The Cobblers started the new season in true style as Cheltenham Town were beaten 4-2 at Sixfields. Three new signings, Luke Guttridge, Leon Constantine and Liam Davis made their Cobblers debut but it wasn’t all plain sailing. David Bird gave the visitors the lead in the 35th minute but it was Chris Doig that equalised before half time. Two penalties from Adebayo Akinfenwa gave us a comfortable lead before Michael Townsend scored from the spot at the other end. But it was Constantine who rounded things off following good work from Akinfenwa who unselfishly set his strike partner up for a debut goal.
In the first midweek game of the season, Jason Crowe’s goal was enough to knock Milwall out of the Carling Cup but little would we know what drama would follow in the same competition.
The following Saturday saw a disappointing performance at MK Dons result in the Dons winning the first ever meeting between the clubs. Aaron Wilbraham got the only goal of the game following a goal mouth scramble and the Cobblers had nothing in reply.
Millwall were the opponents the following weekend as we faced a quick fire rematch with the Lions after that Carling Cup tie. This time there was nothing to separate the sides and the game ended goalless.
After drawing Bolton Wanderers away in the Carling Cup, no-one would have given us a chance against the Premier League outfit. But Adebayo Akinfenwa had other ideas and scored twice in the opening half an hour to give us a surprise lead. Gary Cahill was sent off to add to Bolton’s troubles and despite a late goal from Kevin Nolan, the Cobblers recorded a fantastic win to upset the odds.
After that stunning night at the Reebok, we were brought right back down to earth though as we were hammered by Tranmere Rovers. Ryan Gilligan put the Cobblers in front but Rovers were 3-1 up by half time as goals from Bas Savage, Antony Kay and Craig Curran gave the hosts the advantage. Ian Moore scored in stoppage time to round off a disappointing end to August for the Cobblers.
September began how August had ended, with another defeat, this time at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Kevin McLeod got the only goal of the game to earn Albion progression to Round Two.
The big local derby with Peterborough United was up next and George Boyd gave Boro the lead on fifteen minutes. But just before half time, Colin Larkin was sent through and powered a good finish past Joe Lewis in the visitors’ goal. Jason Crowe was sent off late on but we earned a decent point following a hard fought derby game.
Another 1-1 draw followed at Stockport in midweek. On loan striker Karl Hawley gave us the ideal start but with fifteen minutes to go Leon McSweeney grabbed a point for the home side.
A 3-2 defeat at Huddersfield followed as the Cobblers remained without a league win since the opening day of the season. An own goal gave us the lead but Andy Booth scored against the Cobblers once again to level things. Two goals from Michael Flynn gave Huddersfield a 3-1 lead and despite a late goal from Liam Davis we couldn’t salvage a point.
Despite the poor league form, the Cobblers went on to Sunderland in the Carling Cup on the following Tuesday and came agonisingly close to causing another upset. Colin Larkin and Luke Guttridge seemed to have won it for Stuart Gray’s side but incredibly, the Premier League side came back with two Anthony Stokes goals in the final four minutes to take the game to extra time. After a gruelling period of extra time, the Cobblers got through to penalties but were beaten 4-3 after Leon Constantine missed the decisive kick.
The month ended with another 2-2 draw, this time at home to Brighton. Glenn Murray had Brighton in front from the penalty spot but Adebayo Akinfenwa equalised late on. Murray thought he’d won it with a 90th minute goal but deep into stoppage time, Akinfenwa headed home a Danny Jackman corner to grab a point.
The season finally got going in October with the Cobblers recording three straight league wins, starting at Crewe.
We hadn’t won away in the league all season despite twice winning on our travels in the Carling Cup and taking Sunderland to penalties in the same competition. But that away day hoodoo was put to bed when the Cobblers won 3-1 at Crewe in the opening game in October. Danny Jackman’s free kick started us off before the home side equalised through Tom Pope. Adebayo Akinfenwa put the Cobblers back in front though before Abdul Osman headed home the third to seal a good win at Gresty Road.
It was two wins on the bounce for the first time in the season the following weekend when on loan Preston striker Karl Hawley scored in the seventeenth minute to win the home game with Hartlepool United at Sixfields.
