Boing Boing…

efl-cup-royal-box-16x9304-3149267_1600x900It’s often said that a week is a long time in football – in the Cobblers’ case right now, a few days is all it’s taken to go from relative despair (compared to last season’s antics) to absolute joy and to the setting up of a massive cup tie.

After Saturday’s lacklustre and concerning 0-0 draw with AFC Wimbledon that threw up a whole lot more questions than answers came a cracker of a night on Tuesday night with West Bromwich Albion sent packing as the latest casualty of Town’s early round heroics in the League Cup. Two opposing atmospheres and outlooks you could not have found within the space of four days. Then, to top it all off, Wednesday night’s Third Round draw paired us up with some team called Manchester United who could potentially bring world superstars – and who will definitely bring a managerial superstar – to Sixfields in front of the TV cameras in mid-September.

If you could have summed up Northampton Town in a week, this would be pretty close to being the perfect way to do it. The Wimbledon game was painful in its drabness and sent Town fans home crying out even louder for a front man to lend a hand to Alex Revell, who has hit the ground running (and running) for the most part. I’m convinced that all is not lost with Marc Richards but as a week in, week out striker he’s not the answer for the long term.

Neither is Monday’s signing JJ Hooper – a six month loan from Port Vale – if you base any of your analysis of the striker on his past incarnation in the claret and white. Hooper left Sixfields in 2014 with just three appearances under his belt and after a stint in non-league was signed by Page at Vale Park last year. He caught a few eyes – not least those back here who’d assumed that he’d disappeared into the footballing abyss with Courtney Herbert – with three goals in five games in April but his overall record for Vale of 5 in 31 games doesn’t fill you with massive confidence. Page, though, surely knows what he’s getting and the trust is still fresh from the stands that the Cobblers chief has things under control.

After the Wimbledon draw, then, Tuesday night came even more out of leftfield. Big Zander Diamond showed his worth from set plays and Revell again showed fantastic striker’s instincts to take us to extra time against a side comprising plenty of the team that were beaten by Everton a few days previous. Extra time passed without incident and it was written that we would once again come through against a higher division opponent thanks to a shootout victory that saw Saido Berahino sky his kick into the Northampton night sky and James Morrison seeing his kick saved  by Adam Smith. Kenji Gorre, who is slowly showing more confidence, slotted in to seal it and give us some early season excitement with the men from Old Trafford coming to town.

Until then, though, all focus has to be on getting off the mark in the league – four draws is only a good return if we follow it up with points in threes. The trip to struggling Coventry City on Saturday gives us a chance to have a go away from home again against a theoretically bigger club and hopefully that can work in our favour.

Once again, the Cobblers are keeping us well on our toes!

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The list grows again!

Capital-One-Cup-1-1It feels as though more should be made of the Cobblers’ recent exploits in the League Cup. It’s becoming an annual tradition to come up against a higher league opponent and knock them for six in this competition and though we never seem to go on to a monumental and historical run in the cup this early humbling of a ‘giant’ is getting more and more regular.

Blackpool, admittedly, don’t fall in the same class as the likes of the Bolton, Reading, Ipswich, Wolves and Liverpool teams of past campaigns but it’s still a notable scalp especially with a 3-0 score line that illustrates both the disappointing demise of the Tangerines and the solid base of a Cobblers squad that Chris Wilder has put together.

Apart from the back four, that was unchanged from Saturday, there were changes across the pitch with Ryan Clarke staking his first official claim for the keeper’s jersey and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sam Hoskins given their first chance to shine in competitive action. Also included was Chris Hackett, and the winger did exactly what fellow transfer listed midfield John-Joe O’Toole did on Saturday by scoring the opening goal, no doubt giving Wilder more to think about.

In a stunning spell of ten minutes, Town went 3-0 up and all but ended the game as a contest by the half hour mark. Calvert-Lewin cleverly turned and shot into the corner for the second and Hoskins’ tenacity and will power gave him the Cobblers’ third as the striker battled his way through and finished left footed at the second attempt.

There could well have been more as well with Ryan Cresswell firing over when well positioned in the second half and Calvert-Lewin doing well to force another chance for himself that was saved by Tangerines keeper Kyle Letheren.

Blackpool were limited to a couple of good chances that they would have converted with a more ruthless front line. We’ll arguably come up against plenty more effective and trickier attacks back in League Two and anyone with a bit of pace could hurt us at the back but there seems to be a real fluidity to how we’re going forwards so far this season.

