The 2011/12 season kicked off with the usual sense of optimism heightened by the fact that Gary Johnson had put together what, on paper, looked like a decent squad over the summer. The return of Bayo Akinfenwa along with the other attack minded ‘marquee’ signings of Jake Robinson and Arron Davies gave Sixfields an upbeat and anticipation-filled atmosphere as we prepared for the opening game of the season against Accrington Stanley.
There were other new additions making their debut as well with Ashley Corker, Paul Turnbull, Ashley Westwood and Bas Savage all featuring. But things didn’t quite go to script and it would be a frustrating afternoon as Stanley held out for a goalless draw. A quick turn and shot from Robinson that was cleared off the line was the closest that the Cobblers would come as we had to settle for opening our account with a single point.
Better was to come a few days later though as the love affair with the Carling Cup carried over from last season’s fine run into the Fourth Round. On that occasion it was Ipswich Town that finally brought the run to an end but when we were paired together again for the First Round this season it was Town who came out on top at Portman Road. The victory was made more impressive by the fact that we had to come from behind following Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ early goal as Ben Tozer levelled and Paul Turnbull turned the game around and saw us through to a Second Round meeting with Wolves at Sixfields.
Back to the league and the momentum from that cup win carried over to the trip to Aldershot with Ashley Westwood heading in inside the opening minute of the game to crown a great start to his own return to the club. A late flurry ensued but we held out for a first three points of the season, making it a decent first week of the campaign.
The first defeat would soon follow though as Bristol Rovers edged the Cobblers out at the Memorial Stadium. Jo Kuffour would begin a season of terrorising the Cobblers by opening the scoring and, after Bayo Akinfenwa had scored his first goal since returning to town in the summer, Matt Harrold stabbed in the winner with fifteen minutes to go.
The early optimism was soon washed away after Cheltenham Town came out from a five goal thriller at Sixfields victorious that Saturday. Darryl Duffy scored, after a controversial decision, from the spot but Arron Davies equalised before the break. Bayo headed in a Lewis Young cross to put us in front but it was the Rubies who would find that extra gear and Duffy got on the end of a cross from former Cobbler Josh Low for 2-2 before Low himself slotted in from just inside the area to seal all three points for his side.
The heroics in the Carling Cup then came to an end with Wolves demolishing the Cobblers 4-0 with Sylvain Ebanks-Blake netting twice either side of a Nenad Milijas strike and Sam Vokes rounding things off with two minutes to go.
The downward turn in fortunes would continue with a third league defeat in a row coming at home to Morecambe thanks to a first half double from Phil Jevons and Laurence Wilson, with Wilson netting from the spot, to earn the Shrimps a fourth league win in a row.
Another cup defeat was the final action on the pitch of the opening month with Huddersfield winning 2-1 at Sixfields in the First Round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy but it would be off the pitch actions that would provide the biggest talking points.
Shaun Harrad hadn’t played for the club so far after a summer injury kept him out of the early part of the action. Rumours then started to circulate that it was actually Gary Johnson keeping him out of the squad for the past couple of weeks out of choice and that Harrad – last season’s top scorer – would soon be sold. Those rumours came to fruition on a deadline day to forget for the Cobblers. Harrad was sold to League One Bury and made his debut against Sheffield United a few days later.
With a need for goals and spark up front, it was a ludicrous move and started what would become a long and drawn out end for Gary Johnson as he would further distance himself from the supporters during the next two months…
The after effects of Shaun Harrad’s sale were immediate at Sixfields as the Cobblers looked to get back on track on the pitch as well as build bridges off it. Gary Johnson was as stubborn as ever with his opinions and always stood by the need to sell Harrad so we all had to get on with it and hope that something else was in the pipeline.
