Up and running!

Alex RevellNorthampton Town 1-1 Fleetwood Town

It’s generally agreed that a draw on opening day is an acceptable start to most seasons so, while the Cobblers’ result against Fleetwood Town at the big kick off wasn’t the perfect beginning, the 2016/17 campaign is up and running in promising fashion. Rob Page needed a result and a performance to match and his new side, boosted by plenty of solid debuts, gave him just that despite a late wilting in the traditional heat of the first day of the season.

Bigger tests than this will follow in the coming weeks, not least the trip to Charlton Athletic next weekend, but Page would have been encouraged by an outing that started with the Cobblers completely on top in the first half and fully deserving of a half time lead given to Town through a combination of Alex Revell’s shot, the post and the back of goalkeeper Chris Neal’s head.

Marc Richards, starting up front with new boy Revell, and Kenji Gorre both had good chances to double the lead and the fact that we didn’t put ourselves in a more commanding position by the break will be one of the only disappointments taken from the game by Page and his enthusiastic and committed team.

Credit to Fleetwood, though, who took advantage of the Cobblers’ rustiness in front of goal to claw their way right back into the game thanks to Victor Nirennold’s header just after half-time. The Frenchman, in his second year in English football following a move from Miami in 2015, got on the end of Bobby Grant’s cross to nod in the leveller and his first goal for the Cod Army.

The game petered out a little as it went on with both sides tiring and both would have been reasonably happy to come away with a point.

The promising debuts of Gabriel Zakuani, a step ahead of our central defensive options from last season, and Matty Taylor, who showed glimpses of real quality with some fine passes and crosses, gives us reason for optimism for the potentially tough season ahead. The worry that Page may have is the strength of the bench which could still do with some tweaking with so many games coming up in the next few months. Page has suggested that there could well be a couple of new additions by the time the transfer window closes with Barnsley defender Lewin Nyatanga a rumoured target to further bolster the back line.

The attacking sphere would also benefit from another pair of legs. While Revell and Rico are old hats at this level, a younger striker who knows where the back of the net is would be massively useful.

We’re off and running, though, and after waiting months for the proper football to return, we’re now thrown into a hefty fixture list that sees us play five more times – starting with the tough trip to Championship Barnsley in the League Cup on Tuesday night – before the end of August.

The claret boots are under the League One table…it’s pretty comfy here!

Cresswell signing a signal of intent

ryancresswellFor the second transfer deadline day in a row, Cobblers fans were on the edge of their seats – a strange position given the amount of times we’ve seen the dreaded “No ins or outs on deadline day” message come out in the past. After January’s last ditch signing of Emile Sinclair, we were once again treated to some big news as the window began to close last night.

At around 8:45pm, a tweet was sent out by the club promising a ‘major signing’ to be announced at 9:30pm – giving those of us on Twitter 45 minutes to speculate and predict who this big name was. No-one came close in the end and it was a very nice surprise when the announcement first came through from Fleetwood Town that we had paid a transfer fee (thought to be up to £150,000) for Ryan Cresswell.

For a centre back with multiple promotions, places on Teams of the Season and a reputation as one of the best defenders at this level it represents fantastic business. There’s an argument that we have plenty of cover in that position but when you consider that Lee Collins is likely to be out for a while, Kelvin Langmead is missing and Gregor Robertson and Ben Tozer are covering the full back positions it makes some sense. In addition to that, though, Cresswell is an outstanding signing for League Two and when you get a chance to bring in a leader of this calibre then you just have to go for it.

Credit has to go to David Cardoza again here – when he’s had the decision to make as to whether to put his hand in his pocket for Chris Wilder he’s done it and hopefully his trust is rewarded in the coming months.

The day had already seen one move in and one out of Sixfields with Alex Nicholls making his expected move on loan to Exeter City. I’d expected the deal to be until January, and that could still happen with an extension, but the month long agreement means that Nicholls can hopefully get some fitness and score some goals and then give Chris Wilder a big decision to make. It’s a great deal for all parties and it’s great to see Nicholls back on a football pitch again wherever he is.

