The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: February

As February came into view, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink seemed to finally have his marbles in order, his team in some sort of shape and his new signings playing ball and it was time to look up the table rather than down it, powered on by the momentum gained in a spectacular (by our standards) January.

What better way to start than with a home game against a Rochdale side distracted by a fine run in the FA Cup? Obviously this game appearing like a beacon of hope for three pocketable points should have been a warning sign. Dale promptly came, saw and took home a single goal victory thanks to Calvin Andrew.

The Cobblers were, though, putting out their best work on the road and the away form was helping to keep our heads just above water. Goals from Matt Grimes, Matt Crooks and Daniel Powell helped us to an impressive 3-1 success at AFC Wimbledon to keep up an unbeaten away run in 2018 that would stretch through the first couple of months of the calendar year.

Then it happened. I’m sure how to describe it other than an atrocity of a first half performance. A team that had looked so good at Wimbledon was suddenly looking as abject as anything put out in many a year, especially at a stunned Sixfields. Gillingham could and should have been more than 2-0 up at half-time in a game that even Terry Fenwick would have despaired at. The fact that Town pulled one back in the second half through Ash Taylor did nothing to hide the abomination of that first forty five yet we could easily have nicked a point. Hildeberto Pereira’s red card for falling for Lee Martin’s tricks and reacting to the former Town man in a way that many in the stands would have liked to have reacted put the seal on a dismal night.

This was about the time in the season where Jimmy’s tinkering grew to whole new levels and his relationship with the Cobblers faithful took a turn as players began popping up in strange positions and his post match reactions attempted to hide the baffling nature of his teams performances.

Next up was a trip to Scunthorpe United and Town took the lead twice through Chris Long and John-Joe O’Toole but both times the hosts hit back to earn what, on paper, was a very good point. It was the form at Sixfields, though, that was dragging us down, so much so that a 0-0 draw with Oxford United a week later was seen as something of a success despite a smattering of boos greeting the full time whistle.

Town ended the month in 19th place but most sides still held plenty of games in hand over us, setting up a frantic few Tuesday nights in the run-in as gaps started to close and the net began closing in.

Twitter Said:

@James_ChronNTFC: HT: Cobblers 0-2 Gillingham. Just when you think you have this #ntfc team figured out, they throw in a 45 minutes like that. Beyond bad. 2-0 flatters them. Cue boos.

@chronsport HT Cobblers 0 Gillingham 2 – and so ends a truly awful first half from the Cobblers. Clueless as an attacking force, all over the place in defence. It can only get better #ntfc

@dannybrothers #ntfc form is like a toddler having constant tantrums and then coming back downstairs with a heartfelt apology every time.

Moment of the Month:

The 3-1 victory at Wimbledon looked a huge result at the time.

Player of the Month:

Richard O’Donnell picked up the official award after a strong start to his Town career.

Song for the Month:

Coming Up: March blues as Jimmy’s reign unravels and the Cobblers drift towards eventual doom. Looking forward to it…

 

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The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: January

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. It’s a new year. Welcome to 2018 everyone! It had been a horrific couple of months barring one or two decent results and the Cobblers, Jimmy Floyd and Kelvin Thomas were up against it in a fight to stay in League One. But never fear, the transfer window was here to save the day!

In came Richard O’Donnell, a solid stopper at this level as well as the promising right back Shay Facey, the all-out attacking left wingback Jo Bunney, central defender Jordan Turnbull and, erm, Jack Bridge. Also coming in was Hildeberto Pereira, a flashy yet fiery character last seen on these shores at Nottingham Forest. Finishing off the recruitment was a man who even got his own promotional signing video from the club – it’s Jimmy’s fellow Dutchman Kevin Van Veen of course, here to save the day. Joking aside, Van Veen signing was seen as a real coup at the time and one that could propel us right out of the bottom four single handedly. Oh well…

Jimmy had a small clear out of his cupboard as well with strikers Marc Richards and Alex Revell on their way back to League Two with Swindon and Stevenage respectively while George Smith, who had made that outstanding start to Hasselbaink’s reign by setting up the first goal of the Hasselbaink era within twenty seconds, was sold to Chesterfield to make way for Bunney.

