NTFC Season In Review 2006/07
After a disappointing World Cup for the national team, it was back to the real football as the start of the 2006/07 season saw changes aplenty at Sixfields.
John Gorman replaced the Nottingham Forest bound Colin Calderwood and joining him from Wycombe was coach Jim Barron and midfielder Joe Burnell. Ian Sampson was promoted from youth team coach to Assistant manager while former Town players Sean Parrish and Ray Warburton joined the youth set up.
Also joining the club were front man James Quinn, midfielder Sam Aiston from Tranmere Rovers and left-back Andy Holt, signing from Wrexham. Jerome Watt signed on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers at the start of the season.
Going out were fans’ favourite Martin Smith, who made a move back to his native North East at Darlington while David Rowson also signed for the Quakers. Josh Low was another big name departure from the club when he left for Championship side Leicester City while Ashley Westwood joined Chester and striker Jason Lee departed for Notts County.
A week before the season began, we headed off on the Sixfields Boys day trip to the Norfolk broads before the Norwich away friendly. The second annual trip to Wroxham included all the usual merriment of PJ falling asleep, fish and chips, a sighting of the ice cream boat and even a round of crazy golf, where I made a shocking start but clawed back my swing just in time. I think we called it a draw after not having enough time to finish the course! The game ended in a 1-0 win for Norwich but a grand day out all the same!
And so to the much anticipated start of the Cobblers’ assault on League One and the fixture list gave us a trip north to Gresty Road, Crewe in the opening game of the season. John Gorman’s promises of attractive and entertaining football seemed to be showing already as the Cobblers twice came from behind to claim a good point in an exciting 2-2 draw. Ryan Lowe put the Alex in front to give us the worst possible start to the season after seven minutes but Scott McGleish equalised just five minutes later. David Vaughn put the home side back into the lead on twenty minutes in a pulsating league opener. The Cobblers weren’t to be denied a point though and Andy Kirk hit back just before half time as we claimed a share of the spoils.
The following Tuesday saw the start of the home campaign with a tester against Brentford at Sixfields. Lee Harper’s fateful error with twenty minutes to go handed Chris Moore, a free transfer for the Bees from Dagenham in the summer, the chance to give them the points. He duly obliged and the defeat started a woeful run of home form for the Cobblers.
The first Saturday home game saw former European Cup winners Nottingham Forest visit Sixfields in what was also a quick return for Colin Calderwood. It ended with another 1-0 defeat with the unfortunate Chris Doig scoring an own goal and Scott McGleish being sent off on the hour mark. Mark Bunn took over from Lee Harper in goal for this one and Harper never gained his place back.
The following weekend we headed to Gillingham and finally picked up our first three points of the season. On a beautifully sunny day I remember being rather unnerved by the atmosphere around the only street up to the away end of the Priestfield Stadium but luckily found the usual Cobblers travellers in the small pub at the end of that road and one of my favourite pubs of the season just for its décor of history, hanging from the ceiling were football shirts from the ages and from all teams you could think of. Jeema was greeted into the pub with his usual heroes welcome! On the pitch, the Cobblers needed just the one goal to see off Gillingham, Andy Kirk providing us with win number one.
Our Carling Cup campaign started and finished at Loftus Road despite a gutsy fightback against the Championship side. Rangers went 2-0 up through Lee Cook and Kevin Gallen before Jerome Watt’s impressive performance was rounded off with a spectacular goal and Andy Kirk levelled the score with ten minutes to go. With extra time looming, QPR cruelly won it with a goal in the 87th minute through Ray Jones.
Back to league action and the game with Bristol City, shown live on Sky Sports, rounded off the month. Andy Kirk finished off a productive month for himself with the opening goal but it was cancelled out by the first in a long line of penalty decisions that went against us this season when Phil Jevons converted from the spot. The game was overshadowed by what happened in first half stoppage time as City’s Bradley Orr was sent off for appearing to head butt team mate Louis Carey! But despite only having ten men on the pitch, City were still too strong and ran out 3-1 winners thanks to a Paul Brooker goal and the outstanding David Cotterill, who went on to join Wigan Athletic for £2 million, converting a second penalty!