With that momentum, Stuart Gray’s men then made it three in a row as Yeovil were brushed aside 3-0 in one of the more simple games of the season. Jackman was on target again with another trademark free kick before Akinfenwa added a second on twenty minutes. Jason Crowe rounded off a comfortable day at the office for the Cobblers with ten minutes to go and it looked like the season was getting going at last.
But defeat was just around the corner on the following Tuesday night at Swindon. Billy Paynter and Simon Cox put the Robins 2-0 up and despite a late goal from Giles Coke we came home pointless from the County Ground.
October was complete with a solid display at league pacesetters Leicester City as the Cobblers came away with a goalless draw against the side that would go on to win the league.
After a good October that saw the Cobblers lose just one game, November was a more mixed month with an FA Cup tie took to a replay and an incredible couple of games with Leeds in the space of a week.
The month kicked off with a disappointing defeat at Walsall as goals from Chris Palmer, Anthony Gerrard and Troy Deeney had the hosts 3-0 up just after the hour mark. Leon Constantine struck with twenty minutes to go with only his second goal of the season but little did we know that this would be his last goal in Cobblers colours.
The following Friday night saw us thrust into the national spotlight as the FA Cup First Round game at Leeds was being screened live by Setanta Sports. Scott McGleish had just re-joined the club on a month’s loan and had played at Walsall but netted his first goal back at the club early on to stun Elland Road. Giles Coke was sent off just before the half hour mark and a controversial penalty, finished by Andy Robinson, drew the home side level. But a brave performance by the Cobblers’ ten men meant that the game would go to a replay.
Back in the league and Oldham claimed all three points from Sixfields just two days before the cup replay as Andy Lidell scored from the spot with fifteen minutes to go to give the visitors all three points.
And so to the Leeds replay and Setanta again sent their cameras down to take in the game. This time though, we were totally outclassed and Jermaine Beckford scored four times to sink Stuart Gray’s men and send us crashing out of the competition. Leeds were three up within forty minutes through Beckford, a Mark Hughes own goal and a Ben Parker strike. Jason Crowe pulled one back before the break but Beckford had time to net another one to make it 4-1 at half time. He added his fourth ten minutes after the restart and Crowe’s late consolation barely raised a cheer as Leeds ran out 5-2 winners.
We would bounce back in the league a few days later though as second half goals from Danny Jackman and Ryan Gilligan secured the Cobblers’ second away win of the season at struggling Hereford United.
That victory was followed up on the Tuesday night by a stunning 2-1 win over Leeds at Sixfields just a week after the 5-2 defeat to the same side in the F.A. Cup. Stuart Gray’s men took the lead through Liam Davis’ well hit shot from outside the area but Leeds looked to have earned a point through that man Beckford again. But on loan striker Nicholas Bignall was on hand to head home a dramatic winner with three minutes to play and we had recorded a famous victory.
November didn’t end as well with Colchester taking all three points at Sixfields in a 2-1 win. After two headed goals from Clive Platt and former Cobblers man Paul Reid, Danny Jackman scored with a long range free kick that deflected in but it wasn’t enough as we ended the month on a poor note.
With Christmas approaching, the Cobblers hadn’t completely got going in the league and were out of all three cup competitions already. December was another inconsistent month but did include the game of the season at Glanford Park.
Leyton Orient were the visitors in the opening game of the month and they took home a 1-1 draw from Sixfields thanks to a JJ Melligan equaliser. Liam Davis had given us a second minuet lead but we had to settle for a point.
The following week saw another draw but this time in extraordinary circumstances. Scunthorpe sailed into a 4-1 lead at Glanford Park thanks to two goals each from Gary Hooper and Ben May. Scott McGleish had earlier netted for the Cobblers but the game looked totally dead and buried by the time Scunny’s fourth goal went in on 51 minutes. But Giles Coke and Danny Jackman had Stuart Gray’s side right back in the game even before the hour mark and Jackman scored again, this time direct from a corner, with five minutes to go to earn a memorable draw.
Seven days later and a much less eventful game brought us all three points as Carlisle were beaten at Sixfields. Jason Crowe’s goal was enough to win it for Town in the final game before Christmas.
We were looking good for a point on Boxing Day at Southend until stoppage time when Junior Stanislas scored a free kick that snatched a win for the Shrimpers.
The final game of 2008 was a dour goalless draw with Bristol Rovers and there was still plenty of work to do as the transfer window and 2009 loomed large with the season still very much in the balance.