Southend was the first port of call and after a disappointing run towards the end of August it was nice to be back on track at least with a solid 2-2 draw at Roots Hall. Coming from two goals down made it more impressive with Bilel Mohsni and Ryan Hall putting the Shrimpers 2-0 up only for Bayo Akinfenwa and Arron Davies to turn things completely on its head within a five minute spell in the second half.
Back to Sixfields and a goalless draw against Torquay United was hard fought but still we were searching for that first home victory of the season.
One of the rare times when everything came together under Johnson came a few days later, though. With the Cobblers 1-0 up at Wimbledon thanks to a Bayo penalty, Nick McKoy was sent off on the stroke of half-time and it looked like an uphill battle from there. But the ten men fought through it and scored twice more in the second half, both goals coming from Michael Jacobs, to cap one of the performances of the season.
We needed to follow that up with another result at Macclesfield on the Saturday but frustrating inconsistency haunted us again as two late goals from Ben Tomlinson and Colin Daniel helped the Silkmen to a 3-1 win. Bristol City loanee Marlon Jackson scored the Cobblers’ goal on that day, his first and only strike during his short spell here.
September at least ended with some positive news and, finally, the first home win of the season. Dagenham and Redbridge were the victims as Arron Davies continued his good start to the season by scoring early on and Bayo added another on the hour. Oliver Lee’s late goal was too late for the Daggers and Town ended the month on twelve points and in seventeenth place in the table.
Highlight of the Month: Ten men Cobblers win 3-0 at AFC Wimbledon.
Lowlight of the Month: The subsequent 3-1 reverse at Macclesfield Town.
Player of the Month: Michael Jacobs – the star continues to rise and some solid performances went along with those two crucial goals at Wimbledon.
What would start out in positive fashion would end with a feeling that we still had a lot more questions than answers in terms of how we would turn the slow start to the season around. October saw a dismal run of form lead up to the slow demise of Mr Johnson the following month.
Things started well enough with the Cobblers coming home from Underhill with a 2-1 victory, the first time that we had managed back to back wins all season. After Rickie Holmes had put the Bees in front, Town fought back in the second half and after Arron Davies levelled things up just after half-time, Ben Tozer nipped in for a winner with just a minute left on the clock.
Alas, this was to be the last piece of good news all month!
The Sky Sports cameras came calling and that usually means that we don’t wake up the nation from their weekend slumps and that proved true once again as Crawley edged a Saturday lunch time fixture by the single goal, scored by Matt Tubbs mid-way through the first half.
Worse was to follow the following Friday as the Cobblers were three down at Port Vale and completely out of sight by half-time. Tom Pope, Anthony Griffin and John McCombe wrapped things up and despite a slightly better second half it remained 3-0 and we were sent back to the drawing board once again.
A trip to Bradford was up next and suddenly there was very, very brief hope as Michael Jacobs slammed one in from distance to give us actual hope. Cue a ten minute collapse that saw the Bantams lead 2-1 before we’d even been able to check whether we would be able to climb to fifteenth place with a win. Craig Fagan netted from the spot before James Hanson made it three defeats on the bounce.
A nice home game with Hereford would surely sort things out, right? Wrong. Nathan Elder and Steven Leslie had other ideas and rudely didn’t run to the plan by putting the Bulls two up by the break. Loanee Saido Berahino scored his first Cobblers goal to half the deficit but Harry Pell made it 3-1 late on for yet another loss for Gary Johnson, who by this point was looking a dead man walking. Or shuffling.
That result left Town in nineteenth place, three points from the drop zone but there was finally a small relief to come as we earned a point at home to Rotherham to at least stop the rot and finish the month on a positive-ish note. Gareth Evans put the visitors in front with Conrad Logan handing the Cobblers a point with his own goal.
So that was October. Not one to dwell on really, was it! I’m sure November will give me something positive to write about…oh, wait…
Highlight of the Month: Big Ben Tozer’s last ditch winner at Underhill.
Lowlight of the Month: Take your pick! The first half collapse at Port Vale takes the honours though I think.
