The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: November

As the Cobblers entered November 2017 off the back of a good run of seven points from three games following a shocker of a double home defeat there was fresh optimism in the air at Sixfields as the FA Cup First Round rolled in. High flying Scunthorpe United came to town and in a rough and ready battle took the game back to Glanford Park for a replay after a 0-0 draw that didn’t really satisfy either side.

Scunny would be regular foes in November with Town eventually facing them three times in a matter of weeks in league and cup.

First up, though, was the Checkatrade Trophy and a bizarre run in the competition continued. With Southampton’s Under 21s (don’t get me started!) 3-0 up at Sixfields and Town doing their upmost to go out of the much maligned trophy we instead chose this night to produce the best comeback of the season. In front of 1,118 people. And it featured a wonder goal. If that’s not all typical Cobblers then I don’t know what is! The comeback, thanks to Sam Foley, Lewis McGugan’s rocket and Ash Taylor meant that for a third tie in a row we were facing penalties. A 4-2 shootout win later and Town were through to the knockout stage having not won once in three group games during ninety minutes. Next, please.

While that result didn’t exactly get the pluses racing, a few days later the Cobblers produced one of the few moments in the season that will be remembered, at old foes Oxford United. Taylor put us in front before Wes Thomas equalised just before half-time. But seconds later, Chris Long was racing through on goal, beating defenders to the final touch and finishing with aplomb in front of the Kassam car park. Over 1,000 Town fans were in attendance that day – hilariously a larger number in total than the entire attendance for the Checkatrade Trophy game a few days earlier – and we held on for a big three points and yet another win at Oxford, a third in a row at the home of the U’s.

Games were coming thick and fast and the cup replay against Scunthorpe was up next and with a mouthwatering second round tie away at Doncaster Rovers to play for, the home side nicked it thanks to the impressive Hakeeb Adelakun’s worldy.

There was to be no repeat of that as part three of the Cobblers-Scunny trilogy played out that Saturday. Oh no, we wouldn’t let them sneak it by a single goal this time. Indeed not…we lost 3-0 instead and clouds began to circle once more.

Going into the clash at Plymouth Argyle, Town were four points ahead of the Pilgrims so it represented a good chance to create a bit of distance between ourselves but it was the home side that kick started their own season instead, winning 2-0 thanks to a Sonny Bradley brace. Argyle would, of course, go on to finish just outside of the playoff places thanks to an almighty run in the second half of the campaign.

Another side right in the thick of it were Bury who were at Sixfields for the final game of the month and November ended just as it had begun, with a goalless draw that left both of us deep in the mire. Unlike Plymouth, though, neither the Shakers or ourselves would really get out of danger again all season.

Twitter Said:

@dannybrothers 16/02/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 26/12/16 – Oxford 0-1 Cobblers, 11/11/17 – Oxford 1-2 Cobblers

Cheers lads! #oufc #ntfc

@James_ChronNTFCFT: Cobblers 0-3 Scunthorpe. Horror second-half. #ntfc back in the bottom four and now have a huge two games coming up.

Moment of the Month:

Has to be the win at Oxford. One of the few highlights of the season.

Player of the Month: Marc Richards was given the official award but Ash Taylor can’t have been too far behind once again.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: A bleak midwinter, another pummeling and not even a penalty shootout win!

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The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: October

It’s October! Welcome to the cold, dark nights, the season well and truly settling in and the Hasselbaink era’s early promise beginning to drift into a realisation that we actually won’t be storming up the table and suddenly bothering the playoffs.

 

Still, there was always the Checkatrade Trophy to pin our hopes on…even Justin Edinburgh claimed a win in this tin pot of a competition, remember. So it was that thousands 151 Cobblers fans packed settled in to London Road for a Tuesday night derby to remember pretend that we could actually beat these buggers from up the road. The fact that we didn’t even score our goal and didn’t win the game but still came away with double points again highlights the ridiculous nature of this competition. A 1-1 draw for the record with Jack Baldwin feeling sorry for us and slotting in our equaliser with an own goal to send the game to penalties. Another ABBA style shootout win meant that we somehow had four points from the group with Billy Waters slotting in the winning kick.

