The Cobblers kicked off the 2007/08 season with high hopes following a good end to the previous campaign that saw Stuart Gray steer the club well out of reach of relegation trouble.
As the side lined up to face newly promoted Swindon Town, there were a few new faces in the squad. Danny Jackman, signed from Gillingham started the game as did former Norwich man Ian Henderson. Colin Larkin, a new man from Chesterfield, partnered Andy Kirk up front while new signing from Millwall, Poul Hubertz, was on the bench.
On a hot afternoon at Sixfields, The Cobblers made a stunning start to the season as Andy Kirk nodded home a cross from Larkin to get us going after just nine minutes of the season. But we eventually had to settle for a point as Christian Roberts converted a penalty in front of the vast travelling support. Roberts also hit the crossbar in the second half.
Poul Hubertz had a quick face off with his former club as Millwall visited in the Carling Cup. Hubertz made his first start for the Cobblers as goals from Bradley Johnson and Andy Kirk fired us into Round Two.
A shocking performance from referee Mike Thorpe enraged Cobblers players at Brighton and led to tempers flaring in the opening away trip of the season. The home side took advantage and won the game in the second half. After Kirk had equalised Dean Hammond’s spot kick, Alex Revell secured the win for the Seagulls.
Hubertz got his first goal for the club in the final league game of the month as he equalised Justin Cochrane’s strike for Yeovil at Sixfields. But there would be late drama as The Glovers snatched all three points late on with a breakaway goal from Lloyd Owusu.
August ended with a 2-0 defeat in the Carling Cup Second Round against Premiership side Middlesbrough at The Riverside. Boro’ fielded a strong line-up including the likes of Fabio Rochemback, Stuart Downing, Lee Cattermole and Luke Young and saw off the Cobblers eventually with goals from Rochemback and Dong-Gook Lee.
So there was a lot to be done at the start of the season as the Cobblers took just one point from the opening three league games and were still trying to get going as the season got into full swing in September, a month that would see us twice throw away two goal leads but finally get off the mark with a win.
September began with a trip to in-form Leyton Orient, the surprise early pace setters in League One. With just one point from our opening three games we took a surprise 2-0 lead at Brisbane Road as Poul Hubertz and Chris Doig scored in the opening twenty minutes. The lead last until the hour mark, by which time Adam Chambers and Tamika Mkandawire had levelled things up. We held on for a point but were still in desperate need for the first win.
On a cold Tuesday night at Kenilworth Road, we were dumped out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the first round as Luton eased to a 2-0 win.
The first league victory wasn’t long in coming though as Doncaster Rovers came to town in the first Friday night game of the season. We had to wait until after the break but goals from Ryan Gilligan and Andy Kirk finally got us off the mark and set up a good run of form at Sixfields.
Next up was a trip to Bournemouth on the hottest day of the season in mid-September. Veteran Cherries midfielder Darren Anderton gave Bournemouth the lead in the first half and it looked like we were heading for defeat until Colin Larkin volleyed home his first goal for the club with twelve minutes to play. The Cobblers could well have won it late on but had to settle for a point.
Another impressive home performance followed when Huddersfield Town came to Sixfields. Poul Hubertz scored just before half time and further strikes from Andy Holt and Andy Kirk sealed a comfortable win.
September ended with an away day at Tranmere and despite going 2-0 up through Kirk and Hubertz, the home side came back to claim a point as Chris Shuker and Gareth Taylor pulled the game level.
So after a good month of September, a month where we unbeaten in five games, we would look to continue the form into October, a month that would begin with a disaster at The Den and end with a first away win of the season.
Millwall away was next up on the list for Stuart Gray’s men and after an unbeaten September, spirits were high. Going to the New Den at any time can be intimidating but on a cold Tuesday night it’s certainly not the nicest of places for a night out. After we rushed up from Southampton and darted across to The Den, we were told that there was no need at all to rush. The Cobblers team bus had been held up and the game would kick off fifteen minutes late!
The delay meant that we only got about a ten minute warm-up and injuries early on to Chris Doig and Jason Crowe combined with a poor performance led to an inevitable defeat. Alan Dunne and Paul Robinson scored the goals in a 2-0 Millwall win.