Player of the Month: Saido Berahino – At least gave the front line some much needed pace after joining from West Brom on loan.
November would be a month of more disasters on the pitch but some relief off it as we were finally separated from Gary Johnson’s regime. It wasn’t to be a happy divorce with the two games that preceded Johnson’s exit epitomising his eight month reign at Sixfields.
The first was an all-out attacking set up at Gillingham which, to be fair, the Cobblers were actually unfortunate to lose at the death following a stirring fight back. The Gills, though, tore us apart early on with Frank Nouble making a mockery of Ben Tozer at right back and terrorising him for most of the game. That led to Jo Kuffour scoring a first half hat-trick. In between times, Saido Berahino pulled one back for the Cobblers but there was still a mountain to climb in the second half. Kelvin Langmead shot us back into contention though and Berahino rammed in a first time effort from a free kick to pull things back to 3-3 before a massive turning point. Bayo Akinfenwa was clean through on his old stomping ground and had headlines in his sights but pulled his shot over the bar. Inevitably, the Gills went on to snatch it with a second penalty of the game which Danny Kedwell converted.
Johnson was on borrowed time and going into the FA Cup First Round clash with Conference side Luton Town you got the feeling that it was do or die. And so it was that Adam Watkins’ eightieth minute goal was the one that ended Johnson’s time at the club, knocking us out of the cup with a whimper. Rumours were flying around from the minute the game ended up until Monday morning when the announcement came that the manager was gone.
The outgoing boss then appeared in the national media saying, basically, that it was the fans’ fault that he was sacked with our high expectations and all! After the way he left the club it wasn’t the best way to make peace with some members of the claret faithful, some of whom had stuck with him over the previous months.
Anyway, onwards and upwards and a home game with Shrewsbury Town was next up with Johnson’s assistants Dave Lee and Andy Holt taking temporary charge. With my stag do on the agenda for that weekend I thought it a good idea to invite a group of mates up to Northampton to take in a game before hitting the glorious lights of Northampton’s bars. On that day and night I was dressed in a huge white beard (during the match), a Father Ted outfit and as Supergirl but none of that was anywhere near as embarrassing as watching the Cobblers surrender to a 7-2 hammering at home. I’d rather not relive that match again so here’s a photo of me in a beard instead…
Dave Lee was duly sent on his way and Tim Flowers would have a go at being in the hot seat for the big trip to fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle the following weekend. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, Argyle – at this point the league’s bottom club – smacked in four goals in the first half through Simon Walton, Nick Chadwick, Will Atkinson and Ashley Hemmings. Yet another unmitigated disaster with Bayo’s goal in stoppage time barely registering with those brave souls who had made the journey to Home Park.
So four defeats, a cup exit, three managers and sixteen goals conceded. November 2011 could well go down on record as the worst month in Cobblers history and boy did we need something to turn the season around. Luckily, December would see us find an answer and although it wasn’t with immediate effect we would at least have some stability by the time Big Ben took us into 2012…
Highlight of the month: Gary Johnson’s departure.
Lowlight of the month: Every single match in the month had its own!
Player of the month: The long suffering Cobblers fans
A new era was dawning in December for the Cobblers with Gary Johnson’s departure a month before sparking the usual clamour of names being linked to the club. After back to back hammerings at the end of November it was perhaps good timing that we had a couple of weeks break to name the new man and to recover with a free weekend thanks to our exit from the FA Cup.
After much debate and speculation it was with great pleasure that we welcomed Aidy Boothroyd to Sixfields and immediately set his stall out with positive interviews that were as honest and passionate as Johnson’s were strange and disconnected. Boothroyd, quite rightly, said that things would get worse before they got better as he attempted to transform a squad that were, at that point, completely demoralised.
The first assignment for the new boss was a home game with Crewe Alexandra and a creditable 1-1 draw kicked off the Boothroyd era. Bayo Akinfenwa put the Cobblers in front early on and looked like giving the team a perfect start but Byron Moore’s equaliser meant that we had to settle for a point. After the last couple of results, though, that was more than enough!
