Kitson’s debut heroics earns big point for Cobblers

Crewe Alexandra 1-1 Northampton Town

A few days ago there was a mild feeling of panic around Cobblers HQ when Matt Duke was recalled to Bradford following their post-match brawl with Crawley that resulted in the sending off of their first choice keeper. Only Neal Kitson, a rookie with no previous experience in English football, and Freddy Hall, with only a handful of starts behind him, remained and the questions were being bandied about as to how much the situation would affect the run-in.

By 5pm yesterday we had our answer. Kitson was outstanding on his debut and had already made his mark on the game at Crewe even before a stoppage time penalty was awarded to the home side, threatening to rob us of a hard earned point from one of the toughest places to go in League Two. When Danny Shelley stepped up to win it for the Railwaymen we thought it was all over but Kitson stood firm and pulled off a tremendous save, pushing the ball onto the cross bar and salvaging that most crucial of points. Thanks to defeats for both Macclesfield and Hereford, the current bottom two in the league, anything we picked up at Gresty Road was a positive particularly given their playoff ambitions and having staved off a shaky start it was an excellent point.

Crewe had earlier stormed into the lead with the intent on continuing a fine run of form and had the Cobblers chasing shadows before eventually going in front through Luke Murphy. At that stage it was looking like a long afternoon for Aidy Boothroyd’s men but having kept the score to 1-0 at the break and having finished strongly there was always a chance of a fight back.

Michael Jacobs and Clarke Carlisle both went close before Bayo Akinfenwa marked his return to the starting line-up with a well taken equaliser on the hour mark, racing on to a through ball from Toni Silva.

Crewe were inevitably going to come back at us but holding firm were John Johnson, with a good late block on the impressive Nick Powell, and Kitson, saving well from loanee Billy Bodin. Having soaked up all that pressure it looked safe until that stoppage time penalty when the game appeared to be slipping away.

But thanks to a new hero between the sticks, the goalkeeping situation sorted itself out in one stunning moment in a debut that Neal Kitson will never forget.

With a tough Easter ahead there are no guarantees of safety just yet but it’s unquestionably getting ever nearer to being confirmed. Now all that’s left to do is get over that finish line!

Bayo heroics continue with another big three points…

Bayo - Could return

Northampton Town 3-1 Aldershot Town

‘Ole’ football at Sixfields? Was this really happening? With about fifteen minutes to play of yesterday’s game with Aldershot Town, a club who until last Tuesday were in one of their strongest runs of form in history, as the Cobblers sprayed passes around Sixfields there were numerous ‘oles’ going up as the claret faithful finally were able to enjoy a closing part of a match. This week there were no fight backs, no heart in mouth action at the wrong end of the pitch and no heads in hands as another lead looked in danger.

Instead there was a bizarre sense of calm, of celebration and finally of relief as the Cobblers jumped out of the bottom two and moved two points clear of the drop zone, now inhabited by Plymouth Argyle and, Tuesday’s opponents in a massive encounter, Dagenham and Redbridge. We head to the capital in a couple of days’ time with renewed swagger and confidence for, despite that home defeat to Port Vale a couple of weeks ago, Town have picked up thirteen points from a possible eighteen in the last six games. Relegation form it most certainly is not.

Despite all the talk before this game of Luke Guttridge’s ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with Aldershot boss Dean Holdsworth there was never really a lot of doubt that the midfielder would play and the headlines were almost writing themselves in the first few minutes when he latched onto a knock down from Bayo Akinfenwa to strike just wide. But from then on it was a sub text that was completely forgotten about as the Cobblers took control and were storming into yet another half time lead.

First it was Kelvin Langmead adding to his recent upsurge in form as he latched on to a long throw from Ben Tozer to smash us in front on the twenty minute mark with a controlled volley at the far post. Then, before the break it was another long throw that led to Bayo Akinfenwa nodding in to make it five games running in which he’s found the net. After spending time on the side-lines in early 2012, Bayo has come back in remarkable fashion to rise to second top scorer in the league following this game.

The big man made it to sixteen goals, one behind current top scorer Izale McLeod of Barnet, by netting a second half penalty after Michael Jacobs was brought down and was then removed in preparation for Tuesday huge game.

Aldershot were done and we could arguably have added more. It was refreshing to be sat comfortably after the last couple of games and despite a late goal from Danny Hylton there were no nerves on the way to the collection of these three massive points in the fight for survival.

Dagenham’s defeat at Wimbledon coupled with Plymouth’s single goal loss at Rotherham means that the Cobblers are out of the bottom two ahead of Tuesday’s six pointer. The game is one of our games in hand of course and it’s a chance to extend the gap between ourselves and danger. The Daggers should be well up for it as well and there’s likely to be an intense atmosphere at Victoria Road.

It’s not going to be the be all and end all of the season of course but it could go a long, long way to determining whether the Cobblers will be fighting this battle to the very end of the season or whether there is actually a route out before the bottoms begin to squeak…