So a mixed start to the 2006/07 season for the Cobblers but three home defeats on the trot meant that we were stuck in the bottom half of the table as the season gathered pace.
As the season rolled on to September, the Cobblers still hadn’t gained any points at Sixfields, so it was perhaps a relief that the first two games of the month saw us back on the road.
The first port of call was Millmoor, Rotherham, in our first Friday night fixture of the season and our first game against the Millers since that famous night in 2004 when the Cobblers won 2-1 to set up a FA Cup Fourth round tie with Manchester United. Things had changed a lot since then though and Rotherham were in deep trouble after starting the season on -10 points following their fall into administration. After a strong start to the season, victory against us would have taken them back into the plus figures but Scott McGleish’s late double meant it was the Cobblers who came away with the points. Dave Hibbert gave Rotherham the lead after just 7 minutes before McGleish struck in the 74th and 82nd minutes to turn it around.
Next up was the trip to Carlisle and after last season’s Mr Bean marathon on the trip north whilst on board Sixfields Travel Club, Tim thought it best to play safe and drive this time around! Though Tim took time to discover which way was left and which right, we were safely in Carlisle before midday. That left us to wander around aimlessly in the city centre and take in some quite unusual street performers and bagpipe players before tucking into a KFC before the game. Scott McGleish continued his superb start to the season with the opening goal just after half time but Karl Hawley’s solo run and finish sent us home with just the solitary point in a 1-1 draw.
The following Tuesday saw us finally pick up our first point at home in a 1-1 draw with Yeovil Town. Jason Crowe’s first half goal put us in front but the much travelled Marcus Stewart frustrated us and our efforts for a first home win with a second half header.
The next home game brought more Sixfields despair as Tranmere Rovers were the visitors and they stormed into a 3-0 lead with goals from Calvin Zola, Gareth Taylor and a penalty from John Mullin. McGleish got one back with fifteen minutes to go but despite a late charge it was too little too late.
The contrasting home and away form continued in late September as a trip to Millwall resulted in a loanee’s first goal for the club, a manager losing his job and protest outside the ground. I remember feeling the tension as I walked around Bermondsey station in my Cobblers shirt and every single Millwall fan I crossed paths with gave me the same evil look. Luckily more Town fans arrived and we made a safe walk down the special away supporters’ entrance from the station. After some fish and chips in the sun, we entered to see the angry ‘Wall faithful gathering in the stand to our right, ready to punch their fists and shout abuse at any king of decision that went against them. They were made even angrier when Cobblers loanee Mitchell Cole broke down the left and powered a shot into the corner to score the only goal of the game! After the game, I was ambling along in my Cobblers shirt with all the away fans heading back one way to Northampton and me having to walk with/through the Millwall fans in order to get back to the south! This defeat for Millwall cost manager Nigel Spackman his job and sparked angry scenes outside the New Den as fans confronted Ray Wilkins in the car park, protesting about their poor start to the season.
Following up that trip to London was a Tuesday night game at Cheltenham Town and a ground where we previously had bad memories of dour defeats and disallowed goals but this particular hoodoo was laid to rest as second half goals from Andy Kirk and a Scott McGleish penalty gave us a second successive victory.
With the away form so good, it was even more desperate that we couldn’t find a first home success of the season and the trend continued as Port Vale came to town. First half goals from George Pilkington and Stefan Moore, on loan from QPR, killed us off in a 2-0 defeat.
So all in all a superb month away from home as we picked up ten points from a possible twelve on the road but still we were searching for home win number one following two defeats and a draw in September at Sixfields.
October was a baron month for goals and entertainment as the Cobblers held firm their position just above the bottom four. As frustrations grew with successive draws, relief was finally at hand in the final game of the month…
The month began with a Friday night trip to Bournemouth, and a local game to get to from my Southampton location. We booked up a night in a hotel and raced down to the seaside after work to take in the game. Despite the final result, a 0-0 draw, it was an entertaining game and the Cobblers were unlucky not to get anything from it. Scott McGleish’s header that scraped the post was the closest we would come.
It was a similar story the following Friday night as Bradford City were the visitors to Sixfields. Ian Taylor had the best chance of the game within just three minutes but scuffed his shot wide when clean through on goal. But for the second week in a row, despite a dominant performance, we came away with just a point.