2009 started with a quiet week as the Cobblers were already out of the F.A. Cup so we had a spare week to prepare for the first game of the New Year, at home to Huddersfield Town. It looked like Phil Jevons’ goal had given the Terriers all three points until Adebayo Akinfenwa struck with literally the last kick of the game to salvage a dramatic point.
Next up was a disappointing trip to Hartlepool on a cold Friday night and the Cobblers froze in a 2-0 defeat, handed out by Joel Porter’s double strike and it was a long journey home for our fans.
There was a much improved performance a week later though as Crewe were brushed aside at Sixfields. Billy Clarke had just signed on a month long loan deal from Ipswich Town and started out in true style with a debut hat-trick against the Railwaymen in a 5-1 success. Danny Jackman and Liam Davis scored the other goals in our biggest win of the season with Colin Daniel scoring the only Crewe goal.
The inconsistency continued though as The Cobblers were beaten on the following Tuesday night by Colchester United in the first meeting between the sides at the new Weston Homes Community Stadium. Akinfenwa put us in front in the first half but Mark Yeates and future Cobblers loanee Scott Vernon turned the game completely on its head in two second half minutes to earn a 2-1 win.
The league leaders, Leicester City, were in town on the final day of January and we made a strong start with Leon Constantine and Abdul Osman forcing an own goal out of Foxes defender Kerrea Gilbert. But former Cobbler Steve Howard equalised for City before Lloyd Dyer won it with fifteen minutes to go to make it a disappointing end to the month.
After a tough opening month of 2009, the Cobblers would also struggle in February as the dark road to relegation began at Boundary Park.
The month began exactly as January had ended; with a 2-1 defeat, this time to Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park. Reuben Hazell had given the home side an eighth minute lead before the impressive Dean Windass made it two on the hour mark. Adebayo Akinfenwa pulled one back for Town but it wasn’t enough to stop a third straight defeat.
It was four losses in a row a week later as Walsall won with two late goals at Sixfields. The poor game looked set for a goalless draw until Stephen Hughes scored with seven minutes to play. Jabo Ibehre rubbed salt in the wounds with a second in stoppage time.
A re-arranged and stormy game at Brighton followed on the Tuesday night. Ryan Gilligan had given the Cobblers the lead right on the stroke of half-time with both sides in trouble at the wrong end of the table. But Tommy Elphick grabbed an equaliser in the second half before both Adebayo Akinfenwa and Brighton’s Adam Virgo were sent off after a clash on the half-way line. Both were forced out for three games, meaning that Bayo would miss the derby at Peterborough in mid-March.
After the Brighton draw we faced a big game at Cheltenham Town, also struggling at the foot of the table, at Whaddon Road. Jason Crowe’s goal right on half-time, just like Gilligan’s in the week at Brighton, gave us the lead and this time we didn’t surrender the lead and it was a good way to end a troubled month as a huge month of March loomed.
A win at Cheltenham had rounded off February but we had to settle for a point in the first game of March. Bas Savage, who had hit a double for Brighton at Sixfields a season before, gave Tranmere the lead at Sixfields but Andy Holt claimed a point in the second half.
A Tuesday night at Millwall followed in the build-up to the derby at Peterborough but we came home from the New Den empty handed as former Cobblers target Gary Alexander scored the only goal of the game.
And so to London Road and perhaps one of the key games of the run-in for both sides. With Posh gunning for automatic promotion and the Cobblers sliding towards the relegation zone, it was the Town fans celebrating early on when Gabriel Zakuani was sent off after just seven minutes of the game. Danny Jackman hit the post from the resulting free kick and we came close on numerous occasions before a sickening blow just after the half hour when Charlie Lee headed home a free kick to score what would turn out to be the winner.
Bayo was back in action after a suspension for his red card at Brighton as Stockport came to Sixfields and felt the full force of a returning giant and a hurt Cobblers side. Bayo was off the mark on twelve minutes and Abdul Osman added a second before the break. Luke Guttridge and on loan striker Scott Vernon both found the net in the second half and we eased to a comfortable victory.
There were more goals the following Tuesday night as Swindon Town edged a seven goal thriller. Bayo again scored the opening goal but Simon Cox hit the net twice along with Billy Paynter’s single goal to put the Robins 3-1 up at half-time. Jackman got one back for the Cobblers before Cox rounded off his hat-trick for 4-2. Ikechi Anya’s late goal wasn’t enough and we remained in big trouble at the bottom.