On the pitch, things seemed to be continuing in the same vein (Van Veen?) as Town were beaten by league powerhouses Wigan Athletic at Sixfields but the 1-0 defeat saw a small improvement in terms of performance that would be built on over the best month of our season.

Southend United came to Sixfields on a poor run and defied usual Cobblers logic by not actually ending a barren sequence and losing to Town. John-Joe O’Toole’s opener and a Jason Demetriou penalty had the game in the balance at half-time but second half strikes from Matt Grimes, also from the spot, and Alex Revell handed us a huge three points. Revell stormed towards the bench like a runaway train following his cameo and goal to scream “that’s why” at Jimmy and the bench. That’s why you don’t need to sign another striker presumably. He was right, in some ways.

Even more joyous occurrings followed at Bradford of all places – not usually the best hunting ground for the Cobblers. John-Joe headed home again and Chris Long set up an unexpected victory despite a late goal from the home side’s Paul Taylor.

We were on a roll! The playoffs were in sight! Well, maybe not, but this was fun. Two wins out of two was enough to send anyone potty so imagine the scenes when we actually made it three in succession by defeating the sinking MK Dons at Sixfields. Joe Bunney channeled his inner George Smith by storming down the left to assist the opener, from O’Toole again. MK threatened to ruin the party by equalising soon after but Chris Long got on the end of a Sam Hoskins cross to make it nine points from nine, pulling the plastic population down towards danger in the process.

JJOT was already being touted for League One Player of the Month even before yet another goal, this time at Ewood Park as Town nicked another excellent point. Danny Graham got the home side’s goal late on but it didn’t prevent January from being touted as a real turning point in the Cobblers’ season.

We had climbed out of the bottom four by the month’s end and were three points clear of MK Dons in 21st as the second half of the season kicked into gear.

Twitter Said:

@JoeAFC: Kevin Van Veen signing for Northampton..What a signing for @NTFC. Hasslebaink showing a clear statement of intent! Proven goalscorer in League One!

@ntfcbrasil Grande resultado! Nesta tarde, os Cobblers receberam o MK Dons, e a vitória veio novamente! John-Joe O’Toole e Chris Long marcaram e selaram a nossa vitória por 2 a 1!

@NQNTFC A goal and assist for John-Joe O’Toole at Bradford. Such an important cog in the Northampton machine. Amazing how far he has come at the Cobblers. A cult figure and for good reason. #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

For the first time in a while there’s an actual choice for this! Three big wins and perhaps the most impressive was the victory at Bradford.

Player of the Month:

John-Joe O’Toole had a huge month and deservedly won the League One Player of the Month award as well as the club award.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Steadying the ship ahead of the final furlong, Berto madness and one of the worst 45 minutes ever seen by a Cobblers team at Sixfields.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: December

It’s Christmas time…there’s no need to be afraid. Well, actually, there was for Cobblers fans. Still deep in trouble in the bottom four and with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink still trying to formulate some sort of plan of escape it was to be a crucial period of the season and looking back on it, this is where major cracks appeared.

Drawing the final game of November with fellow strugglers Bury at home wasn’t ideal and even the Checkatrade Trophy couldn’t provide light relief this time as Portsmouth disposed of Jimmy’s men in the first knockout stage, winning 2-0 at Fratton Park.

So with the Cobblers out of all cup competitions, it was full focus on the league and a trip to Oldham got as many alarm bells ringing as that Bristol Rovers hammering early in Hasselbaink’s reign. While you could put the Gas defeat down to ironing out some early issues, there was no excuse for a 5-1 hammering here. Sam Foley got the only Town goal but it was all but lost at 3-0 by that point and the home side simply kicked on again to easily dispose of a poor looking Cobblers side.

A response was needed and one came briefly with a 2-1 home win over Walsall with Erhun Oztumer’s early strike reversed by a Chris Long brace. It was, though, to be our only December victory. Amadou Bakayoko was sent off late on for the visitors.