Next up was a trip to the most local side in the league, Oxford United, and after a tight first half, the U’s took charge and after Tom Craddock had put them in front, Deane Smalley finished us off with three minutes to go.
Boxing Day saw another chance for the home fans to witness the start of the new chapter as Burton Albion came to town. An extraordinary start saw Saido Berahino give the Cobblers the lead inside the first minute and Cleveland Taylor level it up just seconds later. A Michael Jacobs penalty put the Cobblers back in front in a frantic opening that eased off towards the break. Chris Palmer turned the scales back in the Brewer’s favour and the visitors went on to nick all the points with two minutes to go thanks to a Justin Richards penalty.
Boothroyd and the Cobblers needed desperately to see the end of 2011 but there was one more game left in the calendar year as Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon came to town. Michael Jacobs continued to make his mark under the new manager with a first half penalty but Alan Connell made it yet another game that was turned on its head. Di Canio would become the centre of controversy in stoppage time when he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate Alan McCormack’s winner in front of the South Stand.
So one draw and three defeats to start with for Aidy Boothroyd but though it did get worse as the new boss said, the New Year and transfer window would sow the seeds for what would be the saving grace of the season.
Highlight of the month: Aidy Boothroyd signs on and starts with a home draw with Crewe.
Lowlight of the month: Three out of four games saw Town in winning positions only to drop points. The most irritating was Swindon’s victory and subsequent Di Canio celebration that was completely over the top.
Player of the month: Michael Jacobs continued to impress his new boss in his first month in charge.
The turn of the year saw a clean slate for the Cobblers as we looked to recover from a dreadful first half of the season. Aidy Boothroyd had come in and, although he suffered three defeats in a row to end 2011, there seemed a sense that we could actually compete in games now and that was a good start!
The Cobblers were rock bottom of the table on January 1st with just seventeen points and were up against it for the first two games of the calendar year with two tricky away games. But those two games would provide a glimmer of hope for the future we picked up four very good points.
The first of those came at Shrewsbury Town’s Greenhous Meadow as new loan signings Blair Adams, Akwasi Asante and Ben Harding all came in to the starting line-up. Adams and Harding would eventually play major roles in the season and stay on right up until the final knockings of the campaign, Harding signing a permanent deal before that. Having suffered an embarrassing 7-2 defeat at home to the Shrews back in November it was a sign of how far we had come when we came away with a 1-1 draw. Saido Berahino continued his impressive few months in a Cobblers shirt by opening the scoring with Matt Richards equalising ten minutes later.
That gave confidence a massive boost ahead of the trip to Morecambe a few days later and Town finally picked up a first win under Boothroyd. A Michael Jacobs corner was headed in by John Johnson in the first half and then Akwasi Asante scored his first Cobblers goal since joining on loan by cutting in and rifling in a low shot for 2-0. Having thrown away a fair few leads in previous weeks there were still no guarantees and things got shaky when Kevin Ellison made it 2-1 with ten minutes to go. But a strong resistance saw us come away with a big three points.
That was unfortunately to be the final win of the month though and by the time January ended we were back at the foot of the league.
A 5-2 home defeat to Southend United brought us right back down to earth and it was yet again a case of the Cobblers being in front only to lose out in the end. Johnson struck again to open the scoring with David Martin equalising close to half-time. Saido Berhino put Town back in front, though, before the whistle and things were looking good again. But the Shrimpers stormed back in the second half and scored four times in the last twenty five minutes to seal a thumping victory. Liam Dickinson ran the show and after scoring from the spot, went on to complete a brace either side of a Bilel Mohsni double in a bad day in the Sixfields office.