A point at Carlisle steadied the ship briefly with Luke Guttridge earning a draw at Brunton Park after the home side had been given the lead through Lewis Neal.
The final game of the month was a dreadful showing at fellow relegation candidates Yeovil Town. Going into the game, we knew a defeat would take us into the bottom four and it looked like we would get a point until Jon Obika, the Glovers’ on loan Spurs striker, scored a goal that would turn both sides’ seasons on their heads. This was the beginning of the end for the Cobblers’ season.
April and May
The Cobblers headed into April with a nervy end of the season ahead. At the turn of the year, Stuart Gray was looking at another safe season in League One looking very likely but a downturn in fortunes left us battling against the drop in a dramatic April.
The first game of the month was scheduled to take place at Sixfields against Scunthorpe but with The Iron making it through to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final at Wembley we didn’t play for ten days following the dismal defeat at Yeovil. It was destination Bristol on good Friday and once again the Cobblers fell to a single goal defeat at the Memorial Ground against Bristol Rovers. After a poor game, Jo Kuffour’s goal was the difference and we remained in the bottom four over the Easter weekend.
Southend were the visitors on Easter Monday and they came away from Sixfields with all three points. Jean-Francois Christophe gave the Shrimpers a 38th minute lead before Adebayo Akinfenwa struck back five minutes after half-time. But a quick-fire double from Theo Robinson and former Cobblers loan man Lee Barnard put the visitors three goals to the good and loanee Aleksander Prijovic’s goal ten minutes from time wasn’t enough for Town.
The following week saw a trip to Leyton Orient bring us real hope again. At half-time, Jason Crowe’s own goal along with results elsewhere seemed to be hammering a massive nail in the relegation coffin. But a stirring response in the second half saw Bayo, Prijovic and another loanee, Ikechi Anya all find the net and turn the game dramatically and earn a massive away win.
More was to follow the Tuesday after that with the rearranged game with Scunthorpe United providing another thriller. Crowe scored in the right end to give the Cobblers the lead but Liam Trotter levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time. A penalty from Grant McCann had Scunny in front but Anya scored for the second time in a week to bring it back to 2-2. Matt Sparrow hit a third for his side as the game went from one end to the other with the fate of the Cobblers hanging in the balance. With fifteen minutes to go, Mark Hughes rose to head home a corner and we had salvaged a point, meaning the destiny was back in our hands.
Victory against Hereford the following Saturday, handed to us by goals from Andy Holt and Crowe once again led to a tense final home game of the season against “neighbours” MK Dons. With the Cobblers needing a point to guarantee safety based on a good goal difference, it was a nervy affair but it was settled by Aaron Wilbraham’s first half goal and all that was left was a final day of the season trip to Elland Road as three sides fought it out for League One survival…
So with one final game to go, the Cobblers were still in control of their own destiny. A single point at Leeds on the last day of the season would guarantee safety with Brighton and Carlisle awaiting any slip up. Brighton played host to Stockport County whilst Carlisle faced Millwall at Brunton Park as the Cobblers headed to Elland Road.
The news wasn’t good from the very start as Carlisle scored after just seven minutes. Nerves in the away end jangled as the news came through and we tried to urge our players for one final effort against one of the toughest sides in the league. Leeds were in no mood to be charitable though and took the lead on the stroke of half time as Luciano Becchio headed home a left wing cross…we were in big trouble. With Brighton drawing, enough for them to leapfrog us, and Carlisle winning against Millwall it was looking bleak.
The second half in our game was a mere formality and after Jermaine Beckford’s goal on the hour mark all ears were out for the other games. Carlisle had already scored a second and were nearly out of sight so it was down to Brighton and when a cheer went up with twenty to play, we thought Stockport had scored. Alas, no, it was Brighton that had taken the lead and with the Seagulls needing just a draw it was all over. A third goal for Leeds through Robert Snodgrass in stoppage time hammered the message home that we were down and well and truly out of League One.
From mid-table in December to relegated in May, the story of our season will be one of the more agonising in years to come. Here’s hoping that next season’s Season in Review will be a lot more positive and words of celebration come from all over the town. What we felt at Elland Road will take a long, long time to get over but what better way than bouncing back at the first attempt?! We know we never do things easily so here’s to more Cobblers drama in 2009/10…