What won’t happen in 2014…

2014I’m starting to make this an annual blog piece after last year’s efforts were well received by all three people who read it so I’m hoping that I can live up to the expectancy for this year’s light hearted ‘predictions’ for the coming twelve months!

What do you mean you don’t remember last year’s column? To the back of the manager’s application line for you.

Here goes…and Happy New Year to you all!


There’s plenty of action at Sixfields as 2014 starts with the club still looking for a new manager. Martin Allen takes a detour en route to his job interview after receiving a last minute phone call from Barnet as the Bees plea with him to help Edgar Davids to take them into the Conference playoffs. Elsewhere, there’s a surprise application from Steve Evans after he loses his job at Rotherham United but disguising himself as Steve Kean doesn’t pay off as the newly installed ‘Evans alarm’ goes off as soon as he drives in for an interview dressed as the ex-Blackburn boss. David Cardoza begins to hold Skype interviews from his holiday home in Dubai.

Andy King’s tough time as caretaker manager continues as injuries rob him of David Moyo and Ivan Toney, meaning that he has to employ the ‘fake number nine and fake number ten’ system for the first few games of the year. Ben Tozer has a tough month, launching long throw ins to no-one whilst mazy Chris Hackett runs and crosses are met by…no-one.

Results under Andy King are hit and miss but the Cobblers at least climb a place to 23rd after victories over York City and Torquay United as well as a good point to end the month at home to Rochdale. That draw against ‘Dale is all the more impressive given Ishmel Demontagnac’s red card just three second after coming off the bench.

King’s month long tenure comes to an end as David Cardoza finally names his new Cobblers manager…it’s someone who, as with the last two appointments, wants to rebuild his reputation in English football. Sven Goran Eriksson arrives at Sixfields to take the reins and immediately adds to the squad on a frantic transfer deadline day. In comes former England striker Emile Heskey on a deal until the end of the season with long sought after Malcolm Christie coming out of retirement as his strike partner. Eriksson also sures up the midfield by signing Luke Guttridge from Luton Town on the advice of Tim Flowers.


Sven’s first game in charge is a trip to Cheltenham Town and Guttridge produces a carbon copy of his goal in the playoffs last season to give the Cobblers a crucial 1-0 win. Jeema runs onto the pitch thinking that we’d just made it to Wembley but is restrained and given a ten month banning order from all UK stadiums for ‘inappropriate use of an umbrella’.

Emile Heskey quickly succumbs to the 2013/14 injury curse as he falls down the Sixfields bank on the way to the home game with Plymouth Argyle. In an even crueller twist of fate, Heskey rolls right onto Malcolm Christie who was on his way to pick up the pre-match snacks from Megabowl and both strikers are subsequently out for the rest of the season. The Plymouth game ends 0-0 and Town struggle for goals for the rest of the month, losing out 1-0 at Fleetwood before another goalless draw at home to Hartlepool United.

Sven is forced to dip into the free transfer market and Poul Hubertz gets a surprise phone call in the middle of his Valentine’s Day meal with his wife to invite him to return to Sixfields for a few months. Hubertz accepts and says that he will be here by the end of the month once he’s gained full fitness by jogging from Denmark.

Hubertz...Cobblers return in 2014?!

Hubertz…Cobblers return in 2014?!


At the start of a packed month of crucial fixtures the Cobblers are still in deep trouble and Sven is glad to give Hubertz his debut in the home game with Bristol Rovers. It looks as though we’re heading for yet another 0-0 until the Dane pops up with an 89th minute header to send Sixfields into delirium and to lift us out of the bottom two for the first time since December.

Aidy Boothroyd, meanwhile, returns to television as he is drafted in as the expert analyser for the League Cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City.

An excellent point at promotion chasing Scunthorpe continues the good run and Town lead 1-0 at Exeter before Ishmel Demontagnac’s sending off for fighting himself leaves us with ten men for the last hour and we eventually lose 2-1 thanks to two late goals.

A few days later, though, Mansfield Town are swept aside in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Cobblers that leaves us four points clear of the drop zone. Defeat at Morecambe is followed by further home wins over AFC Wimbledon and Bury and going into April it’s all looking good for league survival.


Just as things are looking rosy, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo runs with a shocking front page story that links Cobblers manager Eriksson to a secret affair with a 20 year old Miss Northampton 2014. Eriksson stringently denies anything but the rumours have a startling effect on his team’s performances as the Cobblers lose four in a row to drop them right back to within goal difference of the drop.

Minutes before the final away game of the season at Dagenham and Redbridge, Eriksson walks out on the Cobblers after a tweet from a mystery source is released containing a photo of Sven leaving Nando’s, Longbridge Road, with Miss Northampton. Andy King returns to the hot seat for a crucial away win as the Cobblers continue their incredible run of 1-0 victories at Dagenham.