Our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy campaign came and went when Brentford beat us 4-2 on penalties following another goalless game. The new rules in the competition meant that any game ending in a draw went straight to spot kicks and we were eliminated.
The following weekend and we were back on the South coast for more beach action and the expensive trip to Brighton and Hove Albion. At £21 a ticket, we were praying to be entertained but unfortunately that wasn’t the case in arguably the worst game of the season! Jake Robinson scrambled the home side in front on 39 minutes before James Quinn took advantage of slack marking from a throw in to level late on. All in all though it was a dire game and one to instantly forget…summed up by the fact that the biggest cheer of the day was for Ryan Gilligan and Brett Johnson being escorted from the bench due to the lack of room!
The Brighton game also saw a significant event off the pitch. Lee Harper, the Cobblers number one for many a season decided to stay at home after being told he was being dropped to the bench to be replaced by Mark Bunn. Harper would later be transferred to the MK Dons.
Back on the pitch and the month ended with the Cobblers finally getting that illusive first win of the season at Sixfields. In a tight game, we had an unlikely hero as Luke Chambers pounced in the 55th minute to volley home a David Hunt throw in. Leon Britton was sent off late on to compound the Swans’ misery and we had three massive points to round off October.
So all in all a moderate month with three draws out of four in League One. The Swansea victory set us up though and we could look forward to the winter campaign!
After a trawl through the draws in October, November included just four games for the Cobblers, with only two of these being league games. The FA Cup campaign got under way and we faced all northern sides in this month!
First up on the calendar was a home game with Blackpool. After the previous’ month’s frustrating stalemates, the draw was once again the result. The Tangerines took the lead on 20 minutes through former Coventry man Andy Morrell but Eoin Jess struck his only goal of the season to give us a point just after the hour mark.
Next up was the start of the FA Cup proper and Grimsby Town were the visitors to Sixfields, looking to avenge the fact that we played a part in them staying in League Two with a last day draw last season. The difference in leagues wasn’t a factor though and The Mariners held us to a dull 0-0 draw and took the tie to a replay.
The following weekend and we were at Scunthorpe, already strong contenders for promotion to The Championship at this stage. We held out for 86 minutes and looked like we were on for a very good point but yet another penalty decision went against Town and Andy Crosby hammered home the spot kick to give Scunny all three points.
The reward for the winner of the Tuesday night FA Cup replay at Grimsby was a trip to Barnet and a real chance for progression into Round 3 (or so we thought!). On the eve of my university graduation, we gathered around the computer to listen in to Cobblers World as an own goal by Justin Whittle and Joe Burnell’s first for the club sent us to Spotland.
We would soon learn to regret that we’d ever made it to the second round…
December began at Underhill and the FA Cup Second round tie with League Two side Barnet. The Cobblers went in as clear favourites to reach the promised land of the Third Round but this tag once again worked against us. Despite Scott McGleish heading Town into the lead on the stroke of half-time, we suffered an almighty collapse in the second half as Barnet hit back with four to wreck our cup dreams for another season! Adam Burchall began the rout with an equaliser before Dean Sinclair put the Bees in front. It was then down to two ex-Cobblers to put the final nails in the coffin as first an Ian Hendon penalty and then a Magno Viera strike put us out of the competition.
The following Tuesday night and we were back on the road, this time travelling to Chesterfield in a goalless draw that did little to lift the spirits after the Underhill defeat just days before.
Back at Sixfields and we entertained Doncaster Rovers, looking to steer the home form around. But Rovers had different ideas and late goals from Paul Heffernan and Lewis Guy gave the visitors a 2-0 win and all three points, pushing us closer and closer to the drop zone as Christmas approached.
It was our away form that was keeping us afloat and above the relegation places and another decent away point followed the disappointment of the Doncaster defeat. A visit to the Galpharm Stadium to face Huddersfield Town started well as Joe Burnell fired the Cobblers into a 16th minute lead but a Danny Schofield equaliser in the second half gave Huddersfield a deserved point.
