NTFC Month in Review: November-December 2012

Bayo...big month

Bayo…big month

And so another up and down month has passed, meaning that it’s time for another monthly review. I can hear the joy in all your voices! I’ll be looking back on everything that’s happened between November 14th and December 14th (From the home game with Wycombe through to last weekend’s defeat by Cheltenham Town)

The results during this time were:

Wycombe (H) 3-1, Morecambe (H) 3-0, Oxford (a) 1-2, Leyton Orient (H) 0-3, Cheltenham (H) 2-3

P:5 , W:2, D:0,L: 3

This isn’t meant as a match by match run down but more of a reflection of what’s gone well and where we need to improve. Here goes for this month…

What’s gone well?

Goals! – Nine goals in four league games continued a fine run of form in an attacking sense with a sequence going back to mid-October since we failed to net in the league. The form of Bayo Akinfenwa and the added help from the likes of Chris Hackett and even Clive Platt have kept the ‘goals scored’ column looking very healthy indeed. Considering the goal difference at this point last season was -16 (at the moment we stand on +4) it represents a solid turn around.

Tozer’s long throw – Ben Tozer’s contributions aren’t all about his long throws despite some fans’ thoughts to the contrary but his lethal weapon has provided goal after goal this season with another three scored from this method this month. Teams will hopefully not wise up to it too much in the second half of the season but even if they do it’s immensely hard to defend.

Bayo – Four more goals in four league games and the big man has earned himself a nomination into the League Two Player of the month award for November. Akinfenwa continues to keep that goals tally ticking over and we must keep him fit if we’re to stand any chance of challenging the top half of the table.

The return of Clarke Carlisle – Despite the red card at Oxford, Carlisle’s presence will be needed in the coming months and his experience is an asset that we were lacking up until the point of his return. A clean sheet in his first match was followed by red in his second and three conceded in his third so consistency is needed if he’s to prove to be a top end signing for the second year running.

What’s not gone so well?

Goals – Goals against this time! Eight in three games is cause for concern and some of the goals we’re conceding have come about through big holes at the back. Messrs Carlisle and Langmead need a good run of games to get back into the type of form that we expect of them and hopefully that happens over Christmas and into the New Year.

Cup elimination – Once again the Cobblers are out of all cup competitions before Christmas. We at least gave the JPT a good go this year before going out to Leyton Orient last week but it’s back to ‘concentrating on the league’ again as the winter hits.

The end of the run – The excellent form that took us through the end of October and into November is now well and truly over and three defeats have quickly tampered any hopes of entering into the playoff race pre-Christmas.

How can we improve?

It’s a massive time of the year coming up but there are some ‘winnable’ games in the mix, particularly at home. Sixfields was becoming a bit of a fortress before Cheltenham’s visit on Saturday so that needs to return for the visits of Aldershot, Dagenham and Fleetwood. We need to learn lessons from the Cheltenham game that not every side will roll over once they go a couple of goals behind whilst also remembering what good players we have in games in which we fall behind. We’re not far away and little tweaks will mean that it’ll be a happy festive period.

Demontagnac...goal of the month

Demontagnac…goal of the month

Goal of the month

This goes to Ishmel Demontagnac this month for his later free kick against Morecambe. Already 2-0 up, it was set up for a ‘cherry on the cake’ moment and Demontagnac provided just that with a sweet left footed curler to seal an impressive win.

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Jake Robinson (v MK Dons – JPT First Round)

September 14th-October 14th: Alex Nicholls (v Burton Albion- League Two)

October 14th-November 14th: Bayo Akinfenwa (v Accrington – League Two)

Player of the Month

Akinfenwa has had another solid month and the support from Chris Hackett has also been top draw. I was going to give it to Hackett to avoid being boring and naming Bayo three times in a row but picking up the League Two Player of the Month for November tips it in the big man’s favour.