There’s still one game left and King knows that only a win over Oxford United will guarantee safety. Things look bad when Ishmel Demontagnac is sent off during the warm-up and the Cobblers are forced to start the game with ten men. Oxford, looking for a win to take them into League One, are slow out of the blocks and their nervous play means that we’re still in the game at the break.

As time is running out, word comes through that Torquay are leading 4-0 at home to Wycombe and that we need a goal to save ourselves. Sixfields holds its breath as the clock ticks down and United keeper Ryan Clarke smacks the ball against an onrushing Poul Hubertz. The ball strikes Hubert on his backside and flies over Clarke and into the net to save the Cobblers from relegation right at the death. Hubertz retires directly following the game and throws his shorts into the crowd on leaving the pitch.

Andy King departs the club with his job done and Town go into the summer with huge appointments to make on and off the pitch.

As the Champions League Final approaches between Barcelona and surprise finalists Zenit St. Petersburg, ITV’s head presenter Adrian Chiles suffers from a severe bout of the rare ‘diarrhoea of the mouth’ disease and Aidy Boothroyd comes in to offer his analytical skills once again. With Barcelona playing some delightful football and leading 4-0 at half-time, Boothroyd suggests that they start playing the game in the right way and learning how to ‘just hoof it.’ Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino is watching in the dressing room and takes the advice from Boothroyd after hearing that he was once in the running for the England manager’s post. Zenit then fight back to win the game 5-4 in the most astonishing final in history. It leads to Martino being sacked.


The World Cup in Brazil kicks off as Cobblers strikers Emile Heskey and Malcolm Christie are disappointed to miss out on the England squad. They are so distraught that they both retire immediately. England manage to draw 0-0 against Italy, 2-2 against Uruguay and then win 1-0 against Costa Rica thanks to a Peter Crouch header to progress to a Second Round game against Spain. After playing a unique 10-0-0 formation, we hold on to penalties but then, of course, exit the competition after going down 4-2 on spot kicks. Crouch balloons the decisive penalty over the bar before David Silva slots in to send England home.

Back in England, the Cobblers are still hunting for a permanent manager and suspiciously wait until the end of the World Cup. As the FA announce that Roy Hodgson has been sacked, David Cardoza swoops and signs Hodgson to a four year deal, providing plenty of ‘banter’ about our victory over his Liverpool side in 2010 in the opening press conference. Hodgson sorts out the striker crisis straight away by signing the man who tore his side apart that night, Courtney Herbert and brings back Bayo Akinfenwa for ‘one more run’ at Sixfields. He promises more to come as pre-season begins.


Back at the World Cup, Argentina and Ghana compete in the final and once again there’s odd goings on in the television studios. This time it’s the BBC in trouble as Gary Lineker is kidnapped and the Beeb controversially replace him with Aidy Boothroyd who gives his own tactical master class during the biggest game of the year. Ghana stun the odds on favourites by winning the game 1-0 and Argentina subsequently announce Boothroyd as their new manager having signed a deal with the former Cobblers boss before the final began that allowed him to take over should they lose.

Roy Hodgson is busy plotting his first ever League Two campaign and dips into his contact book to sign Dirk Kuyt, Shane Long and Graham Dorrans. The Cobblers are installed as 4/1 second favourites for the League Two title based on these signings and Hodgson’s experience behind relegated Sheffield United.


Two days before the start of the season, Ishmel Demontagnac is sacked by the Cobblers after starting a fight in an empty room. He moves quickly to join Yeovil Town on a five year contract.

The Cobblers start the new season in their usual slow fashion, drawing 0-0 at home with Portsmouth before exiting the League Cup at the hands of MK Dons. The final game in August, though, sees a much better performance and a storming 5-0 win at Sixfields against Oxford United who were still recovering from a Playoff Final defeat in May and who ended the month bottom of the league.


The good form continues into the second month of the season with a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Bristol Rovers kicking off September. Dirk Kuyt scores his first goal for the club in a 2-0 home win against relegated Notts County before Shane Long comes off the bench to hit a second half hat-trick in a 3-1 success at Fleetwood Town.

Portsmouth are deducted ten points in September for fielding an ineligible player called Ali Stairslowe while Gary Johnson loses his job at Yeovil after relegation and a run of eight straight defeats at the start of the League One campaign.

Aidy Boothroyd takes his first official game as Argentina boss but is forced to apologise to fans after his new charges lose 1-0 at home to Peru in a friendly match. He promises that his squad are ‘progressing well’ and are ‘nearly there’ in his post-match interview.


Coventry City’s residency at Sixfields is ended as the club agree a deal to finally move back to the Ricoh Arena. Nobody passes the news on to star striker Callum Wilson, though, and Roy Hodgson convinces him that his contract is now null and void and that he must stay at Sixfields. After locking Wilson in the East Stand cupboards with former mascot Griff the Griffin for a month, Coventry sack the striker for going AWOL and Hodgson swoops to hold Wilson to ransom – his release from the cupboard in exchange for signing a three year contract with Town.