A home league game with Bristol Rovers followed and after a couple of tricky away trips this was the ideal chance to get back on track in the league. As everyone in attendance that day found out, though, ideal chances and the Cobblers don’t go well together. The first half was a smoke screen to the outrageous second as former Cobbler Billy Bodin (of course) opened the scoring for the Gas but Tom Nichols saw a spot kick saved by Matt Ingram and that should have been the spark for a recovery after the break. Not quite. Rovers scored five more times in a collapse reminiscent of THAT Shrewsbury home game (2-7) and Jimmy was left as bewildered as the rest of us.

That disaster made the following weekends’ 1-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon look like progress in comparison but the sinking feeling was already starting to set in for a Cobblers faithful hopeful that the corner had been turned in early September.

Getting away from Sixfields for a couple of weeks looked like a handy turn by the fixtures computer and so it turned out. First, in a dramatic game at Spotland, Rochdale’s Ian Henderson scored twice either side of a penalty miss and it looked like another down and out showing. But from nowhere, Ash Taylor and, even more incredibly, David Buchanan brought us level. In one of those Sliding Doors moments from the season, Town then won a penalty of their own and had the chance to take home an improbably three points but Joh-Joe missed it and the points were shared after an exhausting night’s work.

On to Gillingham and a couple of stunning goals gave the Cobblers a much needed win. Daniel Powell’s strike on the stroke of half time ended up winning the club’s goal of the season award but Matt Grimes’ winner, following Lee Martin’s goal for the hosts, wasn’t bad either.

After all that excitement on the road it was back to Sixfields to close off the month with a second win in succession with Sam Hoskins scoring the winner against Blackpool. So another rut overcome, another mini revival and we’re once again ready for Jimmy to kick on and take us away from danger. Right?

At the end of the month, Town were in 21st but level on points with AFC Wimbledon outside the bottom four. Considering the thrashing by Bristol Rovers and the defeat to the Wombles it wasn’t too bad an outlook. Plus, bottom club Plymouth Argyle were looking doomed already and were four points behind us heading into November.

Twitter Said:

EASISERV.com‏: #ntfc urgently need to start winning . . .  happily got #TheGas next-up, we usually beat them!

@alfie_ntfc: Daniel. Powell. Has. Just. Scored. A. Goal.

@James_ChronNTFC FT: Cobblers 1-0 Blackpool. Gritty, hard-fought and deserved victory. Sam Hoskins with the winning goal #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

The double power strike from Powell and Grimes to snatch the points at Gillingham.

Player of the Month: David Buchanan won the official award after his rare goal at Rochdale.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Mixed bag in the cups, a big win at the Kassam but Town still stuttering.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: September

Greetings, one and all, and welcome to September 2017. The Cobblers were reeling from four straight league defeats but a saviour was at hand. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, he of International recognition from his time at Chelsea as a marauding striker, dropped back to League One having taken unfancied Burton Albion to the brink of The Championship before an indifferent spell with QPR. What could possibly go wrong? We wish we’d never asked…

Things started well enough with a bold new era beginning with a goal in the first 20 seconds of Jimmy’s reign in a 1-0 home win over Doncaster Rovers. Matt Ingram, fresh from keeping goal for QPR against Town in August, was loaned in and kept a clean sheet as we finally felt that winning feeling once again. Many didn’t know what to do. Hundreds paused in their seats, Bovril in hand not able to believe what had happened. Clarence the Dragon fainted. Jeema stopped moaning for thirty whole seconds. Quite the scenes.

The new manager bounce became a full on trampoline session a few days later with the visit of Portsmouth, who were also disposed of as if August hadn’t event existed. Chris Long’s brace and another from Crooks had us looking up the table rather than down it for the first time and Jimmy was hailed as the latest messiah. He, was of course, just a very naughty boy.

Next up was a trip to sunny cold Southend and Jimmy was in dreamland as Leon Barnett and Crooks gave his new charges a 2-0 lead. The second half at Roots Hall, though, turned a tide in the game and the season from which we never fully recovered again. Two goals in three minutes at the start of the second half salvaged a point for the Shrimpers and exposed a soft centre within the Cobblers that many would pick up on over the coming months. To make matters worse, Crooks was sent off in stoppage time. Even then, seven points from a possible nine was a cracking start to the Hasselbaink era.

