Bayo hat-trick lights up the weekend

Bayo – hat-trick hero

Accrington Stanley 2-4 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, November 10th 2012

It was almost the ideal away day. So many subplots, positive talking points and a result to be delighted with at the end of a game that looked to be going the same way as some of the previous disappointments away from home this season. All that plus a hat-trick from a man who is steam rolling towards the Northampton Town record books and into a status that is becoming ever more legendary.

When Accrington turned around a lead given to us by Bayo Akinfenwa in the first half with a well taken strike from George Miller and Rommy Boco’s long ranger it all looked like yet another reverse on the road for a Cobblers side that were flagging badly on their travels up until yesterday with just one win away all season.

But the man who won it on that occasion, a 1-0 victory at Dagenham, was the man in the middle of it all once again as Town produced a superb fight back. First, though, another story for the headline writers to get their teeth into. Jake Robinson only returned from a loan spell at Luton this week and was put straight back into the squad in what was a wise move considering our injury situation at the moment.

Robinson was brought on mid-way through the second half and had an immediate impact, repaying the terrific support from the away terrace by firing in to equalise and jumping into the crowd in a moment of sheer joy for him and the fans that have stuck by him through a tough few months. A rejuvenated Robinson could be just what the doctor ordered at the moment and it’s fantastic timing for him to come back and hit form just as we lose Alex Nicholls to his broken leg.

Robinson would continue to threaten and you got a sense that if anyone was going on to win this game then it would be the Cobblers. The manner of the win made it so much more special, though. Bayo produced a majestic moment to put us into the lead with a diving header at the back post from an Emyr Huws cross and the stage was set.

The big man had never before scored a hat-trick, a surprising stat considering his prowess over the years, but popped up with fifteen minutes to play to volley in from close range. Bayo immediately grabbed the ball, celebrated in front of the travelling fans and wrapped up a memorable afternoon.

The win takes us into the top half but more importantly it breathes fresh life into a campaign that was becoming annoyingly inconsistent. If Bayo can continue to build his growing legacy and help out his supporting stars then all may not be lost after all!

This mini run will be tested by Bradford (again) on Tuesday night with the FA Cup First Round replay taking up another midweek slot in the schedule but with Town in high spirits we have a chance of coming away with something more to cheer. Jake Robinson’s brief appearance in the cup with Luton means he’ll have to sit out whilst Louis Moult serves the second game of a suspension (the first was served at Accrington) but with Bayo in this mood we will always be in with a shout.

Two home games follow in the league and this is where we’ll need to be really kicking on. At times this season has been waiting to kick into gear only for a couple of dodgy results to halt progress but now is the time for the battling troops to make even bigger names for themselves.

Led by our hat-trick hero, anything seems plausible!

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!

Let the countdown begin!

After an intense training camp, the Cobblers are back on English soil and now the countdown can well and truly begin for the start of the 2011/12 season. With only a month to go, the excitement has started to kick in and there’s even an impromptu friendly success to enjoy as we start counting down the days. The Cobblers eased through a match with local Croatian side Novigrad and hit them for six in a 6-1 win that was a reward for the hard graft put in over the week long training camp.

A key highlight of the match was Jake Robinson’s hat-trick and whilst it was, as we say every year, “only a friendly”, it doesn’t take away the relief of finally seeing his name on the Town score sheet again. Robinson struggled to get going under Gary Johnson and appeared to lose all sense of confidence in front of goal, failing to score all season in his maiden campaign in a Cobblers shirt. It was to his credit though that he picked himself up and promised to fight for his place in the face of new summer arrivals in attacking positions. This little cameo should do him the world of good.

There are some who think he should be on the way out but to me he’s still got something left to give. The few times I saw him last season he showed promise and you get the feeling that there’s a lot more to come. If we’re to be successful we need utility men like Robinson, who can play anywhere along the attacking line, and I don’t think we should be giving up on him just yet.

Elsewhere, only one trialist who made the trip to Croatia, Michael Hoganson, has been kept on for a longer period under the watchful eye of Aidy Boothroyd and his goal in the friendly win can’t have done his chances any harm at all.

There’s still a centre back to try and hunt down with that position the only one left to properly fill. If that has to be a loan then so be it but I would much prefer to see a season long deal take place than a short term one. An experience head with a knack for leadership are the essentials for anyone wanting to apply.

It’s all shaping up nicely with the first friendly back here set up for this Saturday as we visit Corby Town where there will be a reunion with their new boss, and Cobblers legend, Ian Sampson!