Wilson gets off the mark straight away and gets two goals in an impressive 2-0 victory at Wycombe and the only goal of the game in the regulation 1-0 win at Dagenham and Redbridge. These results help the Cobblers to leap into the top three by the time the month comes to an end.


The FA Cup First Round pairs the Cobblers with Daventry Town, now led by player-manager Neil Grayson and ‘Larry’ stuns Sixfields by scoring the winner. Four sides of Sixfields give him a standing ovation at the end of the game, though, and Daventry eventually exit bravely in Round Three at the hands of Chelsea.

In the league there are no such problems, though, as Courtney Herbert gets his first goal for the club in three years in a 2-1 win against Cheltenham Town and there’s a crucial 3-2 victory against fellow promotion chasers Newport County at Sixfields.


A couple of postponements due to the ‘worst winter in history’ (Source: The Daily Mail) momentarily stop the Cobblers’ progress. But a Boxing Day win at home to Burton Albion takes us to within a point of top spot before the extraordinary 2014 turnaround is complete when the Cobblers end the year with a 4-3 success at Rochdale that takes us to the summit of League Two. Spotland is also the venue for the biggest return of the year as Jeema takes his place back on the terraces following his ban and receives a hero’s welcome back by the claret faithful.

Roy Hodgson gives his end of year press conference and thanks the fans for sticking by his side after the slow start to the season. He predicts even greater things to come in 2015 and promises that there will be more new signings to follow in the January transfer window. The Cobblers go into the New Year two points clear at the top of League Two and with optimism fully restored to the whole club.

The final straw as Boothroyd departs

Boothroyd...departed the Cobblers this evening.

Boothroyd…departed the Cobblers this evening.

Northampton Town 1-4 Wycombe Wanderers

League Two

Saturday, December 21st 2013

It was gone 5:45pm on Saturday afternoon and the BBC Radio Northampton team were still waiting for Aidy Boothroyd to emerge from the dressing room at Sixfields after a 4-1 trouncing by Wycombe Wanderers. That, in itself, started the alarm bells. Sure enough, a few minutes later Gareth Willsher was instead making his way to speak to the media in place of Boothroyd and the expected announcement was here – Aidy Boothroyd has left Northampton Town Football Club.

Most Cobblers fans would have had a pretty good idea that it was coming. Wycombe had ended their eight game winless run by powering aside a Town side that did have a terrible rub of the green but were, at the same time, masters of their own downfall. It took the Chairboys just fourteen SECONDS to get on the score sheet as Jo Kuffour continued his goal scoring run against us by getting on the end of a Sam Wood flick to stun Sixfields.

The Cobblers were all over the place and could easily have been more behind in the first ten minutes and it was no real surprise when Kortney Hause headed in number two soon after. An uphill struggle to say the least with the only thing on our side being time at that stage of the game.

Ian Morris came off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by everyone’s favourite hot head Ishmel Demontagnac before Clive Platt was hauled off for Roy O’Donovan. It’s still unclear as to whether Platt sustained an injury but that was two substitutions before the half hour mark – something that would come back to haunt us later on.

Town at least settled before the break and created a couple of chances through Mathias Doumbe and Izale McLeod and were back in the game just after half-time as we briefly dreamt of a fight back that would have saved Boothroyd’s skin. McLeod nipped in for 2-1 after a flick from half-time substitute (the third and final one, crucially) Luke Norris and it was game on. For a while.

Matt Duke kept the visitors at bay with a couple of fine saves but the big moment of the second half came when Doumbe had to come off injured and we had no more subs to make. Ten vs eleven for the final twenty minutes and the task just got a whole lot bigger. That was just the invitation Wycombe needed.

With ten minutes to go, Stuart Lewis finished low from the edge of the area and that was that with Dean Morgan’s effort making it four a few minutes later and sealing a memorable win for his side whilst at the same time hammering home that final nail in the coffin of Mr Boothroyd.

It’s been a long few months for the outgoing Cobblers boss and in all honesty everything started to go wrong for him on that fateful May afternoon at Wembley – at around 2pm to be precise!

Not starting his leading goal scorer and talisman Bayo Akinfenwa and instead leading with Clive Platt in the biggest game the club has seen in many a year was a shocking oversight by Boothroyd and though that was not the only reason for the outcome – Bradford were outstanding – there’s not one Cobblers fan who can surely say that the decision of who started up front was the right one.

After the Bantams ended our League One dreams it was rebuilding time but just how much change occurred in the summer was another key element in this tale. Bayo, inevitably, departed, and despite apparently having a list of sixteen candidates to replace him (all of whom were better than Rene Howe, one of the potential options) we instead began the season with only the injured Platt and Roy O’Donovan as genuine striking options other than raw youngsters.