The following Saturday saw struggling Port Vale come to town and it was three wins in a row at Sixfields as an Andy Kirk double helped to see off the Valiants. David McGoldrick was on target for the visitors.
Sky Sports showed the next Cobblers game, an away trip to Luton. In an entertaining first half, Darren Currie put Luton in front before Bradley Johnson equalised with a belter of a shot from all of thirty yards. Matthew Spring put the home side back in front with a penalty just after the break and further goals from Paul Furlong and Spring again, another penalty, gave Luton a flattering 4-1 win.
Another home win followed, this time against Cheltenham Town, as Ryan Gilligan grabbed a winner ten minutes from time. Andy Kirk has earlier given the Cobblers the lead to which Damien Spencer levelled.
The month ended with our long awaited first away win of the season at Oldham. In a poor game it was Bristol City loan man Alex Russell that scored the winner from long range on 66 minutes and after three draws and three defeats we were off the mark in the wins column away from Sixfields.
With a mixed month of October, we were sitting pretty in the top half of the table and the final action of the month saw us drawn away at League Two side Darlington in the first round of the F.A. Cup.
November was to see a real decline in the season for The Cobblers as some of the good early work was undone by a poor run of form despite progress in the F.A. Cup.
The month began with The Cobblers on the verge of making a push for the top six and, off the back of our first away win of the season at Oldham, sprits were high as Southend came to town. An Adam Barrett header in the second half was enough to end our good run though and we needed to bounce back immediately as we hosted Bristol Rovers the following Tuesday.
But Rovers would also leave Sixfields with a win by the single goal as Rickie Lambert scored the only goal of the game with twenty minutes to go.
Back to back defeats were followed by a trip to League Two high flyers Darlington in the first round of the F.A. Cup. An early goal from Gregg Blundell for the home side was coupled with an injury to skipper Chris Doig and Doig would be out until April with a long term problem. Colin Larkin scored the equaliser to take the tie to a replay.
Another single goal defeat in the league, this time at Crewe, would condemn us to our third straight loss in League One before Andy Kirk and Bradley Johnson secured progress in the cup replay against Darlington. We were drawn against Walsall at home in Round Two.
But before the cup meeting with Walsall, we would play them in the final league game of November. Mark Bradley and Ishmel Demontagnac scored in the second half to make it four defeats without scoring a goal for Stuart Gray’s men as the month ended with us languishing in the lower reaches of the table.
Following a desperately poor month of league form in November, the Christmas period began with the F.A. Cup distracting us from four defeats without a goal in League One. As the month went on though, Stuart Gray managed to turn things around as we narrowly missed out on a massive win at the City Ground.
The month began as the previous one had ended, with a home game with Walsall. In the final league game of November, the Saddlers claimed a 2-0 win at Sixfields but this time, in the F.A. Cup Second Round, had to settle for a replay. Tommy Mooney gave the visitors a fourth minute lead but Andy Kirk struck just a few minutes later to take the tie back to The Bescot Stadium.
Back in the league and it was five defeats in a row as we travelled to Swansea on a Tuesday night. Totally outplayed and outclassed, we folded in the first half as Jason Scotland and Darren Pratley had the Swans 2-0 up in twenty minutes. Scotland added a second half penalty to seal it and we had now lost five games in a row in League One without registering a goal.
With Stuart Gray desperate for a turn around, Carlisle United came to town on good form. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson gave them an expected lead but Jason Crowe hit back with our first goal in six games just a couple of minutes later. Joe Garner looked to have won it for the Cumbrians in the second half but Bradley Johnson scored in stoppage time to earn a much needed point.
With the league slide halted, it was time for the cup replay and after an even game at Walsall, we were edged out by a penalty from Michael Ricketts and our interest in cup competitions were over for another season.