The next home game would see the end of the line for John Gorman. After Paul Conner gave fellow strugglers Leyton Orient a 1-0 win at Sixfields, Gorman resigned, citing “personal reasons” for his departure. Though results hadn’t been great, it was still an unexpected announcement from the former Swindon Town and Wycombe man. It was maybe too soon for Gorman to return to such a high profile and stressful position following the sad loss of his wife and his departure from Wycombe.
Back to the season and the Cobblers were now on the lookout for a new man at the helm. Ian Sampson and Jim Barron would oversee the Christmas fixture list while David Cardoza began the search for the new boss. Sammo’s name was in the frame and was an obvious and popular choice from the fans’ point of view while other names being banded about were the likes of Phil Parkinson, Andy Ritchie and even Ian Atkins!
Sammo and Barron’s first game in charge was the tough trip to Oldham and we were totally outplayed and beaten by first half goals from Gary McDonald and Chris Porter plus a second half strike by Andy Liddell in a 3-0 reverse.
There was, however, some Christmas cheer at last when Cheltenham Town came a visiting on Boxing Day as two goals from Scott McGleish (one a penalty) gave us the double over one of our bogey sides of the past few seasons.
2006 ended in controversy, rain and some very angry Londoners. I remember on the way up to Northampton from the south for the home game with Millwall and starting out by thinking what a nice day it was. As we got closer to Northampton the rain began though and it was clear that the sunny weather would not be returning. There were doubts about the game from the second it started as the pitch increasingly looked unplayable. Future Cobbler Poul Hubertz fired ‘Wall in front but this cued the gutsiest and battling performances from the Cobblers we’d seen all season. We got to half-time still a goal down but the passion and effort shown by the team was encouraging enough for fans to sing for Sammo as the manager full time!
The game went on and the rain went on as the Cobblers were frustrated at every attempt. With Millwall still 1-0 up, the game was suddenly abandoned on 68 minutes, sparking angry scenes from the south stand as the usually hot headed ‘Wall supporters grew even more agitated. The game would be replayed later in the season.
So 2006 came to an end with the Cobblers hovering just above the drop zone and without a manager. In a shock move, chairman David Cardoza put all three forwards on the transfer list ahead of the January window and a cloud of uncertainty hung over Sixfields as 2007 approached.
Luckily, the sun was about to come out on the season…
The calendar year began with Ian Sampson still in charge and in what turned out to be his final game at the helm, the Cobblers gained a creditable draw at Yeovil on New Year’s Day. The game ended goalless and following the impressive displays in the previous couple of weeks, Sammo was on the shortlist to take the job full time.
The surprise announcement came just days later though that former Southampton boss Stuart Gray would be the Cobblers’ new manager. Gray’s record in management was far from spectacular but the appointment seemed a similar choice to four seasons ago when the Cardozas plumped for Colin Calderwood, then a young manager who wanted a chance to shine.
During the new year period and as the transfer window loomed, Cardoza placed all three of our front men on the transfer list. Scott McGleish, Andy Kirk and James Quinn were, however, all in the squad for Stuart Gray’s first game in charge, at Prenton Park, Tranmere. Rovers were stunned when McGleish gave us an early lead and it looked like a fantastic start for the new boss until the 87th minute when John Mullin pounced to send us home with just a point.
The following weekend and Gray got the chance to send out his team in front of the home crowd for the first time as Carlisle United visited Sixfields. In an entertaining game, the Cobblers stormed into a 3-0 lead as an Andy Kirk goal on the stroke of half time and two more from Scott McGleish looked to have eased us to victory. It’s never that easy with the Cobblers though and Carlisle hit back with quick fire goals from Danny Graham and Kevin Gall in the last ten minutes to set up a nervy ending. But we hung on to a crucial victory and the feel-good factor was back at Sixfields in time for the re-arranged game with Millwall the following Tuesday evening.
Following the controversy over the initial game, abandoned in late December, ‘Wall were determined to finish the job but this was a different Cobblers outfit and after a goalless first half, the Town hit three goals again. McGleish was first on the score sheet with what turned out to be his final goal for the club before Andy Holt and Bradley Johnson sealed the win late on.