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Alex Nicholls

September 14th – October 14th: Bayo Akinfenwa

October 14th – November 14th: Bayo Akinfenwa

Month rating

It’s been a tough month to judge with some great results followed by some poor ones so it’s getting mixed reviews from me. We looked unstoppable going into the Oxford game and had we held out for a point there then things may have been different. As it was, Orient and Cheltenham stunned us in different way at Sixfields in the following games and left us with plenty to do again. 7/10

Previous Months:

August 14th – September 14th: 8/10

September 14th – October 14th: 7/10

October 14th– November 14th: 8/10

NTFC Month in Review: October – November 2012

Bayo – leading the charge!

NTFC Month in Review: October -November 2012

Continuing on the monthly reviews, I’ll be looking back on everything that’s happened between October 14th and November 14th (From Barnet away to last night’s cup game at Bradford)

The results during this time were:

Barnet (a) 0-4, Bradford (H) 0-1, Port Vale (H) 2-0, Bradford (H) FA Cup 1-1, York (a) 1-1, Accrington Stanley (a) 4-2, Bradford (a) FA Cup Replay 3-3

P:7 , W:2, D:3,L: 2

The Bradford game last night goes down as a draw – it doesn’t seem fair to call it a defeat in this respect!

This isn’t meant as a match by match run down but more of a reflection of what’s gone well and where we need to improve. Here goes for this month..

What’s gone well?

Team Spirit – The last three away games all coming inside a week looked extremely tough on paper, particularly with the injury situation. But grabbing a point from York with ten men, winning emphatically at Accrington following Bayo’s stunning hat-trick and coming agonisingly close to knocking Bradford out of the cup away from home all shows progress from the start of this period and the almost unmentionable 4-0 defeat at Barnet. You learn a lot about players when the chips are down and in these last few games we’ve seen a real change in attitude from most of the squad. That includes…

The youth of today – The midfield trop of Emyr Huws, Lewis Hornby and Lewis Wilson against Port Vale was one of the youngest that we’ve ever fielded and on that day the potential came shining through. Horny in particular has shown real promise and is maturing in front of our very eyes match by match with assured performances in the middle of the park. Added to that, sixteen year old Ivan Toney came off the bench to set up a goal in extra time last night and is another that is getting a chance alongside David Moyo, another recent graduate.  Louis Moult is another that had begun to shine before his red card at York and he could be a key player once he returns. The future suddenly looks bright!

Bayo – The hat-trick against Accrington was amazing and it’s hard to imagine that it was his first in professional football. The big man has entered double figures for the season and has taken it upon himself to replace the goals that were being scored by Alex Nicholls prior to his horrific injury.

Support – Three away days in a week is a lot for anyone to take in but there’s been healthy away followings for all three trips all things considered. There’s also been a sense of realism around with expectations halted a little, ironically leading to better results on the pitch, in the wake of the injury situation.

Nicholls…major injury

What’s not gone so well?

Alex Nicholls’ horror injury – Up until the Port Vale game, Alex Nicholls was the Cobblers’ top scorer and arguably player of the season for the first couple of months. When he went through on goal against Vale, though, his whole campaign would turn upside down. Showing his usual guts and instinct, Nicholls raced onto a dodgy back pass, rounded the keeper and scored only to be clattered by John McCombe, whose challenge broke Nicholls’ leg in two places. It’s a long way back for the striker but early signs are that surgery has gone well so we look forward to seeing him back at Sixfields, as a supporter at least, very soon!

The Barnet hoodoo strikes again – You could probably write a book on how Barnet FC get under the skin of the Cobblers with a usual season seeing at least one result go horribly against us against the Bees. No change this time out with Barnet running riot on Edgar Davids’ debut to pick up their first win of the season against a very much out of sorts Town side.

Northampton 0-1 Bradford – This has been quoted by many as the worst game seen at Sixfields in many a year. It would be more acceptable had it remained 0-0 but getting nothing from such an encounter was the icing on top of a dreadful cake.

Penalty shoot-out agony – Despite not even expecting to get to penalties at Bradford, it was still a tough pill to swallow on Tuesday night to concede that last gasp equaliser and then have to face a shoot-out that it seemed written for us to lose.

Clean Sheets – Something that’s been lacking, barring the Port Vale shut out against ten men, is clean sheets. Just one in seven games isn’t great and we need to shore up in order to challenge more.

