Cobblers show signs of promise as Bees are swept aside

There are few things you want from a pre-season friendly and the first of the two on home soil that took place last night gave us most of the desired outcomes:

  • Minutes on the pitch/no injuries
  • Glimpses of young talent
  • New signings to show their worth
  • A sign of a shape and way of playing
  • Hope for the start of the season

A comfortable victory is, of course a welcome bonus, and the Cobblers created enough to get a result as well as a decent performance against a Barnet side just relegated from the division in which we now inhabit. The friendly was set up so that we could test ourselves against the type of side that we’ll come up against in League Two and it was very much job done by the end of the night.

We will, of course, have sterner tests in the coming weeks but Dean Austin’s men, appearing in front of the Sixfields crowd for the first time this summer, stuck to their tasks, put in the levels of energy and determination we know their manager asks for and scored some very well worked goals for good measure.

The fact that Austin named just five substitutes and left out recent signing Junior Morias as well as the likes of Sam Foley, Dean Bowditch, Jordan Turnbull, Dan Powell and Kevin van Veen caused one or two murmurings before kick off but as we play again against a “Manchester United XI” (Hi Regan Poole, how’re you doing?!) on Friday it’s understandable to spread out the squad. John-Joe O’Toole was away on compassionate leave while Shay Facey was nursing a slight knock but both could be back in the fray for the final friendly.

NTFC Starting XI: David Cornell, Hakeem Odoffin, David Buchanan, Ash Taylor, Aaron Pierre, Sean Whaler, Matt Crooks, Shaun McWilliams, Jack Bridge, Sam Hoskins, Andy Williams

Young Shaun Whaler started at right midfield and put in an excellent shift. It was the first time I’d seen him in action and there’s definite promise there – Whaler looks to be a technically gifted operator and earned a big ovation from the 850 or so Cobblers fans in attendance when he came off with cramp late on.

Elsewhere, the combination in middle of Crooks and McWilliams was impressive. I’m convinced that McWilliams has the brightest future of any Cobblers youth team graduates that have come through in recent seasons and must now be one of the first names on the team sheet for Austin. Crooks, another huge presence, will tear some League Two defences apart if he sets his mind to it and gets himself motivated enough. The pair bossed the midfield all night and created an excellent balance to the middle of the park.

Andy Williams’ presence in the squad can’t go unrecognised. He looks to be a fine piece of business and has the know how to be in the right place at the right time, highlighted by his headed opener mid-way through the first half.

Alongside him, Sam Hoskins was his usual busy self and, after setting up the Williams goal, took his chance to make it 2-0. Crooks’ pass was sublime and Hoskins finished well across the visiting keeper Mark Cousins.

All pretty rosy, then, as we headed to the break following Williams smashing the bar in search for number three with the visitors fading after a decent enough start. Odoffin was having a few problems early on down his side but settled into the game and Barnet struggled to cause much more damage in the final third.

The second half saw Town create more opportunities as Crooks followed Williams in hitting the bar and Hoskins wasting a crossing opportunity when well placed. Then there was Billy Waters.

The striker, subject of much speculation, came off the bench late on and just minutes later collected the ball on the left hand side, controlled well and absolutely hammered a shot into the top corner in off the post. Waters has had a good pre-season and my thoughts are that we should hold on to a player who can give us this kind of spark. We haven’t seen it enough, mostly due to lack of opportunity, but you’d think he’s the exact type of player Austin likes and can change a game in a flash if given the chance.

The best thing you could say about the team is that they know what they’re doing, know how they’re going to play and know the levels of commitment Austin expects. That really is half the job at this stage and if we can add another winger to provide competition along with a new number one goalkeeper then we’ll be ready.

One to go before the real action kicks in!

 

Different venue, same outcome as Barnet sting Town again

Akinde...brace

Akinde…brace

Barnet 2-0 Northampton Town

The stadium and surroundings may have been different but it was the same old trip to Barnet last night as the Cobblers fell to a first defeat of the season. For the second successive season that the Bees have been in the league, their first win came against us and though last time out it was in October this will have meant just as much to get off the mark.

There’s undoubtedly feelings of revenge in the air for them too after Town relegated them in 2013 on a final day of the season that helped to spare AFC Wimbledon in the process. But the main point is that Chris Wilder has more thinking to do if he’s to get back to the positive feelings around the club by the time a dangerous Plymouth side arrive at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon.

Wilder made a big gamble by changing his successful starting eleven with key attacking options amended by choice (Marc Richards and Nicky Adams replaced by Sam Hoskins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin) and by necessity (Ricky Holmes injured in the warm up). Zander Diamond, taken off at half time against Exeter, was also missing through injury as Rod McDonald came in.

It was a gamble that the manager would eventually pay for as chances went begging in the first half and the home side came out with more intent to take the win after the break.

Hoskins and Calvert Lewin forced Bees keeper Graham Stack into a double save early on before Lawson D’Ath missed a golden opportunity from a spillage from the Barnet number one. The lack of a clinical touch would come back to haunt us as, despite good amounts of possession and intent, Town faded in the second half.

Luke Gambin’s introduction for the hosts on the hour sparked them into life and it was his run that set up John Akinde soon after with the striker going down under Jason Taylor’s challenge for a penalty. Taylor was swiftly shown red and the complexion of the game was turned completely on its head. Akinde slotted home the penalty and from then on it was all in Barnet’s hands.

Rico was introduced from the bench but couldn’t muster up anything as the Cobblers struggled with ten men. Adam Smith pulled off a top drawer double save from Andy Yiadom but couldn’t prevent the crucial second goal late on. Town had pushed Ryan Cresswell up front to try and nick an equaliser when the Bees broke away and Akinde rounded things off with a straight forward second, rounding Smith and passing the ball into the net.

So the dream start is over as Town come crashing back down to earth in true Barnet away day fashion! Plenty to ponder ahead of the visit of a Plymouth Argyle side that have also won two out of three games and come to Sixfields on the back of a crushing 4-1 defeat of Carlisle United on Tuesday night. With their own group of fine attacking talent, that one should see plenty of goals.

Less tinkering, more first team flair please Mr Wilder!

Barnet down with a whimper as Cobblers set up Rubies tie

O' Donovan...another Cobblers goal

O’ Donovan…another Cobblers goal

Northampton Town 2-0 Barnet

League Two

Saturday, April 27th 2013

It’s become a staple to see a certain set of photos and videos at this time of the year. You know the ones – supporters up and down the land with heads in their hands, tears rolling down their painted faces, weeping into their fancy dress costumes and being consoled by their fellow fan. Indeed the Cobblers have made us into those very news items over the years, most recently at Elland Road where a hardy band of souls dug deep for one last time only to see their side surrender a place in League One at the death. We suffered together in that corner of the old stadium and hoped that we wouldn’t have any feelings like that again for a long, long time.

So when Barnet came to town on Saturday looking for the victory that would ensure a fourth consecutive last day escape from the drop to the Conference you would have expected similar images all over the place when they failed to pick up anything and realised that, due to AFC Wimbledon’s 2-1 win over Fleetwood Town, this time they were down.

But what transpired was less emotional out and more physical pour out – pouring out of the gates that is, just as the Bees players came over for their consolatory greetings. The mood in the visitor’s end reflected what had just gone on in front of them. The hearty fight to the death never materialised. There was to be no more heroics, no more saviours and no more death defying and unthinkable victories that would save them this time. In fact, Barnet were relegated with a whimper and you have to feel for those supporters who appeared to have given up the ghost as soon as the second Town goal went in.

I wish them luck. It’s not easy to be relegated and particularly to the Conference where more and more it feels like a resting place for former league clubs, all battling to reclaim past glories. I don’t want to start glorifying a relegation that must have hurt so many people and would rather now focus on the brighter side of the day, that of the Cobblers’ winning end to the league campaign and what is now building up to be an exciting time with playoff tickets selling like hot cakes on the first day of release.

Town took a long, long time to get going and the first half was a bit of a haze. It felt very much like Barnet were waiting for something to happen at Kingsmeadow before making their first move. There were no scores on any doors up until the break but as soon as the whistle went for the start of the second it seemed like something clicked and you could tell that panic and realisation had finally set in with the Barnet faithful.

Just past the hour mark, word filtered through that Wimbledon had taken the lead through Gary Alexander’s header. Soon after, the Cobblers took the lead as Roy O’Donovan raced onto a through ball to coolly slot the ball into the corner of Graham Stack’s net. Home fans celebrated but there was a brief bit of hope for those to our right as Andy Mangan had equalised for Fleetwood against Wimbledon and Barnet were suddenly safe again.

Almost as quickly, though, their hopes were obliterated as Town took a 2-0 lead through a well taken Luke Guttridge shot from a fine Bayo Akinfenwa hold up and pass whilst Wimbledon won a penalty at Kingsmeadow and Jack Midson converted to seal the fate of our opposition and his former club.

Bayo had replaced David Moyo in attack in the second half and it was this change, as well as the terrific work rate and doggedness of Luke Guttridge that helped us to do our bit and at least clinch sixth place. Bayo has work to do to get back into form but his touches and all round play signals a return to form. Guttridge’s recall has arguably been one of the key elements of Town bouncing back from the home defeat to York City and giving us hope that the playoff campaign could actually end in glory.