Coming in to bolster the middle of the park is Leicester’s Ryan Watson on a loan deal until January. Watson has apparently been chased by Wilder since the Town boss came to the club so he’s got his man to provide more competition in midfield. I’m intrigued to see how Watson fits into the already bursting melting pot in that position and wonder if there’s any other niggling injuries in there that are worse than initially thought.

What Chris Wilder has done in this transfer window is provide us with a terrific squad to take us through the next few months. Whereas in the past we’ve had to dip into the loan market if a sudden injury rocks us, this time we seem to have ready-made competition already in the squad to step in.

An excellent Deadline Day all in all – now to translate the excitement and hype to the pitch.

Fleetwood Town v Northampton Town: Match Preview

fleetwoodFleetwood Town v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, February 15th 2014

Such is the desperate need for more wins like Tuesday night’s success at Torquay United that the league positions of each of the Cobblers’ opponents from here on in can’t be seen as much of a factor. Back in November the Cobblers stunned Saturday’s hosts with a last gasp winner at Sixfields and it’s that same type of surprise that we need to drag up once again. Obviously a lot has changed but the need for points has just got more and more important.

Fleetwood welcome the Cobblers to the Highbury Stadium having lost some of the early 2014 momentum that had seen them in the top three at the end of January thanks to four wins and a draw in the opening month of the year. Since then, defeat at home to York City and a draw at Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night as well as a home reverse in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at home to Chesterfield in between has slightly pushed them off course.

Graham Alexander’s side will be hoping to prevent a repeat of last season’s run of just two wins in their last fifteen games but after a summer of rebuilding they appear a much more solid outfit. With the club six points off the top of the table and ten clear of those outside the playoff positions there’s plenty to be positive about and there’s surely enough in their tanks to at least earn a top seven finish.

It points to perhaps the toughest test so far for Chris Wilder since joining the Cobblers and he’ll need to pull out all his away day reserves to come through – with the new look Town side starting to take shape, though, there may just be a chance that we can create another memorable moment against the Cod Army.

Team News…

Fleetwood finally gave a debut to keeper Chris Maxwell on Tuesday night, more than eighteen months after he joined the club, as he finally dislodged long term stopper Scott Davies and put in a good performance so manager Graham Alexander has another tough decision to make in goal. Jamille Matt also returned after four months out and will once again be part of the squad whilst Gareth Evans impressed after coming off the bench and could be a starter.

The Cobblers will still be without Lee Collins who missed Tuesday night’s game at Torquay with a toe injury but Gregor Robertson should slot in at centre back again. New signing John Marquis came off the bench at Plainmoor and will be pushing for a place in the starting line-up. Roy O’Donovan left the Cobblers on Friday afternoon after having his contract terminated and James Hurst has returned to Crawley as his loan ends this weekend. Joe Widdowson, Ricky Ravenhill and Brennan Dickenson are both fighting to be fit despite picking up knocks in mid-week.

Previous Meetings…

16/11/13: Cobblers 1-0 Fleetwood (League Two)

In a bottom v top clash earlier this season, it looked as though the game was set for a 0-0 draw until the Cobblers won a free kick on the edge of the area. Step forward loanee Luke Norris to curl in one of the more memorable goals of this season for a fine Cobblers victory.

05/01/13: Cobblers 3-1 Fleetwood (League Two)

Jake Robinson struck twice for the Cobblers in the first half at Sixfields last season to set Town on their way to a good victory. Clive Platt added a third just after half time before Jamie Allen scored a consolation in stoppage time.

15/09/12: Fleetwood 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Danny East was sent off before the half hour mark for the Cobblers in our first ever league meeting with Fleetwood. Town hold on right up until stoppage time when Andrew Mangan scored a dramatic winner for the hosts.

07/11/09: Cobblers 2-1 Fleetwood (FA Cup First Round)

In a tight cup game at Sixfields the Cobblers struggled to overcome their then non-league opponents as Luke Guttridge’s opener was cancelled out by Sean Clancy just before half-time. But Guttridge spared the blushes of his team by firing in the winner on the hour mark.