The following weekend and we were off to the City Ground to take on Colin Calderwood’s Nottingham Forest. Lewis McGugan put Calderwood’s side in front but from then on we slowly pushed them back. On 59 minutes, Poul Hubertz gave us a well-deserved equaliser and five minutes later Daniel Jones sent the thousands of travelling fans wild with a bullet of a goal from distance. It looked like we could hold on for a famous win but deep into injury time Forest won a corner and Junior Agogo pounced to head home a late, late equaliser.
The Forest draw would turn out to be somewhat of a positive step for the club though and the following weekend Bournemouth were on the end of the backlash. Loan man Dean Bowditch gave us the lead and after Brett Pitman had hit a quick fire leveller, we stormed to our first win in eight league games. Jason Crowe, Daniel Jones and Bradley Johnson were on target as the Cobblers recorded a 4-1 win.
Boxing Day saw a trip to Doncaster end in disappointment as the home side eased past us 2-0 thanks to strikes from Mark McCammon and Adam Lockwood in the first half.
But the final game of 2007 would see us bounce back again as we won at Huddersfield Town’s Galpharm Stadium for the first time. Andy Booth scored on the stroke of half time to give Huddersfield the lead but goals from Poul Hubertz and Jason Crowe turned things around in the final fifteen minutes and the year ended on a high.
There was still work to be done in 2008 to stave off the fear of relegation though and Stuart Gray would need to use all his usual know how in the transfer window to take us up to the next level.
The early days of 2008 would see the start of a real turn around in the Cobblers’ fortunes as we began to ease away from the relegation pack and closer to safety.
The first game of the year came at home to Millwall and Dean Bowditch looked to have given us all three points at Sixfields until Gary Alexander equalised in stoppage time. Alexander had been a summer transfer target of Stuart Gray until the Lions came in for the striker.
Next up was the long awaited trip to Elland Road but without the likes of Poul Hubertz and Daniel Jones we were always going to be up against it. As was the case at Swansea a month before, we froze against one of the better sides away from home and goals from Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques and Curtis Weston sealed a comfortable win for the home side that had previously been in the middle of a slump following an excellent first half of the season.
The following weekend saw another frustrating home draw keep Town rooted in the bottom half of the table. Hartlepool United came to town and grabbed a point through Ben Clark on the stroke of half time after Liam Dolman had scored his first ever goal in a Cobblers shirt.
An important away win followed though as the Cobblers travelled to Gillingham. An early free kick from Daniel Jones was enough to win the game and kick start a good run of form for the side.
As our climb up the table began, Leyton Orient were swept aside 2-0 at Sixfields in the first of two home wins to round off January. Giles Coke and Poul Hubertz were on target against the O’s before the month ended with a success over Brighton and Hover Albion.
This time it took a solitary goal from Mark Hughes to decide it just a minute before half time and we were beginning to gain momentum as February kicked in…
The first game of the month took us to Swindon and Adebayo Akinfenwa made his debut after joining the club in the January transfer window. Akinfenwa would be the saviour at the County Ground in an exciting second half. Blair Sturrock gave the Robins the lead but the big man came off the bench to head home his first goal for the club from a left wing corner.
The following weekend we welcomed Leeds United to Sixfields and it looked like Jonathon Howson’s goal had given the visitors the win but Akinfenwa popped up again to barge through the Leeds defence and blast home the leveller with fifteen minutes to go.
A Tuesday night trip to Yeovil ended in a disastrous evening as we walked for an hour to get to the ground from our hotel and ended up twenty minutes late. To cap it all off, Yeovil scored a winner in stoppage time through Terry Skiverton to round off a dismal night.
But a few days later and the Cobblers were right back on track in style with a comprehensive 4-0 home win over Gillingham. Jason Crowe and Adebayo Akinfenwa scored twice in two minutes just before the break to give us the half time advantage before Akinfenwa and Giles Coke hit two more in the second 45.
The final game of the month saw a Friday night trip to Hartlepool United end in success. With just eight minutes to go, Giles Coke hit a long range effort that slipped under home keeper Jan Budtz and we had a second straight victory for the first time since October.
A busy month of March would follow and we would eventually end up in nose bleed territory and flirting with the playoffs…
March would prove to be the month that looked to make or break our ever increasing playoff hopes. But after a disappointing Easter weekend it was all but over as the ten men of Forest and then the eleven of Carlisle put us to the sword.