As had been the case with much of our season up to this point, fresh signs of hope faded quickly to make way for unfathomable defeats and dropped points. Once again it looked like we were doing something like playing football and grinding out results following the Walsall win and there was even an excellent home point gained from Blackburn Rovers two days before Christmas.

But December closed with back to back away defeats, 3-0 at Doncaster Rovers and 3-1 at Pompey. Town took the lead in the game on the south coast but there was never a real belief that we were about to hang on and end a pretty bleak calendar year in style.

So it was that with twenty five games played, the Cobblers had collected just 23 points and needed a huge improvement in the second half of the season to fight against a tide that was building and building towards the relegation coast line.

Twitter Said:

@James_ChronNTFC FT: Oldham 5-1 Cobblers. League Two isn’t so bad. We’ve had many woeful afternoons and this is another one to add to the collection.

@CobblersPast Amadou Bakayoko  the Walsall striker was the 96th player to be dismissed against the Cobblers since the club was formed in 1897! @ntfc #ntfc @cobblerspast

@Somerset_Pompey I don’t think I’ve ever seen a side look so scared as Cobblers were today, especially their defence. Looked as if they thought the ball was going to explode anytime it went near them, couldn’t get rid of it quick enough. Worst team I’ve seen this season by a Pompey mile.

Moment of the Month:

Winning a football match.

Player of the Month: Chris Long popped up with the goals during the only real high points.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: New faces, new results and the shoots of a possible recovery (again)…

Sixfields rebranding a sign of the times but name will never be lost

News was released yesterday that Sixfields has been rebranded the PTS Academy Stadium in a sponsorship deal for the next five years. It’s something that is happening across the country at football stadiums and though there was a small outcry from a few, this shouldn’t be seen as trampling on any history or the club grabbing more money any way they can.

Yes, we will be seeing the name ‘PTS Academy Stadium’ popping up in newspapers, on television reports and highlights shows but what really changes? To fans, the stadium will always be known as Sixfields (I can’t see many saying “I’m popping down the PTS to watch the game”) and it’s a way to give a spotlight to a local company rather than a national juggernaut that would have no connection to the club or to the town.

The PTS Academy are a training provider delivering apprenticeships, traineeships and accredited courses, funded by the government with a HQ in Moulton. The partnership looks like it will benefit both sides and create another community link between the club and a partner that is delivering for young people. In short, the deal seems to have more benefits than drawbacks.

The area of the club’s location, the history going back 24 years and fan habits will mean that the Sixfields name won’t ever be lost so let’s embrace this latest change and hope that there’ll be a few ‘Sixfields Roars’ come April and May next year!

 

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: November

As the Cobblers entered November 2017 off the back of a good run of seven points from three games following a shocker of a double home defeat there was fresh optimism in the air at Sixfields as the FA Cup First Round rolled in. High flying Scunthorpe United came to town and in a rough and ready battle took the game back to Glanford Park for a replay after a 0-0 draw that didn’t really satisfy either side.

Scunny would be regular foes in November with Town eventually facing them three times in a matter of weeks in league and cup.

First up, though, was the Checkatrade Trophy and a bizarre run in the competition continued. With Southampton’s Under 21s (don’t get me started!) 3-0 up at Sixfields and Town doing their upmost to go out of the much maligned trophy we instead chose this night to produce the best comeback of the season. In front of 1,118 people. And it featured a wonder goal. If that’s not all typical Cobblers then I don’t know what is! The comeback, thanks to Sam Foley, Lewis McGugan’s rocket and Ash Taylor meant that for a third tie in a row we were facing penalties. A 4-2 shootout win later and Town were through to the knockout stage having not won once in three group games during ninety minutes. Next, please.

While that result didn’t exactly get the pluses racing, a few days later the Cobblers produced one of the few moments in the season that will be remembered, at old foes Oxford United. Taylor put us in front before Wes Thomas equalised just before half-time. But seconds later, Chris Long was racing through on goal, beating defenders to the final touch and finishing with aplomb in front of the Kassam car park. Over 1,000 Town fans were in attendance that day – hilariously a larger number in total than the entire attendance for the Checkatrade Trophy game a few days earlier – and we held on for a big three points and yet another win at Oxford, a third in a row at the home of the U’s.