A trip to heavy favourites Wigan Athletic was never likely to amount to much and inevitably Michael Jacobs scored the only goal of the game to condemn Jimmy to his first defeat (of many, as it turns out!) as Town boss.

Our old friends Bradford City came to town and did the same, winning 1-0 thanks to Tony McMahon’s solitary strike and while the bubble hadn’t completely burst, a small child was definitely edging towards it with a pin.

More than 2,500 Cobblers fans converged on Stadium: MK for a Tuesday night 0-0 draw that did little to warm anyone’s cockles though Raheem Hanley got a rare start in a Town shirt and future Town loanee Gabor Aryibi turned out for the plastic population.

September came to a close with a trip to Rotherham United and another shaky display ended with a third 1-0 defeat of the month. The goal was scored by Kieffer Moore who would end the season in the Championship with Barnsley.

So a hectic start to Hasselbaink’s reign with two wins, two draws and three defeats leaving us almost back where we started and in huge need of something to lift the already dwindling spirits. The good news was that the Checkatrade Trophy was just around the corner again…

Twitter Said:

@jf9hasselbaink: Honoured that the board, owners and chairman at @ntfc placed so much faith in me. Together we can get this campaign up and running #ntfc

@StatsChristian: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the first #Northampton manager to win his opening game in charge since Kevin Wilson in Nov 1999

@javerill14: The fourth official is coming on for the linesman in the first substitution of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s #NTFC career…

Moment of the Month:

That opening goal of the Hasselbaink era after 21 seconds – things didn’t get a whole lot better after that!

Player of the Month: Ash Taylor, for the second successive month.

Song for the Month:

Coming up: More penalty shootout joy, THAT Bristol Rovers game and another mini revival.

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18

With the 2017/18 season likely to go down in folklore for all the wrong reasons, today begins my alternative look at the season past. Instead of a simple run down of the horrors that were playing football matches in claret and white shirts over the past nine months, I’ve tried to pick out some hidden gems of happiness and quirky gems to cling on to so that when we look back on it in a few years we don’t just remember Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s doggy whistle and mind boggling tactics.

So here goes…strap yourself in, this could get nasty…

 

Part 1: August

Another summer, another build up full hope. Pre-season under Justin Edinburgh had been the usual humdrum including hammering Sileby to get our juices flowing (when will we ever learn?!), winning 4-0 at Frome Town in a game where I named Billy Waters as the one to watch this season (when will I ever learn?!) and conspiring to lose the much sought after Maunsell Cup at Kettering (on penalties). Defeating Edinburgh’s old charges Newport County at Sixfields was hardly a send-off to the season worthy of kings but Chris Long’s winner was decent enough to put the Burnley loan man in the spotlight.

Down to the real business then, and a sunny trip to Shrewsbury to really get things going. You know, Shrewsbury, the team that had finished 18th in League One the season before and only just avoided the drop. A chance to get off the mark then? Well, not quite – Lennell ‘his name is a shop’ John-Lewis won it for the Shrews in stoppage time. Ah well, surely the hosts wouldn’t keep that up for much longer, right?

Incidentally, the Cobblers squad that day included seven players and one manager who would either leave or be loaned out by the end of the season.

On to the Carabao Cup – the League Cup taken over by the erm, well known, energy drink. Future Cobblers loanee Matt Ingram took the gloves for QPR that evening as the Championship side edged us out by the single goal, scored by Yeni Ngbakoto who would end the season back in his native France playing for Guingamp. The memory of scoring that winner against the Cobblers in front of 4,317 League Cup devotes, though, must surely rank up there amongst his season and career highlights.

Back to the old bread and butter (slang for ‘we messed up the cup already’) and a third straight 1-0 defeat was inflicted by Fleetwood Town, this time in the opening home game of the season. It would all be OK though, the Cod Army would DEFINITELY be among the league’s front runners come the end of the season so chalk this one up to a tough fixture.

A trip to Charlton was exactly what we didn’t need but the run of 1-0 defeats was ended at least…as Town seamlessly moved on to a 4-1 hammering instead. Of course, Ricky Holmes scored for the Addicks and despite Marc Richards scoring our first goal of the season, Jake Forster-Caskey ridiculously scored twice in injury time to finish the Cobblers off.