Luke Guttridge, a particularly key member of the Wembley squad, was also on his way out and in his place came the likes of Darren Carter and Gary Deegan, neither of whom adequate warriors in the middle of the park to compete in League Two. Kelvin Langmead’s injury meant that the spine had been ripped out of a starting eleven that had clamoured its way to the League Two showpiece final.

The season began horribly with just the 3-1 home win over Newport County providing any cheer at all with six defeats in the opening seven games in all competitions. Two points from four league games in September was followed by the rarest of away wins, at Wimbledon, but it didn’t give us the necessary lift to escape the early season gloom.

Critical signings of Luke Norris and Ricky Ravenhill saw us slowly return to something resembling good enough with Ravenhill finally giving us that dog fighter in midfield that we’d sorely been missing. Victory over Bishop’s Stortford in the FA Cup and then a stunning finish in the 1-0 win over high flying Fleetwood Town was enough for us to dream of better things once again with even a 2-0 loss at Hartlepool soon forgotten with a very good point at Chesterfield and a 1-0 home win over Accrington Stanley.

But that’s where the recovery ended and the cup exit at Grimsby saw Boothroyd’s tactics again coming under immense scrutiny as he admitted himself that he’d been looking for a draw. Last weekend’s point at Bury was OK but this afternoon’s hammering was the last straw and we’re here once again looking for a new manager with Boothroyd having served for just over two years and having come completely full circle. We were bottom of the table when he came in and, as he packs his belongings to leave, we’re now back to where we started from.

It’s a sad way to go into Christmas and I genuinely feel for Boothroyd who was looking to rebuild his reputation at Sixfields. I don’t understand anyone who comes on social media to vehemently abuse him – however passionate we are we must remember that a man has lost his job and will be hurting this evening.

It was pretty inevitable, though, and I think it had to happen at this point. You got the sense that there was no way back after this afternoon and that old manager rumour mill now goes back to work as we wish Boothroyd all the best. Where he goes from here is a big question but I still feel he has something to give the right club when they do come looking.

So what now? And who’s next?

The first question can be answered by firstly looking at the sheer size of our squad. Short term loans have been added to plug the gaping holes provided by those who were expected to deliver and there’s a massive group to cut down one way or another. Whilst it will provide the incoming man with a big playing staff to look at there’s also cases of loans and contracts running out in January and there’s a huge sorting job to be done. Whoever it is will also want to bring in their own type of player so the only certain thing is that there will be change coming in the next month.

The second question, of who, is a more difficult one. Here’s the current, and very quickly produced, odds from Sky Bet:

Martin Allen: 2/1

Sammy Lee: 12/1

Micky Mellon: 12/1

Gary Megson: 12/1

Andy Preece: 16/1

Steve Kean: 16/1

Andy Hessenthaler: 16/1

Alan Curbishley: 20/1

Craig Levein: 25/1

Andy Liddell: 25/1

Alan Irvine: 25/1

Alan Knill: 25/1

I can’t say that list thrills me in any way whatsoever but I completely understand why Martin Allen is the far and away leader in the betting. His history of firefighting is much publicised and he’s one that would be a good choice until the end of the season in my book. We quite simply need to get out of the relegation battle and there’s arguably not a better contender around right now that fits the bill of scrapping away from the foot of the league. Add to that his recent promotion (and his record of eleven away wins last season – something we can only dream of) with Gillingham and you have a very good and experienced candidate who is almost certainly in the running.

The rest of the list only really reflects a collection of hastily assembled names and there will be more researched and under the radar contenders emerging in the next few days. David Cardoza has gone with young coaches, experienced heads and a club legend in his past appointments but has never really dipped into the non-league pyramid. The likes of Brackley Town manager Jon Brady might be tempted if Cardoza feels that the time is right for that sort of gamble.

Allen, though, still seems the one who would be best received. Feathers need rustling, a club needs rescueing and he’s available for an immediate start. A short term contract for the former Gillingham man would be my option at this point. We’re not in a position to try anything too left field and it’s once again a massive decision for the powers that be to make.

As is usually the case, it’s a monumental job to do with the one saving grace being that we’re only one victory away from escaping the bottom two.

It’s time to close what could have been a memorable chapter in our history and begin the search for the individual who can salvage another season of potential disaster.

Wembley2Five moments that saw off Aidy Boothroyd…

Bradford City 3-0 Cobblers (18th May 2013)

The start of the downfall in the League Two Playoff Final back in May as goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells in the first half an hour win it for Bradford under the arch. The decision to drop Bayo Akinfenwa for the biggest game of the season was something that was never forgiven by many supporters.

Cobblers 1-2 Torquay United (24th August 2013)

The Cobblers led through a Jacob Blyth goal on the half hour but never looked convincing and Torquay stunned Sixfields by completely turning the game around with two Jordan Chappell goals in the final twenty minutes to make it three defeats in four at the start of this season.