How can we improve?

At the moment the Cobblers seem on an upward curve but picking up another four points from the two upcoming home games would be just the ticket. In fact, four of the next five fixtures come at Sixfields if you include the JPT Area Quarter Final against Leyton Orient so there’s a big chance to make that next step up towards the playoff chasers. There’s a tough looking double with Cheltenham at home and Torquay away ending the sequence so points are needed against Wycombe, Morecambe and Oxford. Getting through to the Area Semis in the Paint Trophy would be nice too!

Goal of the month

I simply have to give this to Bayo for his amazing diving header at Accrington. If it had been anyone else it might have gone un-noticed but seeing the big man diving full length to put us in front is as beastly a sight as you’re likely to witness in League Two!

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Jake Robinson (v MK Dons – JPT First Round)

September 14th-October 14th: Alex Nicholls (v Burton Albion- League Two)

Player of the Month

With two defeats kicking off the month, this all has to be based on the resurgence from Port Vale onwards so for the second month running it’s going to be Bayo Akinfenwa. Close behind would be the emerging Lewis Hornby for some sterling efforts in midfield.

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Alex Nicholls

September 14th – October 14th: Bayo Akinfenwa

Month rating

Putting aside the first two results, I’ve really enjoyed the month. There seemed to be a turning point against Port Vale as we rallied around the Alex Nicholls injury and everyone appears to be in the right mind set to battle for every point. It’s not been perfect but I’ll give it an 8/10.

Previous Months:

August 14th – September 14th: 8/10

September 14th – October 14th: 7/10

NTFC Monthly Review: September – October 2012

Continuing on the monthly reviews, I’ll be looking back on everything that’s happened between September 14th and October 14thi.e. from Fleetwood away through to Saturday’s 3-0 win over Exeter City.

The results during this time were:

Fleetwood (a) 0-1, Dagenham (a) 1-0, Chesterfield (H) 0-0, Burton (a) 3-3, Gillingham (H) 1-2, Bristol Rovers (a) 1-3, Colchester (H) 2-1 and Exeter (H) 3-0. That’s a record of:

P: 8, W:3, D:2,L: 3

Once again, this isn’t meant as a match by match run down but more of a reflection of what’s gone well and where we need to improve. Hopefully by the end of the season it will make for an interesting look back. Let’s get cracking then!

What’s gone well?

Bayo’s back: Bayo Akinfenwa has scored in each of the Cobblers’ last four games and is starting to lead the chase on Alex Nicholls for leading scorer. I can’t remember the last time we had two strikers vying for top spots in the scoring charts for League Two but long may it continue. Bayo appears back to his ‘beastmode’ best in recent weeks and even partnered Clive Platt up front against Exeter to good effect.

The re-invention of characters: Two of last season’s premier outlets for frustration, Kelvin Langmead and Ben Tozer, seem to have emerged this season as completely different players. Langmead has continued to flourish as captain whilst Ben Tozer has really stepped up to the plate in the absence of Luke Guttridge and Ben Harding in the middle of the park.

The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy: Yes, we’re still there and face a home tie against Leyton Orient in the Southern Area Quarter Finals following the 2-1 home win over Colchester last week. That’s another decent tie for us and one that we’ll be hopeful of getting through considering the hard graft of getting past two of their League One rivals in previous rounds.

Team spirit: No-one can question the spirit in the Cobblers camp at the moment. It was highlighted by two good come backs at Burton from 2-0 and 3-2 down to claim a well-earned point whilst Colchester were also beaten from behind.

Holding on to leads: A key failing last season was the dropping of leads and that’s something that’s beginning to improve. In the three games that we’ve been in front in this month we have gone on to win whilst only the home draw with Southend and the 3-2 reverse at Plymouth have seen us drop leads during this campaign. Now all we need to do is get those leads more often!

What’s not gone so well?

Injuries: The key thing to hurt us this month has been injuries. Ben Harding is out for at least a month whilst Luke Guttridge will be missing until the New Year. John Johnson has been struggling and Danny East hurt his shoulder in the 3-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers. Fortunately, through good loan moves and shuffling of the pack we are getting by so far but we can afford no more major injuries.