With Edinburgh under increased pressure, it was time for a home game with Peterborough United – even this early in the season, this had all the feel of a do or die game for the boss and a second 4-1 reverse was too much for anyone to take.

In an odd, “it’s Bank Holiday so we can’t sack him” move, Edinburgh somehow clung on to his job through the Checkatrade Trophy game with Cambridge United on the Tuesday night. In a fitting turn of events, Town chose the most ridiculous  competition of them all to record a ‘win’ for the first time in the season and even more appropriately we ‘won’ by winning an ABBA style penalty shoot out to take two points instead of one from the game. The winner, kind of, took it all. If anything summed up the desperate need to say that we’d done something good, this game was it.

Edinburgh managed to come out for a post-match interview and produce a Best Supporting Role nomination inspired acting piece to pretend that he’d still be around come the game against Doncaster Rovers in ten days’ time. He was gone by the Thursday and the Cobblers would once again be on the lookout for a new manager.

Twitter Said:

@Fredorrarci – Edinburgh sacked by Northampton? I didn’t even know they were at war.

‏@HenryCollier10 – Justin Edinburgh sacked by #NTFC he’s had an appalling 12 months. This time last year Aaron Villa were rumoured to be after him. #Gills

@HeavyDale – No surprise at Edinburgh getting sacked by Northampton. Signing of Yasir Kasim can’t have helped.

Moment of the Month

Pretending that we’d won something by not actually winning…

Player of the Month

Ash Taylor picked up the official award. Sign of things to come.

Song for the Month

Coming up in September

Jimmy the Saviour?! Plus, some of those ‘point’ things on the board.

The record goes but the spirit remains…

jjotThe Cobblers’ long 31 game unbeaten record may have been put to the sword a couple of weeks ago at Chesterfield but what was evident during the following glamour tie with Manchester United, in the 4-0 hammering of Southend United and at Swindon last night is that the spirit that took them to that point is still very much alive and well.

Rob Page continues to mould a team that’s organised, together and able to play in a number of different ways, all equalling a start to the season that none of us could have honestly predicted back in August.

Last night at the County Ground, Town needed to come at the game differently and did just that by producing one of the most composed performances of the season so far. Pressure had to be soaked up, individual duals had to be won and chances had to be taken when they came around. All three tests were passed with flying colours and the first league win of the season was brilliantly acheived.

Town were set up to soak up the possession based style brought in by Swindon boss Luke Williams over the last few months and had to endure long periods of the Robins having the ball, quickly picking them off and breaking whenever we had the chance. The first of these moments came when Paul Anderson was given the ball on the left and he produced a sublime piece of skill to beat his man, cut in and cross for Harry Beautyman – a reported summer target for Swindon – to tap home early on.

That gave us a platform to build on and the home side had to come out and it left gaps in their line up to exploit. For the most part, though, Town had plenty of defending to do and Jonathon Obika forced Adam Smith into his first bit of work of the evening before a scramble of epic proportions saw Smith make a fine double save and then the Cobblers defence blocked a couple of rebounds that looked destined to nestle into the net.

Obika had another chance just before the break but fired over the bar when sent through on goal and it seemed like the luck was with us with a much needed half-time whistle to settle the nerves and give us a chance to recuperate.

There was more of the same to come, though, and it was no real surprise when the Robins equalised on the hour mark when substitute Sean Murray fired home from distance. It seemed that we would be hanging on for a point until Page changed things up with Kenji Gorre and JJ Hooper summoned from the bench. Fair play to the Cobblers boss for making positive changes and not just shutting up shop and trying to hold out for a point…it would end up working superbly in his favour.

There was fifteen minutes to go when we won a corner on the right and Matty Taylor produced a trademark set piece that John-Joe O’Toole met with a majestic header to send the 400 or so travelling support wild. It was out of the blue but encapsulated the heart of this Cobblers side. O’Toole’s cult status is rising by the week and that it was he who nodded in made it that bit more special.

A dangerous looking Swindon free kick came and went just a couple of minutes later and it was the Cobblers who sealed the win thanks to a fantastic breakaway goal. There may well have been a foul in the build-up on the half way line but you have to play to the whistle and Hooper did exactly that, picking the ball up, running with it and sending in a cross that Alex Revell dummied for Gorre to meet with a controlled finish that put the cherry on top of a terrific battling performance.