Mansfield 3-0 Cobblers (21st September 2013)

A simply unacceptable away performance that was rounded off when Mathias Doumbe scored an own goal on his debut to seal a heavy defeat against the newly promoted Stags. Ben Hutchinson and Sam Clucas had earlier given Mansfield a comfortable lead.

Grimsby Town 2-0 Cobblers (7th December 2013)

The Second Round of the FA Cup saw Town travel to Conference high flyers Grimsby Town and Boothroyd admitted that he was playing for a draw. It didn’t work and Shaun Pearson broke the deadlock before Patrick Mclaughlin sealed a bad, bad day for the Cobblers in stoppage time.

Cobblers 1-4 Wycombe (21st December 2013)

Today’s defeat against Wycombe was a step too far for the Cardoza’s and with the club bottom of the Football League once again it was the inevitable outcome that Boothroyd would be on his way out of the club.

One year of Boothroyd…

Boothroyd...a year in the job

Boothroyd…a year in the job

On November 30th 2011, Aidy Boothroyd was assigned perhaps the toughest task of his managerial career to date – to revive a club that were on the brink of disaster and who faced the very real prospect of relegation to the Blue Square Conference. The Cobblers were in complete disarray following Gary Johnson’s spectacular mismanagement and had too many players on the books that simply weren’t good enough or passionate enough to compete at League Two level.

Boothroyd now sits in place, one year on, able to look back on a job well done. Not only has the deadwood been taken care of but we are now watching a team that has real prospects at the other end of the division. Young players are coming through and being handed a chance, goals are flying in all over the place and there’s been a few individuals reinvigorated by the new boss.

The former Watford man’s first job was to get through the January transfer window with a squad able to at least hold its own in League Two. Three defeats in his opening four games was inevitable as Boothroyd tried to make the most of what he had but performances were at least gradually improving. The transfer window saw Clarke Carlisle come in to bring steel and much needed experience at the back, Ben Harding sign a full contract and Luke Guttridge re-sign at Sixfields.

There was still immense work to be done, though, and at the end of February Town were still deep in trouble. But suddenly there was resurgence and Boothroyd got his results, particularly getting it right at Sixfields on some vital Tuesday nights and scraping past Dagenham away. Somehow we were out of trouble before the end of the season and the job was now on to complete the transformation of the club.

The manager had a busy summer with seven new permanent acquisitions and the sale of Michael Jacobs as well as a whole host of others being released. The start to the season was inconsistent but then things really started to pick up with three wins in a row preceding last weekend’s defeat at Oxford.

So how’s he done? To me, Boothroyd has been fantastic. In his approach, manner, tactics and honesty he’s exactly what Gary Johnson wasn’t. Loan signings haven’t been made on a whim and to fill gaps – instead they’ve been well thought out and timely. A leader has been made in Kelvin Langmead which is something we thought we would never say, Bayo Akinfenwa is back to his very best and the likes of Lewis Hornby and Louis Moult have broken into the first team under his stewardship.

Boothroyd has taken charge of47 league matches, winning 16 or 34% to put it another way. It’s not massive but considering the resources he’s had to work with I reckon that’s a decent return. We’ll be looking for more from year two of his reign but what’s been more important than statistics in these last twelve months has been the growth of the club, the improvement of individuals and the optimism of supporters in general.

It’s been a long, hard twelve months for Boothroyd but there’s plenty to be positive about as he begins year two, starting tomorrow…

NTFC Month in Review: August-September 2012

Nicholls…good opening month

So this is a new feature I’m going to try to stick to on the blog for the coming season. It’s not going to be the usual run through of results and key moments I usually produce at the end of each season but more a look at some of the things that have gone well, disappointed us and surprised us in the month in question.

Seeing as though we kicked off the season on August 14th with the League Cup it makes sense to do these on a similar date of each month rather than just at the end of the month, which will then mean I end them in mid-May unless there’s some sort of end of season business to deal with. We won’t talk of anything near that question for a fair few months yet though!

So here we go…any comments always welcome!

What’s gone well?

The defence (sporadically) – The big question marks have been about the defending but for a large majority of the first month we’ve seen some solid displays. Kelvin Langmead looks like a new player and appears to have shed a stone or two over the summer. Coupled with a new partner in central defence, the towering David Artell he seems to be flourishing, especially having been handed the captaincy over the summer. Joe Widdowson, John Johnson and new boy Danny East have been solid either side whilst Lee Nicholls has enjoyed a terrific start to his loan spell in goal. More on him later. With one or two blips (the nine goals conceded in the three games against Southend, Wolves and Plymouth) there’s still some work to do but for the most part it’s nice to know that we can be hard to beat on our day and that’s a start!

Alex Nicholls – What a start to his Cobblers career. Five goals in all competitions has set the former Walsall man on the way to what looks pretty certain to be his highest ever scoring return for a season (previous best is eight with Walsall). Nicholls has played on the wing in the past but was signed with the knowledge that he’d be played in his more natural position of front man and boy has he flourished. His added work ethic and battling qualities make him a prime candidate for fans’ favourite and if he can keep up a record anything even close to his first month then we’ll be in for a good season.