The man in the middle…

Taking charge at the Highbury Stadium will be Richard Clark who last oversaw a Cobblers game in the memorable 2-0 win over Port Vale in October 2012 during which Alex Nicholls suffered his horrific broken leg that led to Vale’s John McCombe being sent off. Clark was also the official for Fleetwood’s 2-1 win at Rochdale back in December.

Prediction…

Another away game to really test the mettle of Chris Wilder’s unbeaten away record this season with both Oxford and the Cobblers and this really is a step up in class of opposition. The Cod Army will still be smarting from our late win at Sixfields earlier this season so won’t need a lot of motivating. Still, I think we have more about us defensively since Wilder took over so reckon we can nick what would be a valuable point. 1-1.

A Sixfields moment as bottom beats top!

Norris...moment of magic

Norris…moment of magic

Northampton Town 1-0 Fleetwood Town

League Two

Saturday, November 16th 2013

There are moments in football that can, in one second, take away weeks of trauma on the pitch, wipe away the misery of late defeats and bring the sort of relief that reignites a season. This afternoon the Cobblers got just that. A stalemate was broken with one stroke of a football and the anguish felt by us all over the last few weeks was released in an outpouring of emotion not seen in a stadium containing Cobblers fans since the playoff semi-finals last season.

Luke Norris, the man who is seemingly on a one man mission to save us from the abyss, scored the wonderful, beautiful goal that bagged us three points on an afternoon of few clear cut chances as the top and bottom sides in League Two cancelled each other out. It was a true ‘Sixfields Moment’ – not one that will necessarily stand out in our history but definitely one that will linger in the memory banks for many a year.

Its importance cannot be underestimated. Not only did it mean that we beat the league leaders coming into the day but also gave us a lift that our battling, gritty and determined performance deserved. In the league table, too, two points more than we could have had if the game had ended 0-0 keep us right in touch with the rest of the pack where we could have still be lingering.

Sixfields was a nervous place to be and everyone knew that this would give the new look starting eleven, again containing four loanees, a much sterner test than Bishop’s Stortford did last Sunday. The Cod Army were confident enough but in the early goings it was the Cobblers pressing hard for an opening.

After David Ball had smacked the post in a rare Fleetwood attack, we started to get a run of corners and long throw opportunities with the recalled Ben Tozer re-introducing his potent weapon into the Town attack. But with Ryan Cresswell, one of those ‘proper League Two’ centre backs that every team in the division wishes they had at their disposal, conducting his side there were few chances for a breakthrough.

The best first half chances fell to Jacob Blyth and Norris but neither effort properly tested the visiting keeper Scott Davies. Referee Mr Sutton was doing his best to ruin things by stopping the game needlessly for both teams and it was no surprise that it was goalless at the break.

Fleetwood came out after half-time with much more intent and were starting to pick apart the defence with flashes of quality associated with their league position. Matty Blair tested Matt Duke before Jeff Hughes had chances to put his side in front. But after more dogged battling Town fought back and set up the finish that could yet be a turning point in the season.

I didn’t see exactly what caused the free kick that was awarded on the ninety minute mark, not that I cared a bit. Right on the very edge of the penalty, it was a prime spot even if it did seem a little too close to get the ball up and down and past Davies. Plenty of interest was shown in taking it but Norris won the argument and stepped up to create a huge moment to add to his growing vault of Cobblers goals.

Norris stepped up, curled the ball over the wall and it nestled majestically into the corner. Sixfields erupted and Aidy Boothroyd punched the air, leapt about and danced like the rest of us and reflected the mood of those in attendance and thousands more around the country.

There was still four minutes of stoppage time to play and going by recent form that’s enough time for two goals against the Cobblers! But hang on we did after a couple of nervy attacks from Fleetwood and the final whistle was the most welcome sound of the season so far.

It’s hard to look beyond the goal and back at what came before but there were real positives to take (not the usual fake positives that are spun out!). Ben Tozer had the best game I’ve seen him have in months and could have had a genuine shout of being man of the match – a sentence that I really didn’t ever expect to write, especially with Tozer playing at right back. He gets a biscuit for that.