Games were coming thick and fast and the cup replay against Scunthorpe was up next and with a mouthwatering second round tie away at Doncaster Rovers to play for, the home side nicked it thanks to the impressive Hakeeb Adelakun’s worldy.

There was to be no repeat of that as part three of the Cobblers-Scunny trilogy played out that Saturday. Oh no, we wouldn’t let them sneak it by a single goal this time. Indeed not…we lost 3-0 instead and clouds began to circle once more.

Going into the clash at Plymouth Argyle, Town were four points ahead of the Pilgrims so it represented a good chance to create a bit of distance between ourselves but it was the home side that kick started their own season instead, winning 2-0 thanks to a Sonny Bradley brace. Argyle would, of course, go on to finish just outside of the playoff places thanks to an almighty run in the second half of the campaign.

Another side right in the thick of it were Bury who were at Sixfields for the final game of the month and November ended just as it had begun, with a goalless draw that left both of us deep in the mire. Unlike Plymouth, though, neither the Shakers or ourselves would really get out of danger again all season.

Twitter Said:

@dannybrothers 16/02/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 26/12/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 11/11/17 – Oxford 1-2 Cobblers

Cheers lads! #oufc #ntfc

@James_ChronNTFCFT: Cobblers 0-3 Scunthorpe. Horror second-half. #ntfc back in the bottom four and now have a huge two games coming up.

Moment of the Month:

Has to be the win at Oxford. One of the few highlights of the season.

Player of the Month: Marc Richards was given the official award but Ash Taylor can’t have been too far behind once again.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: A bleak midwinter, another pummeling and not even a penalty shootout win!

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Fans hurting once again as board and council clash

Earlier today, Northampton Town released a statement from Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers board, stating that the lack of communication from Northampton Borough Council around the East Stand’s lease position has put them in a position where they have no choice but to step aside and formalise a sale of the club. It’s the culmination of yet another period where the club and council have been on completely different wavelengths with the latest delays the straw that broke the camel’s back for Thomas.

The statement made clear Thomas’ views that there are some individuals in the council who are standing in the way of himself and the board completing a process where the land adjacent to the East Stand, a critical part in negotiations around the Sixfields site, was to be surrendered to the club thus removing any possible conflicts in the future.

It appeared, from the club statement, that some in the council will not co-operate and instead prefer to stand in the way of what is best for the club. This has led to Thomas coming to the conclusion that the best and only route forward is to remove himself from the equation. Banging his head against a brick wall with a council that clearly has issues has reached a climax and it opens the door to even more complications.

The full statement is available here.

The council’s side of the story was released a few hours later.

The statement begins:

 “Progress on the East Stand has been very much within the gift of the football club, and since taking control of the development company CDNL in 2017, the chairman has been in a position to control further adjacent land.

“The council’s position is that no lease issues have held up this process. The owners had given the council assurances when taking on the club that they had ample funds immediately available for this work

“The council has consistently shown a willingness to facilitate this development and as recently as November 2017 provided draft documentation for the club to consider.”

It goes on to say that the proposed ‘further land’ was added to the original agreement by Mr Thomas and that this part of the conversation had to go through due diligence (due to the possibility of creating retail developments outside of the town centre) to ensure that members of the public get the best value.

The statement ended by saying that a paper is already in place to be brought to cabinet on June 13.

The question of this ‘extra’ piece of land throws the debate off on a new tangent and means that we’re once again left with more questions than answers on both sides of the coin. What is this extra piece of land that the council speak of? Why wasn’t this included in part of Thomas’ statement?

And as yet another saga over Sixfields drags out, we as the Cobblers fans and the ones who will be here through many more board members and many more councillors are the ones in the dark. The club is once again being pushed to one side for the sake of someone, somewhere making money or improving their own status.