The month began with a home game against Crewe and the League One strugglers came to Sixfields to frustrate us, going away with a 0-0 draw and ending hopes of our third straight league win.
The following weekend the Cobblers travelled to another side in the playoff hunt, Walsall. The Saddlers had already beaten us in league and cup during the season but this time Adebayo Akinfenwa hit a double to give us an impressive 2-0 win over a side that were, at the time, in fifth place.
A point from Bristol Rovers in midweek was salvaged by a Poul Hubertz striker in the second half and that would set up an astonishing home game with league leaders Swansea City at Sixfields.
The Swans travelled in good numbers but in an incredible period in the first half we scored three goals in nine minutes through Hubertz, an own goal and Hubertz again from the spot. Jason Scotland hit back for the visitors but Danny Jackman curled home a fourth just after the break for the Cobblers. Scotland added a late consolation but Town fans began to dream as the result of the season set up an Easter double header with Nottingham Forest and Carlisle United.
Forest were first up and this was the game that really could be seen as the turning point. Brett Ormerod had Colin Calderwood’s side in front but the visitors were down to ten men on 21 minutes when James Perch was shown the red card. Hubertz brought us level by the break with an overhead kick but Forest used the wind advantage in the second half to lead again through a highly controversial Nathan Tyson penalty. Try as we might to get back into it we couldn’t buy a goal and it was disappointment as Calderwood’s men began their charge towards the top two.
Next up was an away day at high flying Carlisle United and we were again well beaten away from home at one of the better sides in the league. Second half strikes from Danny Livesey and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson won the game for the Cumbrians.
March ended with a 1-1 draw at Cheltenham Town as Steven Gillespie’s opener was cancelled out by a Giles Coke volley but results elsewhere were beginning to make the playoff dreams fade away as April began.
April and May
April saw The Cobblers begin an unbeaten run that would last until the end of the season but two wins and two draws were not good enough to climb into the playoff places.
April kicked off with a local derby against Luton Town and The Cobblers put another nail in The Hatters’ relegation coffin with a 2-1 victory. Poul Hubertz opened the scoring with a penalty before youngster Alex Dyer hit a second just before half time. Luton got a late consolation through former Cobblers forward Sam Parkin but it was too late to salvage anything.
Before the game at Southend we learned that Leeds had picked up a victory at Carlisle that all but ended any realistic hopes we had of reaching the top six but a creditable point at Roots Hall followed. Colin Larkin headed home from a corner to give us a half time lead but Southend hit back in the second half through Lee Barnard.
As we looked to cement a place in the top ten, Oldham came to town and fell to a 2-0 defeat thanks to a second half double from Giles Coke and Ryan Gilligan.
The final game of the month saw us visit already relegated Port Vale. After taking a 2-0 lead through Gilligan and Andy Holt, Vale hit back. First, Marc Richards slammed home to make it 2-1 and then Danny Glover rescued a point as Vale ended their home campaign with something to cheer.
The Cobblers rounded off a successful campaign with one final home game as Tranmere came to Town.
We knew that a win would take us into the top ten in the final league standings as Tranmere were placed in ninth going into the game with Stuart Gray’s men down in eleventh.
The game got off to a flying start as Adebayo Akinfenwa fired us in front within just three minutes. Chris Greenacre squared things up just before the break to send the sides in level. But Poul Hubertz, in his final Cobblers appearance, came off the bench for a fairy tale ending to his brief career in a claret shirt with the winning goal mid-way through the second half.
And so the season was over and our final position of ninth would have been grabbed at with both hands by any Cobblers fan at the start of the season. To be in with a shout of the playoffs right up until late in the season proved what a great job Stuart Gray had done in his first full season as manager.
The record of Played 46, Won 17, Drew 15 and Lost 14 showed a big improvement on last seasons’ fourteenth place finish. Danny Jackman claimed a deserved Player Of The Season award whilst Mark Bunn and Jason Crowe were also as consistent as ever.