Chris Hackett – Hackett seems the type that fans can often get frustrated with (a la Josh Low). He’s undoubtedly talented and for this level can have a massive impact but you get the feeling he’s a confidence player. More often than not, though, he’s been the spark that we’ve been lacking for so many seasons and will add another goal threat in every game. A key figure to the team if he can stay fit.

Bayo as a super sub – I’m the first to call for Bayo to start games but when you have a beast like him on the bench then you’re automatically starting games with an ace up the sleeve. As defences tire, the big man comes on and changes games, something that he seems happy to do for the time being. Setting up both goals during the win over Wimbledon last weekend was the typical impact he’s had in this opening month. #Beastmode at its best!

Effective loans – Not many things bother me more than short term loans that don’t have any impact on the side, staying for a month for fitness or ‘experience’ before leaving and not forming any sort of connection to the club. Part of Stuart Gray’s downfall in his last months in charge involved this sort of player, and the wrong sort of player. Aidy Boothroyd has been sensible in choosing the right type of player and the right type of deal as and when they are needed. Lee Nicholls has been outstanding in goal, Danny East solid as cover for John Johnson and Henoc Mukendi, though raw, is here for the long term and is looking honest enough a player to learn.

Progression in the JPT – The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy isn’t for everyone but I’m all for a rare run in the one cup competition that we’re realistically able to have a go at. Beating the plastic Dons made the First Round win that bit sweeter and with some fringe players getting some good game time it was a complete win to set up another decent tie at home to Colchester in Round Two.

Robinson…Twitter trouble

What’s not gone so well?

The defence (sporadically) – Yes, the defence makes both categories. Like I mentioned before, it’s been good for the most part but there’s been small bursts of panic that reminded us of last season which we certainly don’t want to revisit. A couple of the Southend and Plymouth goes in particular were disappointing to concede and we need to be a little bit more solid when under that sort of pressure.

Jake Robinson’s Twitter outburst – Now I’m not one of those who called for Robinson’s head when he tweeted about not being in the squad for the trip to Rochdale on the opening day but it wasn’t the best outlet for his frustration. Bayo was out of the side back in January, kept his head down and worked his way back in so that Aidy Boothroyd couldn’t ignore him. That’s what Robinson should have done. It was almost wiped out by that stunner of a goal against MK Dons and there could yet be a place for him at Sixfields but whilst we continue to be fruitful in front of goal it makes sense that he’s able to get games, and hopefully more goals, under his belt down the road at Luton. Hopefully he’ll come back all the better and the Cobblers front line will be that bit stronger.

Tired Legs – Playing Championship side Wolves on a Thursday and then travelling to Plymouth on the Saturday was never going to be easy and even the most cryogenic of chambers would struggle to put the Town players back in tip top condition. It’s no coincidence that those were the only two defeats of the season so far and hopefully now things have started to settle down game wise we’ll be in better shape.

The Sixfields PA system – It feels like the same pre-match CD is being inserted that was doing the rounds in 2001 and the general sound doesn’t seem to travel well at all still. A pre-match atmosphere is more important than it might seem to get supporters ‘in the mood’ and the Sixfields system needs some sort of overhaul to lift us before a ball is kicked.

Steve Evans – An automatic entry to this category for simply being allowed into Sixfields. Enjoy your time at home for the next six games, Steve! (By the way, I have nothing at all against Rotherham United at all and find their supporters to be as realistic and friendly as any in League Two but with Evans in charge it unfortunately puts a temporary black mark against your team!)

How can we improve?

By shoring up the defence (not by any new players – I feel the right men are in place – but by more consistency) and by continuing to produce good form at home. Only Wolves have won at Sixfields so far with a last gasp Southend equaliser preventing a three game winning run in the league. Couple that with battling points away from home and we won’t be far wrong. Easier said than done of course!

Goal of the month

This category is for Cobblers goals only and is a decent competition this month. Jake Robinson’s stunner against the plastics would have usually won it every other month but, for me, I enjoyed the sheer pace and skill of Chris Hackett’s strike against the real Dons a few days later.

Player of the Month

Again a stiff competition for the first time in a while with plenty staking their claim but I can’t look any further than Alex Nicholls for his all round game and five goals.

Month rating

I’m going to give the month of August-September a mark of 8/10 with plenty more to be happy about than to be negative about. Two wins, two draws and one defeat in the league, progression to Round Two of both of the early cup competitions and some positive play means that it’s been a very good start to the campaign. Keep it up boys!

Northampton Town v Rotherham United: Match Preview

Northampton Town v Rotherham United

League Two

Tuesday, August 21st 2012

It’s straight back to Tuesday night action this evening as the season really kicks into gear with the first home league match of the campaign. It comes against the pre-season title favourites Rotherham United, led by the much maligned Steve Evans and boasting a strong squad of new comers to go alongside their already decent group that ended last season with a 1-1 home draw with Town at the Don Valley Stadium.