A home game with Barnet was a good chance to get back on track and after Bayo Akinfenwa’s early goal the Cobblers were seemingly on the way. Once again, though, we would be pegged back and goals from Mark Byrne and Rickie Holmes turned the tables and the men from Underhill got us again!
The month was rounded off with a trip to Torquay with the Gulls flying high in League Two’s promotion race. The Cobblers, featuring new signing Luke Guttridge, held off until fifteen minutes to play when Mark Ellis headed in a straight forward corner for a single goal victory.
The defeat left us rock bottom and three points from safety as January turned into February and safety still a long, long way off. There needed to be a big change and thankfully there was some seeds of recover starting to kick in by the time the next month had finished!
Highlight of the month: The first win under Aidy Boothroyd as the Cobblers hold on for victory at Morecambe.
Lowlight of the month: The 5-2 hammering at home to Southend brought us right back down to earth.
Player of the month: Ben Harding sured up the midfield on signing on loan and would continue to flourish for the remainder of the season.
With the Cobblers sitting on the bottom of the Football League at the start of February, there needed to be points in the bag and performances would have to come second in the fight for survival. In a weather-affected month, we ended up playing just three times in February and all of those were at home.
Wimbledon were the first visitors on a cold Tuesday night and, having won 3-0 at Kingsmeadow in September, the Cobblers were looking for a rare league double. With the game looking like an odds-on goalless draw as it was going on, Luke Guttridge stepped up to score his first goal since returning to the club and earned Aidy Boothroyd his first home win since taking over as well as a first clean sheet.
Plenty to take into the following Tuesday with fellow strugglers Macclesfield coming to town. The Cobblers fell behind on seventeen minutes with George Donnelly putting the Silkmen in front but Michael Jacobs levelled before Guttridge made it two in two on the stroke of half time for 2-1. Bayo Akinfenwa volleyed in his tenth of the season to completely turn the tide in our favour and despite a late rally and goal from Macclesfield’s Ben Tomlinson we held on for back to back victories.
That victory took Town off the bottom and to within goal difference of jumping out of the bottom two ahead of the visit of Port Vale in the final game of February.
Vale weren’t so forgiving though and were two up by the hour mark with John McCombe’s towering header and Sean Rigg’s calm finish putting them in the ascendancy. Bayo Akinfenwa’s late goal wasn’t enough and the Cobblers ended the month still in the relegation zone.
March would become a massive month for the club with eight games scheduled thanks to the postponements of February and would become a memorable one for many a reason…
Highlight of the month: Back to back wins completed with the 3-2 win over Macclesfield Town, another side right in the relegation battle.
Lowlight of the month: Port Vale putting the Cobblers back in their place with a strong showing in a 2-1 win at Sixfields.
Player of the month: Luke Guttridge – showed why Boothroyd brought him back to the club with some dynamic performances and important goals.
With only three games played in February, March was – like the previous season – set to be a hectic month and one that would ultimately prove to be the month that would go a long way to settling the relegation nerves for the Cobblers. Two wins out of three coming into March had set Town up well even if we were still in the bottom two.
The first assignment came at high flying Cheltenham Town and we weren’t expecting to get a lot from Whaddon Road. It was with great surprise, then, that Ben Tozer and Bayo Akinfenwa both struck in the first half to give the Cobblers a shock 2-0 lead at the break. With an unlikely win on the cards, John Johnson was adjudged to handle in the area and Darryl Duffy converted from the spot. And after a heavy spell of pressure, it was heartbreak deep into stoppage time when Duffy got his second of the game to nick a point for the Rubies and put us back on the foot of the table thanks to results elsewhere.
Then came a huge double header at Sixfields with Bristol Rovers visiting first on a Tuesday night. With twenty minutes gone, the Cobblers had stormed into a three goal lead and looked well on course for a massive three points. Holding out until the mid-way point of the second half, Town then almost pressed the self-destruct button again when Craig Stanley pulled one back and Lee Brown made it 3-2 with five minutes to go. After the late drama at Cheltenham it was a hugely tense last few minutes but thankfully we held out and jumped up a place and to within a point of escaping the drop zone.