In the week that followed, top scorer Scott McGleish was sold to Wycombe Wanderers following his best spell at the club all season! Meanwhile, Jordan Robertson joined the club on loan from Sheffield United and Marc Laird also came in from Manchester City on a similar deal.
Laird and Robertson were both second half substitutes in the final game of January as high flying Oldham Athletic came to town. Ritchie Wellens put Oldham in front before Andy Kirk replied on 24 minutes. The visitors were too strong though and second half goals from Paul Warne and the prolific Chris Porter put them 3-1 ahead. With just minutes to spare, Robertson sealed a fine debut by firing a late goal but it was too late and Stuart Gray had suffered his first defeat as manager.
The final act in the transfer window came as Kenny Deuchar signed for the club from Scottish First Division outfit Gretna. The good doctor would play a major part in the club’s battle to beat the League One drop and also set up a masterful idea come the final day of the season.
By the end of the January transfer window there were major changes at the club. Along leading scorer Scott McGleish departing for Wycombe Wanderers and Kenny Deuchar and Jordan Robertson joining us on loan, Luke Chambers also made his expected move to Nottingham Forest to link up once again with Colin Calderwood. To replace Chambers, Stuart Gray brought in the Everton reserve team captain, Mark Hughes, in what would turn out to be one of the key signings of the season.
February began with a home game against Crewe Alexandra. A lot had changed since we met the Alex on the opening day of the season in a 2-2 draw but this time we were beaten by the class of Luke Varney, whose double strike gave the visitors a 2-1 victory. Bradley Johnson scored the Cobblers goal in between Varney’s strikes.
Next up was the Tuesday night visit to Port Vale and we once again came away empty handed as Danny Whitakers’ goal just after half-time was enough to see the Cobblers off and make it three defeats in a row.
The one that everyone was waiting for followed on February 10th as we visited Nottingham Forest and the City Ground. 3,000+ Cobblers fans made the journey north as we looked to avenge the 1-0 Sixfields defeat earlier in the season. Luke Chambers was ineligible to play as part of the transfer agreement but Alex Pearce started for the Cobblers after his loan move from Reading. Pearce played his part in a commanding defensive display but eventually Forest proved too much and Julian Bennett’s 66th minute goal was enough to see us off.
So four defeats in a row meant that we were sliding dangerously towards the bottom four once again and when Gillingham took the lead at Sixfields through a Dean McDonald goal, we looked doomed to another set back. But just in the nick of time, Jordan Robertson once again popped up late on with a goal in the 86th minute to end our poor run of form and put that little bit of belief back in the side before a crucial relegation double against Brentford and Rotherham.
The Brentford away game would be shown live on Sky Sports, just a few days after the Gillingham draw. I remember sitting in the corner of my local pub in Southampton having persuaded the bar staff to show the game on their screen and the result was a massive step towards our survival challenge. Jason Crowe’s wonder strike on the half hour mark was enough to see off a poor Brentford who had previously been on a fine run of form.
The month was rounded off by another six pointer as Rotherham United visited Sixfields. The Millers’ ten point deduction at the start of the campaign was certainly holding them back but even without it they would have been struggling. The Cobblers were in confident mood and stormed into a 3-0 lead by half-time. Kenny Deuchar hit his first for the club, before Mark Hughes did the same and Ian Taylor rounded off the scoring. That’s how it stayed after a routine second half but at least we didn’t have a repeat of the Carlisle panic a month previous!
So in a topsy-turvy month that started with three defeats, we managed to claw our way back out of trouble with seven points from the last three games of February and finally there seemed to be breathing space gathering between ourselves and the bottom four.
After a strong end to February, it was full steam ahead as the Cobblers headed into March in a strong position to survive the drop back down to League Two.
Following the Cobblers’ good run of form at the end of February, the first game of March saw us visit promotion chasing Bristol City at Ashton Gate. But just as at Nottingham Forest a month before, we just came unstuck against a side looking to book a place in The Championship. Kevin Betsy scored the only goal of the game on 19 minutes in a 1-0 City win.
