Steady Progress…

Richards...injury

Richards…injury

All in all, the last few days have seen plenty to cheer and a little to raise concerns for the Cobblers but gaining a point at a current promotion rival and getting through a tough away game in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to reach the Area Quarter Finals represents a very good return despite the pitfalls that came from both games.

The Wycombe fixture could easily have been won – Town were in decent control of the game a goal to the good at Adams Park but a ludicrous red card for Gregor Robertson waiting for a sub to be made set up what was the frantic finale resulting in the equaliser. We can’t obviously land all the blame on the referee – there was still a goal scored from a set piece that Chris Wilder won’t be too happy with – but the dismissal with five minutes to go was a real kick in the teeth.

That one felt like a defeat by the time 5 O’clock came around on Saturday but when you look at it off the back of the win at Morecambe a week earlier it represents a good little run, particularly after the third away game in a row at Portsmouth on Tuesday night.

Good news was again tied in with bad at Fratton Park with the Cobblers winning a competitive game 2-1 thanks to goals from David Moyo and Kaid Mohammed but Marc Richards pulling his hamstring, ruling him out for 4-6 weeks. There’s an argument that Rico shouldn’t have played in such a game as he returns from injury but I really don’t think you can lay the blame at the manager for wanting his top scorer back on the pitch.

Rico could easily have picked up the same injury in a league game or in training – it just so happened that it was in the JPT where we could have been excused for resting him. Fair play to Chris Wilder for getting him out there, though, and showing at least a little intent on winning through to within four games of Wembley (I can dream can’t I?!).

The other highlight was Alex Nicholls’ return to Cobblers competitive action. It seems like every time we mention Nicholls’ name it’s with the words “his first…” in front of the sentence. The player must just be happy with being back in action again and when all has settled we’ll hopefully have another huge asset on our hands. It wasn’t his night at Pompey with two good chances missed but he’ll surely find his feet again. That could be sooner rather than later with Rico’s injury.

Here’s the options for the Quarter Final draw to be made on Saturday: Cheltenham/Bristol City (play tonight), Leyton Orient, Gillingham, Coventry, Crawley, AFC Wimbledon or Plymouth. The old preference of “anyone at home” would do here I think, though a trip to Coventry would raise the profile of the game that’s probably one round ahead of the “We can actually win this” round.

Overall, then, good work from the Cobblers against two sides who are probably going to be up and around the promotion places in League Two and another huge battle is ahead on Saturday when third place Burton Albion visit a Sixfields Stadium celebrating fifteen years of existence. Speaking of which, the votes have been counted for your top moment of Sixfields’ history and you will be able to see the results in the upcoming ‘What A Load Of Cobblers’ fanzine or here on the blog early next week ahead of the official birthday on the 15th.

A solid “Keep it up” mark for term number one of the season…

Cup interest over as Town bow out of JPT

Northampton Town 0-3 Leyton Orient 

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Area Quarter Final

Wednesday, December 5th 2012

It was easy for many of us to say over the weekend that we weren’t interested in the FA Cup now that the Cobblers were out and revel in a ‘free weekend’ of inaction. But as the games started, the drama came thick and fast and I found myself longing for history to be rewritten and for Town to have actually won the penalty shoot-out at Bradford. That feeling was compounded by the atmosphere at the home of Saturday’s opponents Cheltenham Town on Monday night as they played out a tense draw with Hereford in front of the nation. I couldn’t help but feel utterly disappointed that we were out of the competition and quickly thought I should take back a tweet from just before the weekend where I mockingly said that the real place to be was in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy!

A few days later and the Cobblers are out of all cup competitions for another season, once again eliminated from everything before Christmas. There was a reasonable chance of Town reaching Wembley in the JPT so that made last night’s 3-0 defeat to League One Leyton Orient that bit more disappointing. I have a feeling that had we gone through we would have had a great shout of fighting past Oxford, Southend or Gary Johnson’s Yeovil for a place in the area final but it wasn’t to be.