Elsewhere, Ricky Ravenhill provided the bite that we’ve been missing ever since Luke Guttridge was shown the door in the summer. He’s just what we need in the middle of the park and hopefully he signs on a more permanent deal at the end of his loan. The other loan rangers up front, Blyth and Norris, were starved of chances for most of the game by that Fleetwood defence and some wasteful set pieces but are still coming to the type of understanding that will need more than the length of their respective short term contracts.

It’s the sort of day that can change seasons and we won’t know until later in the season just how crucial it could turn out to be but what it does do is give everyone associated with the club that belief so desperately needed.

As a final note, here’s the commentary of the big moment, featuring a screaming Terry Angus.

That’ll take some coming down from…let’s hope we don’t have to for a while!

Northampton Town v Fleetwood Town: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Fleetwood Town

League Two

Saturday, November 16th 2013

It’s bottom against top at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon with the Cobblers going into this game eighteen points worse off than their opposition. Fleetwood have risen to the top of a competitive League Two table in recent weeks and are going fantastically in league and cup. Having reached the summit of League Two with a 4-1 win over Newport County, they went on to see off Gloucester City in the FA Cup and League One Carlisle United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, both by a 2-0 score line.

Graham Alexander, in his first full campaign as a manager having replaced Mickey Mellon midway through last season, is looking to put right a poor run of form at the end of that season that saw his side win just twice in the final fifteen games to fall away from the playoff race. This time around it’s been a different story and he’s led them to nine victories in the first fifteen games as well as leading them to the JPT Semi-Finals.

The Cobblers have suffered from the opposite fate and are going through a season of change on the pitch. Short term loans are plugging the gaps of some poor decisions in the summer transfer windows but there were encouraging signs last Sunday, albeit at Bishop’s Stortford.

This is the real test of Aidy Boothroyd and his side’s expected new steel and he won’t personally be let off from the early form by the win over Stortford alone. We need more of the same  and some as Fleetwood fly into Sixfields on a massive high.

Team News…

Lee Collins picked up his fifth booking of the season last weekend and will sit out of this one through suspension, meaning that Ben Tozer is likely to fill in at right back. Kelvin Langmead’s recovery has been set back and he won’t be back until at least January while Clive Platt and Matt Heath are still not ready to return. Ricky Ravenhill and Kane Ferdinand should make their home debuts with fellow loanees Jacob Blyth and Luke Norris also likely starters. Stuart Dallas missed the cup tie at Bishop’s Stortford but he could come back into things but will need to dislodge Danny Emerton who did well and scored on Sunday.

Former Cobblers target Jamille Matt is the only long term injury worry for the Cod Army and Graham Alexander may stick with the winning side from Wednesday evening’s JPT win over Carlisle United.

Previous Meetings…

05/01/13: Cobblers 3-1 Fleetwood (League Two)

Jake Robinson struck twice for the Cobblers in the first half at Sixfields last season to set Town on their way to a good victory. Clive Platt added a third just after half time before Jamie Allen scored a consolation in stoppage time.

15/09/12: Fleetwood 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Danny East is sent off before the half hour mark for the Cobblers in our first ever league meeting with Fleetwood. Town hold on right up until stoppage time when Andrew Mangan scores a dramatic winner for the hosts.

07/11/09: Cobblers 2-1 Fleetwood (FA Cup First Round)

In a tight cup game at Sixfields the Cobblers struggle to overcome their then non-league opponents as Luke Guttridge’s opener is cancelled out by Sean Clancy just before half-time. But Guttridge spares the blushes of his team by firing in the winner on the hour mark.

The man in the middle…

Gary Sutton is the man to take charge of this one having previously visited Sixfields in the 2-0 home defeat to York City towards the end of last season. His last Fleetwood game was their 4-0 home reverse against Burton Albion in February during which he sent off Cod Army keeper Scott Davies with the score still at 0-0. Sutton has officiated ten games so far this season and has shown 37 yellow cards and 3 reds.

Prediction…

There were improvements noticeable last week at Bishop’s Stortford but this is where the new set of signings will really be judged – against a Fleetwood side flying in the league and cup at the moment. It should be a tough afternoon and we could have to settle for a point. 1-1.

From the Opposition…

Fleetwood fan Amy Slater took part in this week’s Fan Feature, which you can read here.

Fan Feature: Fleetwood Town

Fleetwood_Town_FCFor this week’s Fan Feature I spoke to Cod Army supporter Amy Slater and she gave her thoughts on her side’s fantastic start to the season as well as the emerging talents of manager Graham Alexander. You can follow Amy on Twitter – @AmySlater_ 

Top of the league (and having a laugh?!) at the moment… what’s been the secret to your success so far? What have been the highlights?

The secret to our success is undoubtedly the passion of our chairman, without him we would still be in the North West Counties League. The highlight is obviously obtaining football league status.

What’s changed since last season?

The changes from last season are that we have a manager who is willing to change the game in a positive way. Under Micky Mellon we had a manager who was frightened to death of losing, this showed on the field and ultimately his undoing.

Anything that still needs working on?

Midfield and defensively we are pretty sound, the main concern is having an out and out striker. We miss Jamie Vardy very much and we are finding it hard to find a replacement.

Who have been the key men in your run to the top of the table?

The main reason for our run up the table is having a good defence and midfield, plus anybody in the side is liable to score.

Graham Alexander is building a solid record up with the Cod Army…how’s he getting on in his first full season?

GA is proving to be a decent manager who is still learning his trade with us, he seems to have got the team to gel. If we acquire a decent striker in the loan window or in January then I see no reason why we can’t achieve promotion.

Finally, a prediction for the game on Saturday?

2-1 Cods!

 

Fleetwood Town links…

Official website: http://www.fleetwoodtownfc.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleetwood-Town-FC/114163671927662

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ftfc

Forum: http://www.independentftff.proboards.com/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Town_F.C.

Ground guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/fleetwood_town/index.htm

Local News: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/sport/fleetwood-town

Fortress building works continue

Robinson...double

Robinson…double

Northampton Town 3-1 Fleetwood Town

League Two

Saturday, January 5th 2013

Dare we start to dream? Fortress Sixfields continues to be built with a third straight win coming on Saturday and the difference this time was the fact that the opposition was a side holding a place in the playoffs. That, and the fact that the win took us to within one point of the top seven with a game in hand on the four teams above us, breathes life into a season that could yet yield more than mid-table obscurity.

Fleetwood were always going to provide the biggest test of the three home games over the New Year period and so it was but going into a three goal lead against the Cod Army was well beyond expectations. It’s so important that we back up home victories against the lower ranked teams in League Two with three points against those above us and whilst Gillingham and Cheltenham left with wins it was a different story on Saturday.

The story of this game was the emergence once again of Jake Robinson who claimed two goals to continue his fight back into a regular first team place. What started at Accrington has slowly turned into a full blown effort to solidify that place and to justify Aidy Boothroyd’s renewed faith in the man that was sent out on loan to Luton Town earlier this season.

This first of his double strike was more convincing than the second with Robinson got on the end of a swift run and cross from the increasingly effective Chris Hackett to head back across goal and into the corner of the net. Hackett would put a free kick just over before Robinson struck again, his shot from outside the area taking a couple of deflections before nestling in the bottom corner. It would be harsh to deny him the goal but it was a nice helping hand that saw us into the break two goals to the good for the second time in a week.

Another rejuvenated player sealed it in the second half with Clive Platt gaining ever more acceptance from the Cobblers supporters by scoring his second goal in two games, reacting quickest to Bayo Akinfenwa’s parried header and slamming the ball in for 3-0. After further chances for Bayo and Chris Hackett, Fleetwood nicked one back through a very well taken goal from Jamie Allen.

The Cobblers, though, continued a fine run of home form and completed the latest of a run of home games that’s unfolded thanks to two away postponements over Christmas. We must get it right away from Sixfields if we’re to make a serious challenge to the playoff places and starting that next weekend at Chesterfield would be a great way to start. There’s a three point gap between the clubs going into that with Town holding the advantage so any result would be another big stepping stone.

Turn this excellent home sequence and form into away points and maybe those dreams of something even bigger would become a reality.