It was back to Sixfields a week later and another bottom of the table battle with AFC Bournemouth. Jordan Robertson earned a start against the Cherries and rewarded Stewart Gray’s faith in him by scoring the opening goal. Mark Wilson equalized in the second half but late goals from Kenny Deuchar and Andy Kirk gave the Cobblers a valuable 3-1 win and took us once again away from the teams trying to bring us down into the relegation scrap.
And so to Swansea City and to the new Liberty Stadium, an impressive new ground to replace the Vetch Field. In the build up to the game, Stuart Gray had brought in Simon Cox on loan from Reading and he was on the bench for the visit to South Wales. This game saw what was arguably the Cobblers’ goal of the season as Bradley Johnson powered a free kick into the top corner within just six minutes of the game. We played some good football and looked comfortable until a sucker punch from big Dennis Lawrence just before half-time turned the game around. Just seconds after the restart and with some Town fans still finishing off their half time beverages in the concourse, Swansea broke and Andy Robinson fired home what turned out to be the winning goal.
The final game of the month came at home to Brighton and Hove Albion, with both clubs moving in the right direction away from trouble. It was Albion who took the three points back to the south coast though with a second half quick fire double from Bas Savage which was followed by a moonwalk from the striker!
Despite the two defeats at the end of the month, there was still plenty of breathing space for the Cobblers as the busy Easter period drew near.
April and May
In the final part of the season review, we look back on April and May and a satisfying end to an up and down season as the Cobblers fans stage a protest march, we defeat the champions and end up all looking very smart in doctors coats!
The first game in April took us to another one of our relegation rivals. Victory over Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road would further distance us from any fears of the drop. And victory it was. Simon Cox opened his Town account with a classy finish early on before an own goal from Aiden Palmer just before half-time sealed a massive win for the Cobblers, just over a year since we had won a League Two promotion six pointer on the same ground!
Bank Holiday Monday followed and it turned out to be arguably the most memorable day of the 2006/07 season for those who were a part of it. In the build up to the game against league leaders Scunthorpe United, Cobblers fans marched in mass from the Guildhall to Sixfields in protest at the lack of progression in the Sixfields redevelopment saga. On the pitch, Scunny were looking for the win that would confirm their promotion. Thankfully, we had other plans. Alex Pearce headed home his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Reading before Billy Sharp’s second half equalizer made for a tense finale. In stoppage time, Bradley Johnson swooped to send Sixfields barmy as his right footed winner sealed a fantastic victory for the Cobblers.
By the end of the Scunthorpe game, we were in a comfortable enough position to be sure that any result at in-form Blackpool would be a bonus and defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world. It was pretty good fortune that we weren’t expecting a lot as despite a first half effort from Cox, the Tangerines stormed back with four in the second half. Chris Brandon grabbed a brace while the other goals came from a Wes Hoolahan penalty and a Sean Dyche own goal!
Back to Sixfields and we knew we would be assured of safety with a win over Chesterfield and although the game won’t be remembered for much, Simon Cox’s late goal meant that we would be playing League One football again in 2007/08- something that looked particularly unsure at times.
The final two games were cause for celebration for different reasons. In the final game of April and the last home game of the campaign, Ian Taylor brought his professional playing career to an end in an emotional farewell-coming off the pitch to a standing ovation mid-way through the second half and throwing his boots over his shoulder upon arrival of the bench! The result, a 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, saw Andy Holt give the Cobblers the lead before David Mirfin hit a leveler in the 75th minute.
As we celebrated the final day of the season at Doncaster, a genius idea was constructed on the Sixfields Boys forum as fans organised “White Coat Day” in tribute to the good doctor, Kenny Deuchar who would be playing his final game in a claret shirt. Deuchar featured as a second half substitute with the Cobblers 2-1 down thanks to Craig Nelthorpe and Gareth Roberts goals either side of Jason Crowe’s response for the Town. Deuchar’s presence paid immediate dividends as Mark Hughes found space in the area to head home a long throw-in and draw us level at 2-2 and to round off the season in a good manner.
And so the 2006/07 season drew to a close and after a rocky spell before Christmas and the uncertainty surrounding the future of Sixfields, it turned out to be a positive second half of the season as Stuart Gray came in and turned everything around for the better. Player of the season quite rightly went to the excellent Mark Bunn, whose constant man-of-the-match showings kept us in many a game.