I understand both sides of this coin but what’s striking is the lack of transparency from both sides. You can talk of every stakeholder and every interested party but the stakeholders that really matter, the ones who will pass this club down through generations and plough their money and life into it, are left confused and lost in a cloud while its future is decided behind locked doors. AGAIN.

We’ve been here too many times before. The Council, the board, the people behind the statements all need to sit down, put THE CLUB first and sort a solution where the club that has the potential to bring 40,000 of its town folk together at Wembley or to a title winning parade across its cobbled streets can thrive once again. Not as a business first, but as a positive community asset. That needs to be understood on both sides as quickly as humanly possible.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: October

It’s October! Welcome to the cold, dark nights, the season well and truly settling in and the Hasselbaink era’s early promise beginning to drift into a realisation that we actually won’t be storming up the table and suddenly bothering the playoffs.

 

Still, there was always the Checkatrade Trophy to pin our hopes on…even Justin Edinburgh claimed a win in this tin pot of a competition, remember. So it was that thousands 151 Cobblers fans packed settled in to London Road for a Tuesday night derby to remember pretend that we could actually beat these buggers from up the road. The fact that we didn’t even score our goal and didn’t win the game but still came away with double points again highlights the ridiculous nature of this competition. A 1-1 draw for the record with Jack Baldwin feeling sorry for us and slotting in our equaliser with an own goal to send the game to penalties. Another ABBA style shootout win meant that we somehow had four points from the group with Billy Waters slotting in the winning kick.

A home league game with Bristol Rovers followed and after a couple of tricky away trips this was the ideal chance to get back on track in the league. As everyone in attendance that day found out, though, ideal chances and the Cobblers don’t go well together. The first half was a smoke screen to the outrageous second as former Cobbler Billy Bodin (of course) opened the scoring for the Gas but Tom Nichols saw a spot kick saved by Matt Ingram and that should have been the spark for a recovery after the break. Not quite. Rovers scored five more times in a collapse reminiscent of THAT Shrewsbury home game (2-7) and Jimmy was left as bewildered as the rest of us.

That disaster made the following weekends’ 1-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon look like progress in comparison but the sinking feeling was already starting to set in for a Cobblers faithful hopeful that the corner had been turned in early September.

Getting away from Sixfields for a couple of weeks looked like a handy turn by the fixtures computer and so it turned out. First, in a dramatic game at Spotland, Rochdale’s Ian Henderson scored twice either side of a penalty miss and it looked like another down and out showing. But from nowhere, Ash Taylor and, even more incredibly, David Buchanan brought us level. In one of those Sliding Doors moments from the season, Town then won a penalty of their own and had the chance to take home an improbably three points but Joh-Joe missed it and the points were shared after an exhausting night’s work.

On to Gillingham and a couple of stunning goals gave the Cobblers a much needed win. Daniel Powell’s strike on the stroke of half time ended up winning the club’s goal of the season award but Matt Grimes’ winner, following Lee Martin’s goal for the hosts, wasn’t bad either.

After all that excitement on the road it was back to Sixfields to close off the month with a second win in succession with Sam Hoskins scoring the winner against Blackpool. So another rut overcome, another mini revival and we’re once again ready for Jimmy to kick on and take us away from danger. Right?

At the end of the month, Town were in 21st but level on points with AFC Wimbledon outside the bottom four. Considering the thrashing by Bristol Rovers and the defeat to the Wombles it wasn’t too bad an outlook. Plus, bottom club Plymouth Argyle were looking doomed already and were four points behind us heading into November.

Twitter Said:

EASISERV.com‏: #ntfc urgently need to start winning . . .  happily got #TheGas next-up, we usually beat them!

@alfie_ntfc: Daniel. Powell. Has. Just. Scored. A. Goal.

@James_ChronNTFC FT: Cobblers 1-0 Blackpool. Gritty, hard-fought and deserved victory. Sam Hoskins with the winning goal #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

The double power strike from Powell and Grimes to snatch the points at Gillingham.

Player of the Month: David Buchanan won the official award after his rare goal at Rochdale.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Mixed bag in the cups, a big win at the Kassam but Town still stuttering.