New York, New York…

The Millers began their new lives at the New York Stadium with a comfortable 3-0 win over ten man Burton Albion on Saturday afternoon, signalling their immediate intent for the coming campaign. Daniel Nardiello (with a penalty) and Kayode Odejayi had good starts to their Rotherham careers by scoring the first two goals at the new stadium against a Brewers’ side who had Lee Bell sent off for two yellow cards in the second half. Ben Pringle’s deflected cross sealed a fine start to the season for his side and they will be full of confidence going into this evening. They also took Championship side Hull City all the way to penalties at the KC Stadium in the League Cup a few days earlier.

The pantomime villain of League Two…

Steve Evans should provide his usual brand of ‘enthusiasm’ to proceedings at Sixfields tonight after he joined the Millers towards the end of last season. His outspoken and angry nature has upset even the mildest heart of a League Two fan over the last year or so having brought Crawley Town into the league and proceeded to get under everyone’s skin. He’s not even many Rotherham fan’s cups of tea but if promotion is won I’m sure none of them will argue!

Mullins…expected to feature

Team News…

The Cobblers look likely to keep the same team that secured an opening day 0-0 draw at Rochdale with latest signing Lewis Moult set to make the bench once again. Luke Guttridge was withdrawn after an hour at Spotland but is OK to take his place in the starting eleven again.

Rotherham expect vice-captain Johnny Mullins to be fit in time to face the Cobblers after he was forced off at half-time during the Millers’ 3-0 win over Burton at the weekend. Boss Steve Evans was boosted by the return of Lawrie Wilson and Gareth Evans in that game and both should make the squad again. But Nicky Hunt, despite making a quicker recovery than was initially expected, does miss out alongside fellow right back Dale Tongue.

Club Links…

New Cobblers left-back Joe Widdowson spent time on loan with Rotherham from first club West Ham United back in 2008, playing three times for the Millers.

Another new recruit, David Artell, began his career with the side he comes up against this evening, scoring four times in thirty seven games during a five year spell at the club.

Last Six Meetings…

05/05/12: Rotherham 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

The final day of last season saw the Cobblers travel to the Don Valley Stadium with the Millers playing their final game at the athletics arena before moving to the New York Stadium for the start of this term. Alex Revell set them up for a fond farewell with a first half goal but Bayo Akinfenwa had other ideas and notched his eighteenth goal of a strong campaign to earn a point for Town.

29/10/11: Cobblers 1-1 Rotherham (League Two)

Gary Johnson’s final home game in charge of the Cobblers saw Gareth Evan’s second minute strike cancelled out by a Conrad Logan own goal mid-way through the first half.

22/04/11: Cobblers 2-2 Rotherham (League Two)

The infamous celebrations that followed a Cobblers recovery from 2-0 down on Good Friday two seasons ago has been etched into memory more than the game itself. After Leon McKenzie and Liam Davis had cancelled out a Paul Rodgers own goal and a Ryan Taylor effort, Cobblers fan Derry Felton invaded the pitch in his wheelchair to create a moment of humour in last season’s relegation battle!

23/11/10: Rotherham 2-2 Cobblers (League Two)

The Cobblers had already come back from two down against Rotherham earlier in the season as well. Having gone behind to Ryan Taylor and Marcus Marshall goals, Abdul Osman and Andy Holt replied within minutes and the half-time score of 2-2 remained until the end.

13/04/10: Rotherham 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Red cards everywhere in this one as Adam Le Fondre’s goal settled a promotion battle at the Don Valley Stadium. Ryan Gilligan had already missed a penalty when Craig Hinton conceded a spot kick of our own that Le Fondre scored from and Hinton was shown his marching orders for the challenge. Luke Guttridge and Danny Harrison were also sent off later in the game meaning that we ended with nine men and Rotherham finished with ten.

29/09/09: Cobblers 3-1 Rotherham (League Two)

Ryan Gilligan and Courtney Herbert had the Cobblers in control in this Tuesday night encounter before Ian Sharps’ own goal made it 3-0. Adam Le Fondre’s penalty was only a consolation on this occasion.

The Whistling Kettle…

The Man in the Middle…

This gives me shivers whenever I write it but the man trying to keep order will be Trevor ‘the whistling’ Kettle. Whenever a ref’s reputation goes before him there’s bound to be trouble and Kettle is becoming one of the stand out villains of the Football League referee list. Kettle took charge of Rotherham’s 2-1 defeat at Oxford in March and last oversaw a Cobblers game in a 1-0 defeat at Gillingham in January 2011.


This should be a tasty one with the ingredients of Evans, Boothroyd and Kettle in one stadium as well as it being the first home game of the season against title favourites. I’ll go for a hectic 3-3 draw! (Watch it be 0-0 now!)