The new signings have bedded in well and early with the old heads giving us a good balance. You can’t get too carried away by two wins but from what I’ve seen so far highlights wise there’s a lot to be positive about as we head into another busy few days.

The Second Round draw takes place on Thursday evening so we wait to see what sort of reward we’ll get for this latest League Cup success story.

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Exeter City come to town on Saturday afternoon looking to build on their own terrific start to the season. The Grecians saw off relegated Yeovil 3-2 last week and then impressively won away 2-1 at League One promotion hopefuls Swindon Town on Tuesday night. That win at the County Ground saw former Cobbler Alex Nicholls net a top drawer opening goal and he’ll be desperate to impress once again in his first game back at Sixfields since leaving the Cobblers last season.

Speaking of ex Cobblers, check out former loanee Kemar Roofe’s strike at Brentford on Tuesday night during the U’s 4-0 hammering of the Bees. Goal of the cup candidate already…

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.

Cardiff kick off next season!

Today’s League Cup draw saw the Cobblers drawn out with last year’s finalists Cardiff City in the First Round with the game due to be the curtain raiser for next season. The Bluebirds were beaten on penalties in last season’s final and will provide a tough opener to the 2012/13 season having also reached the Championship playoffs in May.

There’s an age old history between the clubs with the famous playoff success in ’97 rolling through the old Ninian Park en route to a memorable Sixfields win and a Wembley final success. There have been no meetings between the clubs since both were in League One back in the 2002/03 season which saw both clubs win on each other’s grounds. The only other time we’ve met in the League Cup also came in the ’97 promotion season so hopefully there’s some sort of omen there!

I like the idea and am glad of a home draw this time around. With the game coming, unusually, before the league season starts it’s a chance for Aidy Boothroyd to put together the side he wants for the league opener a few days later and one in which his side will have no pressure on going into it. Cardiff are a top Championship outfit but maybe the inconvenience of travelling a long way on a Tuesday night before the season starts could have a negative effect on them.

All in all I welcome it…it may be treated as a glorified friendly match but it could have been a lot worse from some of the potential opposition that were on the list. Bring it on! And now for Monday’s league fixtures announcement…

First checkpoint of the summer!

It’s mid-June and as we sit through another temperamental British Summer of transfer news and rumours it’s good to get to a checkpoint. The first one of these comes in the form of the League Cup First Round draw which takes place tomorrow morning. The Cobblers, along with all teams from Leagues 1 and 2 and most of the Championship line-up for next season, will go into the hat and this season we find ourselves in the Southern Section part of the draw. The seeding system is back for the First Round so there’s a chance that we will pull out the likes of local rivals Peterborough United, MK Dons, Coventry or Leicester as well as potentially mixing it up with Birmingham, Cardiff or Wolves.

With nineteen possible opponents, it should be an interesting draw again given our record in the past two seasons. Below is the list of both North and South sand non seedings to give you an idea of who we could face!

North – Seeded

1. Barnsley
2. Blackpool
3. Burnley
4. Carlisle United
5. Derby County
6. Doncaster Rovers
7. Hartlepool United
8. Huddersfield Town
9. Hull City
10 .Leeds United
11. Middlesbrough
12. Nottingham Forest
13. Notts County
14. Sheffield United
15. Sheffield Wednesday
16. Tranmere Rovers

North – Unseeded

1. Accrington Stanley
2. Bradford City
3. Burton Albion
4. Bury
5. Chesterfield
6. Crewe Alexandra
7. Fleetwood Town
8. Morecambe
9. Oldham Athletic
10 .Port Vale
11. Preston North End
12. Rochdale
13. Rotherham United
14. Scunthorpe United
15. Shrewsbury Town
16. York City

South – Seeded

1. AFC Bournemouth
2. Birmingham City
3. Brentford
4. Brighton & Hove Albion
5. Bristol City
6. Cardiff City
7. Charlton Athletic
8. Colchester United
9. Coventry City
10 .Crystal Palace
11. Ipswich Town
12. Leicester City
13. Millwall
14. Milton Keynes Dons
15. Peterborough United
16. Portsmouth
17. Stevenage
18. Watford
19. Wolverhampton Wanderers

South – Unseeded

1. AFC Wimbledon
2. Aldershot Town
3. Barnet
4. Bristol Rovers
5. Cheltenham Town
6. Crawley Town
7. Dagenham & Redbridge
8. Exeter City
9. Gillingham
10 .Leyton Orient
11. Northampton Town
12. Oxford United
13. Plymouth Argyle
14. Southend United
15. Swindon Town
16. Torquay United
17. Walsall
18. Wycombe Wanderers
19. Yeovil Town