers were reeling from four straight league defeats but a saviour was at hand. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, he of International recognition from his time at Chelsea as a marauding striker, dropped back to League One having taken unfancied Burton Albion to the brink of The Championship before an indifferent spell with QPR. What could possibly go wrong? We wish we’d never asked…

Things started well enough with a bold new era beginning with a goal in the first 20 seconds of Jimmy’s reign in a 1-0 home win over Doncaster Rovers. Matt Ingram, fresh from keeping goal for QPR against Town in August, was loaned in and kept a clean sheet as we finally felt that winning feeling once again. Many didn’t know what to do. Hundreds paused in their seats, Bovril in hand not able to believe what had happened. Clarence the Dragon fainted. Jeema stopped moaning for thirty whole seconds. Quite the scenes.

The new manager bounce became a full on trampoline session a few days later with the visit of Portsmouth, who were also disposed of as if August hadn’t event existed. Chris Long’s brace and another from Crooks had us looking up the table rather than down it for the first time and Jimmy was hailed as the latest messiah. He, was of course, just a very naughty boy.

Next up was a trip to sunny cold Southend and Jimmy was in dreamland as Leon Barnett and Crooks gave his new charges a 2-0 lead. The second half at Roots Hall, though, turned a tide in the game and the season from which we never fully recovered again. Two goals in three minutes at the start of the second half salvaged a point for the Shrimpers and exposed a soft centre within the Cobblers that many would pick up on over the coming months. To make matters worse, Crooks was sent off in stoppage time. Even then, seven points from a possible nine was a cracking start to the Hasselbaink era.

A trip to heavy favourites Wigan Athletic was never likely to amount to much and inevitably Michael Jacobs scored the only goal of the game to condemn Jimmy to his first defeat (of many, as it turns out!) as Town boss.

Our old friends Bradford City came to town and did the same, winning 1-0 thanks to Tony McMahon’s solitary strike and while the bubble hadn’t completely burst, a small child was definitely edging towards it with a pin.

More than 2,500 Cobblers fans converged on Stadium: MK for a Tuesday night 0-0 draw that did little to warm anyone’s cockles though Raheem Hanley got a rare start in a Town shirt and future Town loanee Gabor Aryibi turned out for the plastic population.

September came to a close with a trip to Rotherham United and another shaky display ended with a third 1-0 defeat of the month. The goal was scored by Kieffer Moore who would end the season in the Championship with Barnsley.

So a hectic start to Hasselbaink’s reign with two wins, two draws and three defeats leaving us almost back where we started and in huge need of something to lift the already dwindling spirits. The good news was that the Checkatrade Trophy was just around the corner again…

Twitter Said:

@jf9hasselbaink: Honoured that the board, owners and chairman at @ntfc placed so much faith in me. Together we can get this campaign up and running #ntfc

@StatsChristian: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the first #Northampton manager to win his opening game in charge since Kevin Wilson in Nov 1999

@javerill14: The fourth official is coming on for the linesman in the first substitution of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s #NTFC career…

Moment of the Month:

That opening goal of the Hasselbaink era after 21 seconds – things didn’t get a whole lot better after that!

Player of the Month: Ash Taylor, for the second successive month.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: More penalty shootout joy, THAT Bristol Rovers game and another mini revival.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18

With the 2017/18 season likely to go down in folklore for all the wrong reasons, today begins my alternative look at the season past. Instead of a simple run down of the horrors that were playing football matches in claret and white shirts over the past nine months, I’ve tried to pick out some hidden gems of happiness and quirky gems to cling on to so that when we look back on it in a few years we don’t just remember Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s doggy whistle and mind boggling tactics.

So here goes…strap yourself in, this could get nasty…

 

Part 1: August

Another summer, another build up full hope. Pre-season under Justin Edinburgh had been the usual humdrum including hammering Sileby to get our juices flowing (when will we ever learn?!), winning 4-0 at Frome Town in a game where I named Billy Waters as the one to watch this season (when will I ever learn?!) and conspiring to lose the much sought after Maunsell Cup at Kettering (on penalties). Defeating Edinburgh’s old charges Newport County at Sixfields was hardly a send-off to the season worthy of kings but Chris Long’s winner was decent enough to put the Burnley loan man in the spotlight.

Down to the real business then, and a sunny trip to Shrewsbury to really get things going. You know, Shrewsbury, the team that had finished 18th in League One the season before and only just avoided the drop. A chance to get off the mark then? Well, not quite – Lennell ‘his name is a shop’ John-Lewis won it for the Shrews in stoppage time. Ah well, surely the hosts wouldn’t keep that up for much longer, right?

Incidentally, the Cobblers squad that day included seven players and one manager who would either leave or be loaned out by the end of the season.

On to the Carabao Cup – the League Cup taken over by the erm, well known, energy drink. Future Cobblers loanee Matt Ingram took the gloves for QPR that evening as the Championship side edged us out by the single goal, scored by Yeni Ngbakoto who would end the season back in his native France playing for Guingamp. The memory of scoring that winner against the Cobblers in front of 4,317 League Cup devotes, though, must surely rank up there amongst his season and career highlights.

Back to the old bread and butter (slang for ‘we messed up the cup already’) and a third straight 1-0 defeat was inflicted by Fleetwood Town, this time in the opening home game of the season. It would all be OK though, the Cod Army would DEFINITELY be among the league’s front runners come the end of the season so chalk this one up to a tough fixture.

A trip to Charlton was exactly what we didn’t need but the run of 1-0 defeats was ended at least…as Town seamlessly moved on to a 4-1 hammering instead. Of course, Ricky Holmes scored for the Addicks and despite Marc Richards scoring our first goal of the season, Jake Forster-Caskey ridiculously scored twice in injury time to finish the Cobblers off.

With Edinburgh under increased pressure, it was time for a home game with Peterborough United – even this early in the season, this had all the feel of a do or die game for the boss and a second 4-1 reverse was too much for anyone to take.

In an odd, “it’s Bank Holiday so we can’t sack him” move, Edinburgh somehow clung on to his job through the Checkatrade Trophy game with Cambridge United on the Tuesday night. In a fitting turn of events, Town chose the most ridiculous  competition of them all to record a ‘win’ for the first time in the season and even more appropriately we ‘won’ by winning an ABBA style penalty shoot out to take two points instead of one from the game. The winner, kind of, took it all. If anything summed up the desperate need to say that we’d done something good, this game was it.

Edinburgh managed to come out for a post-match interview and produce a Best Supporting Role nomination inspired acting piece to pretend that he’d still be around come the game against Doncaster Rovers in ten days’ time. He was gone by the Thursday and the Cobblers would once again be on the lookout for a new manager.

Twitter Said:

@Fredorrarci – Edinburgh sacked by Northampton? I didn’t even know they were at war.

‏@HenryCollier10 – Justin Edinburgh sacked by #NTFC he’s had an appalling 12 months. This time last year Aaron Villa were rumoured to be after him. #Gills

@HeavyDale – No surprise at Edinburgh getting sacked by Northampton. Signing of Yasir Kasim can’t have helped.

Moment of the Month

Pretending that we’d won something by not actually winning…

Player of the Month

Ash Taylor picked up the official award. Sign of things to come.

Song for the Month

Coming up in September

Jimmy the Saviour?! Plus, some of those ‘point’ things on the board.

NTFC Season in Review 2012/13: April and May

Wells...Cobblers troubler again

Wells…Cobblers troubler again

At the start of April the Cobblers played a game of risk at the top of League Two with a place in the top three hanging by a thread in the opening couple of fixtures. First up was a trip to Cheltenham – a massive six pointer – that saw Steve Elliot’s solitary goal give the Rubies a big win to keep in touch with us in the race for third.

Town had somehow held on to third place with other results going for us and it was a similar story a few days later when Nahki Wells scored the only goal of the game against us at Bradford, continuing his fine run of form against the Cobblers to condemn us to another 1-0 defeat. Somehow, though, other results again went in our favour and with four games to go we were still in the driving seat…just.

That would all change when York City smashed our recent run of home victories by stunning the Cobblers at Sixfields and recording a 2-0 win that finally put us back down in the playoff positions. It would be the beginning of the end in terms of an automatic promotion challenge with Adam Chambers’ early strike doubled by John Johnson’s own goal with five minutes to play earning the Minster Men a crucial victory in their bid to avoid the drop.

