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.
@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: