How to start a season…

Northampton Town 2-1 Cardiff City

Capital One Cup First Round

Tuesday, August 14th 2012

It’s a set of ideals that the Cobblers have been lacking in recent campaigns – the rules as to how to kick off a season perfectly. But last night in front of an unknowing crowd at Sixfields the 2012/13 season got off to the start that we’ve been craving for many, many years. The only minor problem with the victory over last season’s League Cup finalists Cardiff City was that it was indeed a cup match and didn’t have the effect of handing us three points. Weigh that up with the fact that we’re going into the start of the league season on Saturday already in Round Two of the cup – we find out our opposition at around 12:30pm this afternoon – and I think we’ll accept it.

I never expected it. Not just the win but the anticipation, thrill and joy of it all coming streaming back to me. I’ve been intensely caught up in the Olympics, as most of us have, over the past couple of weeks and I think I’d trained my body to sit through streams of pre-season friendly results with a shrug of the shoulder rather than panic about what might or might not be worrying us during warm up games. So I was going into last night with a sense of calm. It felt beforehand very much like a friendly match similar to those played against Derby, West Ham and Spurs ‘elevens’ over the past couple of weeks.

It took just four minutes for me to realise that the season had, actually, began. My reaction to Cardiff’s first goal – a penalty converted by one of their more experienced players on this night Heidar Helguson – was not one of shrugging shoulders standard but more of “hold on, this means something.

I was into this now. I admit I had needed longer than usual to get ready for the season to start after the quick turnaround from the Olympics but it was like myself from years before came and slapped me in the face with a wet fish and told me to wake up and smell the beauty of the football season coming around again.

Luckily that meant that I was ready for the joy of what was to come as David Artell marked an extraordinary few days for him by heading in the equaliser on his Cobblers debut. On Friday he was perhaps preparing to be a part of Port Vale’s squad in this competition but by Tuesday night he had a whole new band of followers and what a way to endear himself to the claret faithful.

The fact that former Posh keeper Joe Lewis was guarding the Cardiff goal made it that much sweeter as the Cobblers peppered his goal with the words ‘flapping’ being branded across the commentary. The winner came from another ball into the box with another new boy netting his first goal. Alex Nicholls rose to nod in at the far post and the Cobblers were on the way to yet another upset in a competition we are starting to call our own in terms of upsets.

Only Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton have soundly beaten us over the last couple of seasons in the League Cup with Cardiff set to join the list of Bolton, Brighton, Reading, Liverpool and Ipswich by not posing too much of a threat to the Town goal. It seemed that we were the ones more likely to add to the score line in fact with late chances for Kelvin Langmead and Nicholls again.

It says a lot for rookie goalkeeper Dean Snedker who at 17 years old came in to fill the void left by Wigan’s refusal to allow permission to Lee Nicholls to play in the competition for us. Snedker wasn’t mentioned too much and that’s a sign that he did his job solidly. Aidy Boothroyd stressed before the match that sometimes you have to throw someone in at the deep end to see what they’re made of and Snedker answered him in fine fashion.

As well as positive debuts for Alex Nicholls, Artell, Chris Hackett, Ishmel Demontagnac and Clive Platt there was a cameo from a man who could be a key ace up our sleeve in Henoc Mukendi and a towering performance from new left back Joe Widdowson. Compare that to those making debuts at this time last season particularly that of poor Ashley Corker, and we have a lot to build on.

Of course we have to curb the enthusiasm a little bit. Rochdale is a much bigger game on Saturday and the opening month of the season is perhaps the toughest of starts we’ve had for a while.

All eyes will well and truly be on that now but I’m very happy to finally realise that football is back!

League Cup Second Round Seedings (draw this afternoon at 12:30pm)

Seeded teams:

Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Reading, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Watford, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Unseeded: Barnsley, Bradford City, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Coventry City, Crawley Town, Crewe Alexandra, Colchester United, Doncaster Rovers, Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Morecambe, MK Dons, Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, Oxford United, Peterborough United, Plymouth Argyle, Preston North End, Scunthorpe United, Sheffield Wednesday, Stevenage, Swindon Town, Tranmere Rovers, Walsall.

Northampton Town v Cardiff City (Capital One Cup First Round) Preview

Northampton Town v Cardiff City

Capital One Cup First Round

Tuesday, 14th August 2012 (7:45pm)

It’s a strange old start to the 2012/12 season as, rather than kick off with a league fixture, the Cobblers start with a League Cup tie at home to last season’s beaten finalists Cardiff City at Sixfields on Tuesday night.

So close to glory…

City took Liverpool all the way in last season’s final, only losing out on penalties at Wembley having fought past Oxford, Huddersfield, Leicester, Burnley, Blackburn and Crystal Palace to get there. Five out of the seven ties they faced went at least to extra time but they were just edged out by the club who gave us everlasting memories in this competition almost two years ago. The First Round tie at Oxford saw them come through with a young side, so whatever side they put out tonight is likely to be hungry for a repeat performance.

They also suffered defeat in the Championship playoffs for the third season in a row and will go into this season as one of the favourites for promotion once again.

Seeing Red…

The summer has seen major changes off the pitch with the club’s Malaysian owners going through with a change of their kit colour from blue to red in an attempt to expand the club’s appeal in the international markets. There are also plans in place to expand the stadium and invest heavily in their training facilities as part of the new moves as a new era looks set to burst into life despite some opposition to the changes in the kit colour.

‘The Bellamy factor’

It won’t have escaped most people’s attention that recent ‘Team GB’ skipper and passionate Welshman Craig Bellamy has re-joined City with a free transfer from Liverpool finalised last week as Bellamy joined on a two year deal. It’s unlikely that the forward will be available for the Sixfields clash after a call up for the Wales squad and their friendly with Bosnia-Hercegovina on Wednesday night but he’s likely to spearhead a promotion push in the season ahead.

Friendly success…

The final warm up game for City saw them hammer Newcastle United 4-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium as they completed their season friendlies with a bang so they’re in good shape going into the cup tie at Sixfields.

Team News…

New Cobblers loan keeper Lee Nicholls has been denied a chance to play in the match after parent club Wigan Athletic refused permission for him to take part. That leaves Aidy Boothroyd with a decision to make as to whether to throw young stopper Dean Snedker into the starting line-up or go with short term cover between the posts. There should be a host of new faces lining up for Town with David Artell, Joe Widdowson, Chris Hackett, Ishmel Demontagnac, Henoc Mukendi, Clive Platt and Alex Nicholls all pushing for official debuts.

Cardiff are without a full first team thanks to a host of international friendlies taking place this week with Craig Bellamy, Rob Earnshaw and Darcy Blake all set to play for Wales. Also away are Don Cowie and goalkeeper David Marshall (Scotland), Filip Kiss (Slovakia), Etien Velikonja (Slovenia) and Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland). They will also be without the injured pair of Rudy Gestede (knee) and Kadeem Harris (leg). City should, though, hand full debuts to new summer signings Jordan Mutch and Heidar Helguson.

City boss Malky McKay

Club Links…

Cardiff manager Malky MacKay was given his first break as a coach under the stewardship of Cobblers boss Aidy Boothroyd at Watford.

Last Six Meetings…

04/02/03: Cobblers 0-1 Cardiff (League One)

The last time the clubs met was in League One back in 2003 with Rob Earnshaw scoring the only goal of the game in his first spell with the club. City would go on to win the League One playoffs that season with the Cobblers suffering relegation back to the basement division.

Gabbiadini…wonder goal

17/08/02: Cardiff 1-2 Cobblers (League One)

Marco Gabbiadini’s wonder goal will live long in the memory of Cobblers fans after he fired Town in front at Ninian Park with a 35 yard belter. Cardiff captain Graham Kavanagh headed Cardiff level a few minutes later but Gabbiadini got the winner on the stroke of half-time with a toe poked effort.

02/03/02: Cobblers 1-2 Cardiff (League One)

Leyton Maxwell put Cardiff in front at Sixfields before Marco Gabbiadini equalised three minutes later. Andy Campbell capped a frantic few minutes by scoring what turned out to be the winner two minutes on and City held on for a big win.

18/09/01: Cardiff 2-0 Cobblers (League One)

A straight forward victory for Cardiff at Ninian Park as Graham Kavanagh scored in the first half before Paul Brayson netted with a spot kick with eighteen minutes to go.

07/12/09: Cobblers 1-0 Cardiff (Football League Trophy)

The Cobblers got the better of the Bluebirds in a well contested trophy match with Sean Parrish getting the only goal of the game with twenty minutes to go.

14/05/97: Cobblers 3-2 Cardiff (Division Three/League Two Playoff semi-final second leg)

A memorable night at Sixfields with the Cobblers building on a First Leg win at Ninian Park to seal a date at Wembley with Swansea City. Ian Sampson got the ball rolling before Jason Fowler put City right back in it. A tense period followed but Ray Warburton raised the roof with a second for Town on the night to make it 3-1 on aggregate mid-way through the second half and John Gayle made it certain ten minutes later. The Bluebirds got a late consolation through Simon Haworth but it was too late and the Cobblers were at Wembley, going on to beat Swansea and earn promotion.

The Man in the Middle…

Taking charge of the first Cobblers game of the season is David Phillips who started last season by refereeing a League Cup game (Southampton’s 4-1 win over Torquay) and who was in the middle for the Cobblers’ 0-0 home draw with Plymouth Argyle in March.

Prediction…

It’s unlikely that the Cobblers will be coming up against the absolute first choice Cardiff eleven but after last season’s exploits in this competition whoever is wearing the City shirt will want to have another shot and won’t hold anything back. Home advantage gives us an outside chance of progression and I’m going for the upset to kick off the 2012/13 season…1-0.