Inconsistency: As it stands, the Cobblers have won four, drawn four and lost four of twelve league games this season. In the month in question it’s won three, drawn two and lost three in all competitions, making our position in twelfth place in League Two pretty spot on. If that’s to change for the better and we’re to be greedy and go for a playoff push then this obviously needs to change a bit. It’s hard to say that because I’ve generally been really happy so far and twelfth will do me fine if I’m honest but turning even two of those draws into wins would help us into the playoff reckoning so that needs to be the aim.

How can we improve?

As stated above, sorting out the inconsistency is the key for the coming month. This spell coming up a year ago was horrendous so anything like the form we’re in now would be an improvement on that! We have five games, all in the league in the next month – two at home and three away – and picking up more points on our travels could prove vital. There’s a couple of massive home encounters with Bradford and Port Vale to come so keeping up the decent Sixfields record will be tricky but if we can do that and pick up a bit on the road then we’ll be very happy when I write this feature again!

Goal of the month

A couple of contenders this month with Bayo’s well taken strike against Exeter in the mix following this weekend’s action but the Cobblers goal of the month this month just has to go to Alex Nicholls for his glorious lob to earn a point at Burton late on. If anything beats that this season I’ll be very surprised!

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Jake Robinson (v MK Dons – JPT First Round)

Player of the Month

This is a tough one this month with Alex Nicholls still in good form and the aforementioned strength of Kelvin Langmead and Ben Tozer. But for a return to the starting line-up including some silky skills at Dagenham, four goals in four games and a cracker of a goal at the weekend, I’m going for the big man, Bayo Akinfenwa.

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Alex Nicholls

Month rating

There’s been more just as many wins as defeats this month so the rating falls a little bit despite this week’s upturn. The Bristol Rovers defeat was hopefully only a minor blip but wasn’t pretty so that brings this month’s overall rating to 7/10.

Previous Months:

August 14th – September 14th: 8/10

NTFC Month in Review: August-September 2012

Nicholls…good opening month

So this is a new feature I’m going to try to stick to on the blog for the coming season. It’s not going to be the usual run through of results and key moments I usually produce at the end of each season but more a look at some of the things that have gone well, disappointed us and surprised us in the month in question.

Seeing as though we kicked off the season on August 14th with the League Cup it makes sense to do these on a similar date of each month rather than just at the end of the month, which will then mean I end them in mid-May unless there’s some sort of end of season business to deal with. We won’t talk of anything near that question for a fair few months yet though!

So here we go…any comments always welcome!

What’s gone well?

The defence (sporadically) – The big question marks have been about the defending but for a large majority of the first month we’ve seen some solid displays. Kelvin Langmead looks like a new player and appears to have shed a stone or two over the summer. Coupled with a new partner in central defence, the towering David Artell he seems to be flourishing, especially having been handed the captaincy over the summer. Joe Widdowson, John Johnson and new boy Danny East have been solid either side whilst Lee Nicholls has enjoyed a terrific start to his loan spell in goal. More on him later. With one or two blips (the nine goals conceded in the three games against Southend, Wolves and Plymouth) there’s still some work to do but for the most part it’s nice to know that we can be hard to beat on our day and that’s a start!

Alex Nicholls – What a start to his Cobblers career. Five goals in all competitions has set the former Walsall man on the way to what looks pretty certain to be his highest ever scoring return for a season (previous best is eight with Walsall). Nicholls has played on the wing in the past but was signed with the knowledge that he’d be played in his more natural position of front man and boy has he flourished. His added work ethic and battling qualities make him a prime candidate for fans’ favourite and if he can keep up a record anything even close to his first month then we’ll be in for a good season.

Chris Hackett – Hackett seems the type that fans can often get frustrated with (a la Josh Low). He’s undoubtedly talented and for this level can have a massive impact but you get the feeling he’s a confidence player. More often than not, though, he’s been the spark that we’ve been lacking for so many seasons and will add another goal threat in every game. A key figure to the team if he can stay fit.