Perhaps we expected too much having dumped out a string of League One opponents from this competition already. Orient, though, weren’t messing about and punished the Cobblers for missed opportunities to record their seventh straight win in all competitions. The fact that Aidy Boothroyd rested Town’s two key attacking presences in Bayo Akinfenwa and Chris Hackett from the start will grate on those who briefly dreamt of seeing the Cobblers at Wembley and it was one of their replacements, Louis Moult who could have put us in front going into half time.

As it was, Orient took control thanks to a controversial goal just before the hour mark. Emyr Huws was apparently fouled in the build-up but play went on and David Mooney finished off the move for 1-0. That was the turning point the visitors needed and Mooney made it two soon after with a header before a Michael Symes penalty compounded the misery and ended the tie as a contest with fifteen minutes to go.

That left the Cobblers to reflect on what might have been this weekend. After defeat to Oxford a couple of weeks ago it may actually have benefited us to play again and not have a long rest to wallow in it. We now must hope that the cobwebs have been swept away and that we’ll be firing on all cylinders again for a big game against Cheltenham on Saturday. Victory there would send a message to those above us that we’re not going away and would set us up nicely going into the festive fixture list.

While others play out cup competitions that we can only watch and dream about, we need League Two to become the place to make our names.

Town through as JPT revives hope

Ah, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – the paint pot, the tin pot, the reserves’ cup to give it some of the dismissive names that has been handed to the competition over the years. This year, however, the Cobblers have actually made it through a couple of rounds and what was a much maligned cup is now starting to get a little bit exciting even if it is just because the words ‘Area Quarter Final’ will be atop the next fixture.

For the past few years we haven’t had any sort of glory in the Football League Trophy under any of it’s previous guises with the most progress being made way back in 2004 when Tuesday nights opponents Colchester United, inspired by future Cobbler Scott McGleish scoring a hat-trick, came from two down at Sixfields in the Area Semi Final to win 3-2 in dramatic style after an Ian Sampson red card and extra time.

Two seasons later and Colchester were at it again, once more knocking us out 3-2 in extra time but this time on their own turf. Since then it’s been a sorry story for Town whose best effort was a Area Quarter Final defeat at MK Dons.

But after a second League One scalp of the season there’s one game separating ourselves from a best run in this cup since that night in 2004. Win through the next round and maybe, just maybe, we can start to treat this like a positive competition and not League One and Two’s version of what the League Cup means to the ‘big boys’ of the Premier League.

Colchester seemed well on course for a hat-trick of wins against us in the trophy when Freddy Sears volleyed them in front in the first half and coupled with a strong showing performance wise the safe money was on them progressing.

But the Cobblers hit back in two frantic second half minutes with Kemar Roofe doing a lot of the damage. First, the West Brom loanee won a penalty that Bayo Alinfenwa duly converted and then set up Henoc Mukendi for his first senior goal with a glancing header in front of the North Stand.

Clinton Morrison’s late red card meant that the visitors would be left with ten men for the seconds that remained and it may already have been too late for them. The Cobblers, then, into the hat for Saturday’s Southern Area Quarter Finals draw where we will face either Torquay/Yeovil (their game was postponed on Tuesday), Brentford, Oxford, Wycombe, Leyton Orient, Southend or Plymouth. Aidy Boothroyd has already said he will have a go at winning it and with another favourable home draw in the next round you never know.

I’ll save any real excitement until that point though. Gary Johnson reunion, anyone?!

In other bits coming from the match, Shane Higgs started but didn’t finish his first match back after coming off in the first half. He’ll be out for another couple of weeks which is obviously a set back for the keeper.

Then yesterday the mini midfield crisis that has ht the centre of the park over the last few weeks was partly solved by the temporary signing of Emyr Huws, the captain of Manchester City’s Under 21s side and a fine prospect if reports a anything to go by. He should go straight into the side for Exeter’s visit on Saturday. Preview to come for that one soon.

So we’re starting to get things back on track results wise and player wise with Danny East perhaps even making it back for Saturday as well. With the rot stopped in the cup, fingers crossed for some even better progress against the Grecians at Sixfields!

Until then, we await the draw for the next stage of the JPT and hope for the best. Just don’t start your Wem-ber-ley songs just yet…