NTFC Season In Review 2011/12: February

Guttridge…back in Cobblers colours

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.

NTFC Season In Review 2011/12: December

The Boothroyd era began in December…

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.

Jacobs..top man in December

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.

Job done as Cobblers secure league survival

Hereford United 0-0 Northampton Town

After months of agonising, weeks of hope, sleepless nights and nightmares of travelling to Forest Green Rovers on a Tuesday night, the job is done. It took us four attempts to pick up that last point but now it’s here we can celebrate an almighty achievement by Aidy Boothroyd and the players that he’s moulded into a squad that can compete in League Two. Back in November after that disastrous 7-2 home reverse against Shrewsbury and a 4-1 hammering at Plymouth that followed, few could have thought that we would be safe with two games to spare.

We snuck over the finish line at Hereford rather than storming over it but all that matters is that Clarke Carlisle was in the right place at the right time to clear one off the line and that Nicky Featherstone’s stoppage time screamer didn’t fly into the top corner but instead whacked the post and rolled across the goal mouth to safety. The full time whistle brought relief and reflections on a fantastic turn around by all involved.

There seemed little hope back in February when the Cobblers were three points adrift at the bottom despite form picking up slightly in early 2012. But signings like Blair Adams, Clarke Carlisle, Ben Harding, Toni Silva, Luke Guttridge and Brett Williams created a solid backbone of a side that could at least get stuck into opponents and go toe to toe with them – something we were ultimately failing to do under that last manager who shall not be named.

Harding in particular should be credited. Filling a role that often goes unnoticed can be tough but the midfielder’s absence was noticed in the last couple of games before this weekend. Carlisle has been a solid presence in the defence and Adams has given us an actual left back to cheer on. Guttridge’s quality in going forward gave us something different and Williams’ running has contributed to the cause, in particular the determination for the Oxford winner.

Of course there’s the rest of the squad that lived through the nightmare months as well to mention. Bayo has had a resurgence, Kelvin Langmead has often looked like a defender and even Ben Tozer has come back from the oblivion he found himself in. Michael Jacobs has continued to shine and John Johnson’s form never really dipped below a 7/10 rating.

The goalkeeping situation could have been a nightmare but after Shane Higgs and Chris Weale were both injured and Matt Duke recalled early by brawling Bradford, Neal Kitson stepped up in extraordinary fashion to save two penalties in his first two games and help the Cobblers to four crucial points.

The challenge ahead for Boothroyd now is to recapture this sense of togetherness over the summer. The loan players will return to parent clubs and of those I only expect us to be in with a chance to permanently go for Adams and possibly Carlisle so tying down Guttridge and Harding to permanent deals could prove vital to the continuity of the side.

What we know now that we didn’t know this time last year is that we can trust our manager going into the summer. There shouldn’t be any ‘marquee’ signings as such, with Boothroyd’s outlook appearing more to go for players who will get the job done. That job will also get tougher with the inevitable lifting of the expectations that comes with every single Cobblers summer. If we, as fans, can drop those a little to perhaps start looking as mid-table as a success then maybe we will be able to become more patient for once as well.

The bottom line is that we can look forward to two games coming up and we haven’t done that for a long time. Boothroyd said time and again that it would get worse before it got better but his underline statement was that he would take us to safety.

Mission, well and truly, accomplished!

Celebrations still on ice…

Crawley Town 3-1 Northampton Town

I said on Saturday that it was far from over in terms of the race to secure 100% safety and it’s still, frustratingly, hanging over us after a third straight defeat made this Saturday’s trip to Hereford more dangerous than it could have been. Defeat to another promotion candidate on the road shouldn’t be frowned upon too much but the mistakes that contributed to it will be a source of concern for Aidy Boothroyd.

Neal Kitson suffered the first blot on his copy book in a forgettable first half for a Cobblers side who hadn’t been entirely outplayed as the score line at half-time might suggest but who did find themselves 3-0 down by that point. Kitson’s own goal was the third of a trio of goals that on another day could have been dealt with, one of which came from the head of former Town loanee Billy Clarke.

The only thing left for us to do was to try and ‘win the second half’ and although it won’t win us any prizes we at least did that as Brett Williams pounced for 3-1 just after the hour mark. Toni Silva rattled the bar and Williams the post late on but that’s as close as we got against a side who moved into the top three and kept us on the edge of our pants for Saturday.

It’s true that we should be OK but to any Town fan that knows their club inside and out that won’t be good enough until it’s mathematically safe for us to breathe again. Victory at Hereford would do it whilst a point would also be enough should Macclesfield fail to win at Bradford. We could really do without it going to the final two games of the season with two tricky games to round it off so let’s hope for a big turnaround at Edgar Street which may include putting another nail in the Bulls’ coffin at the same time.

Again, until there’s enough daylight to be absolutely sure, the celebrations are well and truly on ice!