Aldershot Town provided the next test a few days later and the momentum continued for the Cobblers as, once again, we came out of the blocks well. Kelvin Langmead volleyed in to open the scoring before Akinfenwa doubled the lead five minutes before half time. And when Josh Payne brought down Michael Jacobs, Bayo stepped up for 3-0 and this time there was only mild resistance from the opposition. The Shots only found a reply once, in stoppage time, when Danny Hylton got a consolation so it was back to back wins for Aidy Boothroyd’s men. Just as important were events elsewhere though as Town leaped out of the bottom two and were suddenly two points clear of Plymouth Argyle and three clear of Tuesday night’s opponents Dagenham and Redbridge.
Victoria Park was to host perhaps the biggest game of both sides’ seasons that Tuesday night and it was as tense and tight as you would expect from two sides desperate not to make any fatal mistakes. It was eventually won on the hour when Liverpool loanee Toni Silva made the most a spill from Daggers’ keeper Chris Lewington to score the only goal of the game and send the hordes of travelling Cobblers fans wild! That made it three wins in three and the bandwagon was well and truly rolling for Aidy and his men.
The only blip of the month was to come on the following weekend when Accrington Stanley brought us temporarily back down to earth with a 2-1 victory at the Crown Ground. Jamie Devitt put Stanley in front with Brett Williams equalising in the second half. With a point looking like a good result, Craig Linfield stepped in to win it for the home side and sink the Cobblers back into trouble for the time being.
Another massive Tuesday night was around the corner with a trip to fading Burton Albion who were on a dreadful run of form. After another close game, it took just one moment to completely turn the relegation battle in our favour. Michael Jacobs’ free kick wasn’t cleared and Kelvin Langmead continued his fine month by smashing in a memorable winner. The little things that had been going against us all season suddenly appeared to be turning in our favour and a glance at the league table was something to look forward to again with that win taking the Cobblers up to the dizzy heights of eighteenth place. More importantly we were five points clear with a game in hand.
Plymouth Argyle were on their own mini revival after a torrid season on and off the pitch once again and by the time they visited Sixfields what once might have been considered a six pointer ended up being a goalless draw that both sides were pretty happy with!
The final game of March would be another memorable away trip, not least for goalkeeper Neal Kitson. With Matt Duke returning to Bradford City after being recalled, Kitson stepped in for his debut at playoff chasing Crewe Alexandra. Luke Murphy put the Alex into a deserved lead but slowly the Cobblers fought back and Bayo nipped in for an equaliser on the hour mark. And with a big point on the line, Kitson was thrust into the limelight when Nick Powell went down in the area. Up stepped Danny Shelley, hoping to put his side on course for the top seven but, incredibly, Kitson tipped the spot kick onto the bar to round off a truly stunning debut performance, earning Town a point in the process.
So after a hectic and mostly euphoric month of March, the home straight was upon the Cobblers. Having started the month second from bottom, we ended it six points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand. It was to be the month that pretty much saved us and gave us a fantastic base for the run-in.
April and May
The March madness that saw the Cobblers drive themselves out of the bottom two gave way to a nervy month of April as we looked to pick up the desired points to confirm league survival. There was still some work to do in that respect and no-one was taking anything for granted as we headed into the penultimate month of the campaign.
A local derby of sorts kicked off April with Oxford the visitors on Good Friday. Luke Guttridge continued his excellent return to the club by opening the scoring within the opening seconds of the game and Town held out until just after half time when the playoff chasing U’s equalised through Christian Montano. Then came another key moment in the season. Neal Kitson, who had saved a penalty on his debut a week earlier at Crewe, made the headlines once again by saving from Adam Chapman’s spot kick for two penalty saves in his first two Cobblers games! That wasn’t even the last of the drama…with a draw looking to be on the cards, Brett Williams chased down a lost cause near the corner flag in stoppage time, cut inside and fired the ball into the corner to send Sixfields into a state of delirium not seen for a very long time! That meant a nine point gap between ourselves and the bottom two and many believed safety to be secured.