Gorre is growing in confidence and needed that goal more than most in this Cobblers side – there’s definitely a raw talent in there and the end product will hopefully come. Page probably did the best thing in taking him out of the immediate firing line of the starting eleven and his place as an impact substitute could be just what he needs right now.

All in all a perfect away performance from the Cobblers and we’re now, incredibly, up to fourth in League One. The ten game marker has been laid down and a record of four wins, five draws and just that one defeat is a magnificent return. We’ve responded to the first league defeat of 2016 in style and it sets us up for a very interesting autumn.

There’s still nothing in League One that I’ve seen to worry us and Page seems to have retained some of the best qualities of last season’s championship winning squad even though some of the key personnel moved on.

We’re only just getting started and Northampton Town are still riding this ridiculous wave of positivity. League One, you have been warned…

stfc

Identity coming through for Page’s Cobblers

revellAfter a collection of draws that clouded the view of the opening month of this season, the Cobblers are up and running and suddenly the questions that were asked about this new look squad are being answered with back to back home wins that give us a bit of space to breath. Rob Page has begun to stamp his identity on the squad and the results are a hardworking, resilient and gutsy outfit that could well start to make League One stand up and take notice.

The spotlight has well and truly been on the club ever since the League Cup win over West Bromwich Albion and the subsequent draw that saw us paired with some jokers from Old Trafford. The televised game against MK Dons shone the spotlight further ahead of that tie but, more importantly in the long term, gave us a platform on the pitch that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Storming into that three goal lead against Milton Keynes was as unexpected as it was desperately needed with a formerly reserved Town side coming to life. It stunned the visitors and the season was ignited with an ease that made you wonder what all the fuss was about from the end of the transfer window when just one deadline day deal made us collectively mop our brows for the coming months. Nerves were jangling and a sense of “Here we go” crept in when Dons made it 3-1 too easily before the break but I thought we managed the game superbly in the second half and Samir Curruthers’ late strike for 3-2 didn’t do too much damage to morale as that first win of the season was gratefully tied up.

After that came a much needed week of rest – it had been a relentless opening month of games every few days – and Page would have been delighted to get a full midweek to gather his thoughts ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Walsall, where the good work was continued.

The Saddlers were surprisingly toothless after a 2015/16 season that saw them come so close to automatic promotion. Town came out of the blocks with confidence once again and Matty Taylor’s second goal in two games was almost a carbon copy of the one he provided for Alex Revell six days earlier. A few missed chances later, though, and we were left with worries of the early season form that saw us throw away 1-0 leads three times.

This time, though, lessons were learned and the second half saw the Cobblers become the more likely to add to the score and when Scott Laird handled ten minutes from time, Revell was clinical from the spot and that was well and truly that for another huge three points that came about much more comfortably than it could have done.

Revell is the man of the moment and his energy has been absolutely remarkable for a thirty three year old who was thought of as more of a provider of goals when he came in during the summer. He certainly is that but he’s also a warrior that epitomises what Page is trying to do here. Not since the likes of Neil Grayson and Scott McGleish have I seen someone leading the line with this much desire and will to win and that is extremely high praise. Revell is someone who Cobblers fans will quickly grow to love – he’ll get people off their seats, not for particular skill or turn of pace but for the effort and heart he puts in to each and every game.

It’s starting to rub off on the rest of the team as well – Lewin Nyatanga has taken his chance in the absence of Gabriel Zakuani whilst Jak McCourt is doing plenty of unnoticed work in midfield, keeping out player of the year John-Joe O’Toole who was available after suspension yesterday. Matty Taylor could also be set to become this seasons’ Ian Taylor in the veteran midfield role.

All in all we’re really starting to fire and now the challenge is consistency and to take this swashbuckling type of performance on the road with the trip to Chesterfield next week another big test of the now 31 game unbeaten league run (we can start to count these games now we’re winning rather than drawing!)

Rob Page has quietly gone about his job but many more results and performances like these two and the Cobblers may yet start to make a lot more noise in League One than any of us had imagined.

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!