The following Tuesday night saw a trip to Wycombe Wanderers give us a chance to get back into contention one final time realistically but a goalless draw wasn’t enough to breath any fresh hope into the challenge.

Port Vale away was up next in the final away league fixture and the hosts were gunning for promotion which they knew would come their way with a victory. Clarke Carlisle hadn’t read the script and put us in front but former Cobbler Liam Chilvers levelled before half-time. Roy O’ Donovan’s screamer momentarily gave us hope of a big victory as he curled in an unstoppable effort from range mid-way through the second half. It looked as though Vale would have to wait for their promotion party but with four minutes to go their former defender Lee Collins sliced the ball into his own net and with results elsewhere going for them, Port Vale knew that a point was enough to send them into League One barring a disastrous turn in goal difference.

For Town, the point at Vale Park confirmed a playoff place and we could now only finish 5th or 6th with home advantage in the playoffs all that was to be at stake come the final game of the season. For visitors to Sixfields Barnet, though, there were much bigger consequences. They would be relegated if they lost and AFC Wimbledon won. The Wombles managed to win their own game to give themselves a chance and the Cobblers scored two good second half goals through Roy O’Donovan and Luke Guttridge to clinch victory and to send Barnet down to the Conference after years of them surviving on the final day.

It meant that we had finished sixth after Rotherham clinched the final automatic promotion place and Cheltenham and Burton Albion both did enough to finish higher than the Cobblers. Cheltenham would provide the opposition for the playoff semi-finals and were the only team standing between us and a trip to Wembley.

The first leg would be played at Sixfields and was as tight as expected but the Cobblers took the lead in the first half thanks to fantastic build up play between Bayo Akinfenwa and Chris Hackett with Hackett crossing for Roy O’Donovan to fire in past Scott Brown in the Cheltenham goal who could and maybe should have done better. Paul Benson nearly equalised right away for the Rubies but the Cobblers would hold out to take a single goal lead to Whaddon Road for the second leg.

Early on in that game Cheltenham had an ideal chance to transform the game after Ben Tozer conceded a debatable penalty in front of the travelling support. But Marlon Pack’s spot kick was superbly saved by Lee Nicholls to keep us narrowly in front. Then came the killer moment in the tie when Bayo knocked the ball down for Luke Guttridge to unleash an unstoppable volley into the net from all of twenty five yards for a 2-0 aggregate lead. The second half saw Cheltenham pile on the pressure but despite hitting the bar and testing Nicholls again on several occasions it was the Cobblers who were heading to Wembley for the first time since 1998.

Excitement built for the next two weeks with tickets selling well and anticipation matching that of the previous two outings at the national stadium but we knew that Bradford City would provide stern opposition after the Bantams, already having visiting Wembley once that season for a remarkable League Cup final appearance, saw off Burton Albion over two legs in the other semi-final.

Wembley2

When the big day arrived it was to be one to forget as soon as the game kicked off as Bradford completely overpowered us and raced into a 3-0 lead before the break and the dreams of 20,000+ Cobblers fans had died a sudden death on the big stage. There was no way back for us despite Akinfenwa coming off the bench in the second half (we will forever question why he was left out of the starting eleven!) and Bradford cruised into League One, leaving us to ponder another campaign in the basement division.

It had, though, been a tremendous improvement on the previous two campaigns and I don’t think many of us would have predicted that the 2012/13 season would end at Wembley after two relegation battles that preceded it. Away form ultimately cost us automatic promotion and a late season injury to captain Kelvin Langmead certainly didn’t help the cause with the Player of the Season winner only returning late in the second leg of the playoff semi-final.

Aidy Boothroyd, though, had got the very best from his players and we now look forward to what will be an interesting summer with Bayo among several players told that they will now be leaving the club at the end of their contracts.

Hopefully by the time I come to write this again in a year’s time we will be celebrating going that crucial next step further after falling at the very last hurdle this time out.

League Position (at the end of the season): 6th

Highlight of April/May: The playoff semi-final victory over Cheltenham that confirmed our trip to Wembley. Also, the Wembley trip up until 1:30pm!

Lowlight of April/May: Wembley post 1:30pm…