But, the Cobblers being the Cobblers, we were made to wait for another few weeks before making it official.
Nothing was expected from Bank Holiday Monday’s trip to league leaders Swindon Town and a 1-0 defeat was actually not too bad a showing after the recent run of form. Lee Holmes netted the only goal of the game just after half-time to keep the Robins’ bandwagon rolling on towards an eventual championship win.
Most were expecting a victory over Bradford the following weekend that would earn survival but the Bantams had other ideas. In particular, Nahki Wells had other ideas as he hit a hat-trick either side of Clarke Carlisle’s first goal for the Cobblers to earn his side a big three points at Sixfields.
Another match would go by without the crucial win as the game in hand was used up in a 3-1 defeat at Crawley Town. The promotion favourites were three up by half-time with Scott Neilson and former Cobblers loanee Billy Clarke on the score sheet before Neal Kitson’s own goal. Brett Williams got one back in the second half but there was no route back into the game and we would have to wait a little longer.
But the following weekend, after more heart in mouth action, the Cobblers had finally done it. Hereford United were fighting for their own lives and saw the game against Town as a must win in their bid to stay in the Football League. The Bulls so nearly got what they needed when Nicky Featherstone picked up the ball around twenty five yards from goal and unleashed a powerful drive that smashed against the post. The game ended 0-0 and thanks to other results, it was enough for the Cobblers to secure survival. Hereford would come to rue that moment as they were relegated at the end of the season despite a mini revival.
With league status in the bag, the final two games of the season saw us come up against two sides fighting to get a last ditch playoff berth. Gillingham were first up at home and it was Lewis Wilson thrust into the limelight as he scored on his first start for the club to put the Cobblers in front before half time. Jo Kuffour would equalise later to give the Gills a point but it wasn’t enough for them and their hopes of finishing in the top seven were ended.
And so to May and the final game of the season at Rotherham United. It was to be the last game that the Millers would play at the Don Valley Stadium after four seasons lodging there. They looked to be on the way to signing off with a win when Alex Revell scored on the half hour mark but deep into injury time, Bayo Akinfenwa popped up with his eighteenth goal of the season, heading in a Luke Guttridge free kick to give the Cobblers something to take home.
So the end of an exhausting campaign and one that took us all through the mill and back more than once. Nine months of stress, despair, passion, rejuvenation, pride and finally relief and with a summer of change on the way we have to hope that we can make sure we’re not in a similar position come this time next year.
Expectations for next season should be lowered. It’s not as simple as assuming that we’ll be in the front runners again. I made that mistake last season along with many others and I think we just need to be easing any pressure on the team. There’s some quality teams set for League Two once again. Fleetwood aren’t going to stand still and I wouldn’t expect York City to be quiet either. Coming the other way, Wycombe, Chesterfield, Exeter and Rochdale all know how to compete in League Two whilst the likes of Torquay, Cheltenham, Southend, Gillingham, Rotherham and Oxford are likely to improve.
For me, a top half finish would be satisfactory. I don’t want to be negative going into the season but we have to be realistic or we will end up getting too wound up by every draw or defeat. After the last couple of years, particularly the calendar year of 2012, some stability is needed at Northampton Town. I’m convinced that Aidy Boothroyd is the man to bring that here and if he gets the best out of this group of players then who knows where we can go.
I’m looking forward to it…but first comes a summer of speculation and transfer activity. Michael Jacobs is almost certain to go so a lot might depend on what we get for him as to what routes we take in the transfer market. Clive Platt and Alex Nicholls are a very good start in terms of players coming in and it’s good not to actually hear our manager spouting out nonsense like a certain boss who was here the previous summer!