Bayo as a super sub – I’m the first to call for Bayo to start games but when you have a beast like him on the bench then you’re automatically starting games with an ace up the sleeve. As defences tire, the big man comes on and changes games, something that he seems happy to do for the time being. Setting up both goals during the win over Wimbledon last weekend was the typical impact he’s had in this opening month. #Beastmode at its best!

Effective loans – Not many things bother me more than short term loans that don’t have any impact on the side, staying for a month for fitness or ‘experience’ before leaving and not forming any sort of connection to the club. Part of Stuart Gray’s downfall in his last months in charge involved this sort of player, and the wrong sort of player. Aidy Boothroyd has been sensible in choosing the right type of player and the right type of deal as and when they are needed. Lee Nicholls has been outstanding in goal, Danny East solid as cover for John Johnson and Henoc Mukendi, though raw, is here for the long term and is looking honest enough a player to learn.

Progression in the JPT – The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy isn’t for everyone but I’m all for a rare run in the one cup competition that we’re realistically able to have a go at. Beating the plastic Dons made the First Round win that bit sweeter and with some fringe players getting some good game time it was a complete win to set up another decent tie at home to Colchester in Round Two.

Robinson…Twitter trouble

What’s not gone so well?

The defence (sporadically) – Yes, the defence makes both categories. Like I mentioned before, it’s been good for the most part but there’s been small bursts of panic that reminded us of last season which we certainly don’t want to revisit. A couple of the Southend and Plymouth goes in particular were disappointing to concede and we need to be a little bit more solid when under that sort of pressure.

Jake Robinson’s Twitter outburst – Now I’m not one of those who called for Robinson’s head when he tweeted about not being in the squad for the trip to Rochdale on the opening day but it wasn’t the best outlet for his frustration. Bayo was out of the side back in January, kept his head down and worked his way back in so that Aidy Boothroyd couldn’t ignore him. That’s what Robinson should have done. It was almost wiped out by that stunner of a goal against MK Dons and there could yet be a place for him at Sixfields but whilst we continue to be fruitful in front of goal it makes sense that he’s able to get games, and hopefully more goals, under his belt down the road at Luton. Hopefully he’ll come back all the better and the Cobblers front line will be that bit stronger.

Tired Legs – Playing Championship side Wolves on a Thursday and then travelling to Plymouth on the Saturday was never going to be easy and even the most cryogenic of chambers would struggle to put the Town players back in tip top condition. It’s no coincidence that those were the only two defeats of the season so far and hopefully now things have started to settle down game wise we’ll be in better shape.

The Sixfields PA system – It feels like the same pre-match CD is being inserted that was doing the rounds in 2001 and the general sound doesn’t seem to travel well at all still. A pre-match atmosphere is more important than it might seem to get supporters ‘in the mood’ and the Sixfields system needs some sort of overhaul to lift us before a ball is kicked.

Steve Evans – An automatic entry to this category for simply being allowed into Sixfields. Enjoy your time at home for the next six games, Steve! (By the way, I have nothing at all against Rotherham United at all and find their supporters to be as realistic and friendly as any in League Two but with Evans in charge it unfortunately puts a temporary black mark against your team!)

How can we improve?

By shoring up the defence (not by any new players – I feel the right men are in place – but by more consistency) and by continuing to produce good form at home. Only Wolves have won at Sixfields so far with a last gasp Southend equaliser preventing a three game winning run in the league. Couple that with battling points away from home and we won’t be far wrong. Easier said than done of course!

Goal of the month

This category is for Cobblers goals only and is a decent competition this month. Jake Robinson’s stunner against the plastics would have usually won it every other month but, for me, I enjoyed the sheer pace and skill of Chris Hackett’s strike against the real Dons a few days later.

Player of the Month

Again a stiff competition for the first time in a while with plenty staking their claim but I can’t look any further than Alex Nicholls for his all round game and five goals.

Month rating

I’m going to give the month of August-September a mark of 8/10 with plenty more to be happy about than to be negative about. Two wins, two draws and one defeat in the league, progression to Round Two of both of the early cup competitions and some positive play means that it’s been a very good start to the campaign. Keep it up boys!