For that to happen, we’ll need to get past a team that have done the league double over us this season in Cheltenham Town. The Rubies’ draw with Bradford City means that they dropped to fifth thanks to Burton’s good home win over champions Gillingham and they will now provide the opposition for what will be a tense and enthralling couple of games with a trip to Wembley the ultimate prize.

They’ve demonstrated in both of those victories over us that they can be resilient (coming from two down to win 3-2 at Sixfields) and determined (edging the Cobblers out 1-0 at Whaddon Road) and it’s going to be need a huge effort for us to end up walking down Wembley Way for the first time in fifteen years.

The thought of that sends shivers down spines and with tickets selling fast (only 230 Cobblers tickets for the away leg out of 1500 remain at the end of Sunday) we’re sure to have a massive backing. Thursday sees us host the first leg, another sell out for sure, whilst the return leg is at Whaddon Road on Sunday evening.

Until then, I hope you all have a good few days…from past experience the waiting is the hardest part for the playoff games and this should be no different. Get right behind the team for this and we could be etching more names into the history books to go alongside the likes of Atkins, Woody, Clarkson, Frain, Razor, Sammo, Rennie, Parrish, Hunter, Gayle, Lee, Larry, Deano Peer and Jason White White White.

Bring on the playoffs!!

Northampton Town v Barnet: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Barnet

League Two

Saturday, March 27th 2013

And so it comes down to one final league game for the Cobblers. Since the start of the season it always felt like this match would have major implications for the standings for at least one end of the League Two table with the Cobblers and Barnet scheduled to face off in the final game. The Cobblers have secured a playoff place but are still in with a shout of toppling potential semi-final opponents Burton Albion with a victory combined with a Brewers defeat at home to Gillingham.

For Barnet, though, consequences are that bit higher. A dramatic late winner against Wycombe in the final ever game at Underhill last weekend lifted them back out of the bottom two ahead of AFC Wimbledon. Any sort of win from Wimbledon, though, puts the Bees right back in trouble and the fans packing out the South Stand are likely to be on the edge of their seats for most of the afternoon.

With a victory guaranteeing safety for Edgar David’s troops and the carrot of a home second leg in the playoffs there to be shot at for the Cobblers this should be a tension filled afternoon at Sixfields as we prepare for the end of season lottery…

Explosive end to Underhill tenure…

After much talk and speculation, Barnet confirmed their move to The Hive Stadium in February of this year, meaning that last weekend’s game against Wycombe Wanderers would be the last to be played at the old Underhill ground. Jake Hyde scored a late goal to give the Bees the lead before, incredibly, Graham Stack saved a last minute penalty from Wycombe’s Joel Grant to preserve a precious victory that lifted his side out of the drop zone following back to back defeats.

Four in a row?…

Barnet have survived the dreaded drop to the Conference on each of the last THREE final days of the season, beating Rochdale 1-0 at Underhill in 2010 to stay up, similarly seeing off Port Vale 1-0 in 2011 and then, a year ago, beating Burton Albion 2-1 to hold off Hereford United. Will it be four in a row come Saturday at 5pm?

Tickets selling fast for big final day…

All of Barnet’s 1,300 tickets have sold out for their trip to Sixfields and with only around 400 home tickets left going into Friday morning there should be a cracking atmosphere at Sixfields from both sides.

 

Langmead...fighting for fitness

Langmead…fighting for fitness

Team News…

The Cobblers could rest key players such as Clive Platt, Chris Hackett and Bayo Akinfenwa ahead of the playoffs whilst Kelvin Langmead may not be risked after his recent injury that’s kept him out of the last few matches.

Barnet welcome back Barry Fuller from suspension while Luke Gambin is pushing for a start on the wing after coming off the bench in the 1-0 win over Wycombe last weekend.

 

Previous Six Meetings…

19/10/12: Barnet 4-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Edgar Davids played his first game in two years to help his new club to a first win of the season against the Cobblers thanks to four second half goals. Krystian Pearce put the Bees in front before further goals from Andrew Yiadom, John Oster and Anthony Edgar wrapped it up.

21/01/12: Cobblers 1-2 Barnet (League Two)

Bayo Akinfenwa put the Cobblers into the lead in the clubs’ last meeting but Barnet recovered and turned the game around in the second half with Mark Byrne and Ricky Holmes doing the damage.

01/10/11: Barnet 1-2 Cobblers (League Two)

An important win at Underhill for the Cobblers just over a year ago. Ricky Holmes put the home side in front after fifteen minutes but Aaron Davies equalised before Ben Tozer scored a dramatic winner in the last minute for Town.

05/02/11: Cobblers 0-0 Barnet (League Two)

Tame stalemate at Sixfields in the 2010/11 season as both sides have to settle for a point.

20/11/10: Barnet 4-1 Cobblers (League Two)

One of the most disappointing afternoons of that season came at Underhill despite Leon McKenzie putting Town in front early on. Liam Davis was then sent off, though, and Steve Kabba levelled from the spot a few minutes later before edging his side into the lead just before the break. Grant Basey made it 3-1 just after half time and then Ricky Holmes put the icing on the cake in stoppage time.

28/12/09: Barnet 0-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Another goalless game between the sides despite Barnet being reduced to ten men on the hour mark as Dean Sinclair was given his marching orders.

 

The Man in the middle…

The man in charge for the final league game of the season is Andy Haines. Haines was last the official for a Cobblers game back in March of last year for the 3-1 home win over Aldershot Town.

 

Prediction…

Anything can happen on the last day of the season and Barnet have been the proof of that over the last few seasons, escaping at the last on numerous occasions. The difference this time is that they don’t have to win to survive but they’ll still be desperate to ensure that they don’t have to check on Wimbledon’s progress. Rumours of a weakened Cobblers team are hopefully only partly true so I’ll go for a big finish and some nervy Bees fans! 2-1.

Barnet v Northampton Town: Match Preview

Barnet v Northampton Town: Match Preview

No wins all season. Just three points from twelve games. A goal difference of minus eighteen. You would think that most Town fans would be confident going into tonight’s clash with a side with such a record but Cobblers Law states that it’s never that simple. Northampton Town are pretty much the best side you can face when you need a win and are on a dismal run of form so this evening’s clash at Underhill is actually one of the more concerning trips of the season so far…

Awful start for our hosts…

The Bees, as mentioned are without a win all season and sit bottom of League Two having made another great escape on the final day of last season when they sent Hereford United down to the Conference in their place. Last weekend saw them defeat 4-1 at home to Plymouth Argyle to leave them within five points of Aldershot a place above them.

Davids in place and registered to play…

There’s been plenty of talk and hype and it looks like former Holland international Edgar Davis has been registered to play against the Cobblers after joining Barnet as a player/coach last week. The 39-year-old played over seventy games for his country and spent successful spells with the likes of Ajax, Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter, Spurs and Crystal Palace during his long career. Davids has been cleared to play this evening and could even start the game.

 

Club Links…

Defender Anthony Charles spent two years at Underhill between 2005 and 2007, making over sixty appearances for the club.

 

Davids…to face Cobblers?

Team News…

As mentioned, Edgar Davids has been registered and is available to play for Barnet this evening. Elsewhere, new signing Collins John limped out of the home game against Plymouth last week so he’s a major doubt.

There have been more problems for the Cobblers this week with David Artell added to the injured list ahead of the trip to Underhill with a slight Achilles tear that could keep him out for up to three months. He joins Luke Guttridge and Ben Harding as long term absentees with John Johnson and Danny East also likely to miss out again.

 

Previous Six Meetings…

21/01/12: Cobblers 1-2 Barnet (League Two)

Bayo Akinfenwa put the Cobblers into the lead in the clubs’ last meeting but Barnet recovered and turned the game around in the second half with Mark Byrne and Ricky Holmes doing the damage.

01/10/11: Barnet 1-2 Cobblers (League Two)

An important win at Underhill for the Cobblers just over a year ago. Ricky Holmes put the home side in front after fifteen minutes but Aaron Davies equalised before Ben Tozer scored a dramatic winner in the last minute for Town.

05/02/11: Cobblers 0-0 Barnet (League Two)

Tame stalemate at Sixfields in the 2010/11 season as both sides have to settle for a point.

20/11/10: Barnet 4-1 Cobblers (League Two)

One of the most disappointing afternoons of that season came at Underhill despite Leon McKenzie putting Town in front early on. Liam Davis was then sent off, though, and Steve Kabba levelled from the spot a few minutes later before edging his side into the lead just before the break. Grant Basey made it 3-1 just after half time and then Ricky Holmes put the icing on the cake in stoppage time.

28/12/09: Barnet 0-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Another goalless game between the sides despite Barnet being reduced to ten men on the hour mark as Dean Sinclair was given his marching orders.

04/09/09: Cobblers 1-3 Barnet (League Two)

Barnet continued their good start to the 2009/10 season by coming from begin to win at Sixfields. Ben Marshall had given the Cobblers the lead but a second half comeback saw Ahmed Deen, Paul Furlong and John O’Flynn seal a good win for the Bees.

 

The Man in the Middle…

Darren Sheldrake is the man in charge this evening at Underhill. He last took charge of the Cobblers during the 2-2 draw at Cheltenham Town last season.

 

Prediction…

I really want to think that the hype for Mr Davids will mean that the Cobblers are more focused than ever this evening and that we can come away with a victory. I’m going to stay positive and hope for the best and that we don’t fall victim to another bad run ending against the Cobblers! I’ll go for a 1-0 away win.