Looking back on the season that’s taken us from a League Cup win over Championship title winners Cardiff City all the way to Wembley Stadium for the playoff final, there’s plenty of key moments that make you wonder what would have happened had we not got the result, had the odd goal gone the other way or had Kelvin Langmead not been around!
So here’s my look back on ten games that went a long way in getting us all excited about our trip to the national stadium this Saturday…
18/09/12: Dagenham and Redbridge 0-1 Cobblers
The first of very few away wins this season but a vitally important one that saw the Cobblers climb to brink of the top seven. It was a cold September evening in Dagenham but one which Town edged by the single goal, a thumping header from Bayo Akinfenwa in the second half. This was the third season in a row that we had come away from Dagenham with a 1-0 win under our belts.
27/10/12: Cobblers 2-0 Port Vale
The incident involving Alex Nicholls will forever overshadow the result in this match with the striker, hot off some terrific early season form in his first season in claret, clattered by Vale defender John McCombe who saw red for the challenge just as Nicholls put the ball into an empty net for the opening goal of the game. Some visiting fans royally let their club down by screaming obscenities at Nicholls as he lay on the ground in agony and even as he was being wheeled away into an ambulance that had to drive onto the Sixfields pitch. That moment seemed to spark Nicholls’ team mates, though, and Louis Moult sealed a fine win with the second goal from good hold up play by Bayo.
10/11/12: Accrington Stanley 2-4 Cobblers
A superb hat-trick from Bayo lifted the Cobblers into the top half of the table. After an early header from a Joe Widdowson cross by the big man, George Miller had Stanley level. Rommy Boco made it 2-1 to the hosts but mid-way through the second half the game completely turned on its head when substitute Jake Robinson equalised before Bayo took complete control, scoring twice in the last twenty minutes (the last a thumping header) to seal a big away win for Town.
22/01/13: Aldershot Town 1-2 Cobblers
As the only game on a snowy January evening, this was a big chance that was nicely taken by Town to jump into the top three of League Two. Dani Lopez put Aldershot in front but goals from Chris Hackett (from the spot) and Clarke Carlisle before the break put Aidy Boothroyd’s men in front. It was a major victory, it being the fourth win in five after a great start to 2013.
16/02/13: Southend Untied 1-2 Cobblers
Trips to Gillingham and Rotherham, two fellow promotion chasers, ended in defeat before this one so it was crucial that we picked something up from Roots Hall. Roy O’ Donovan hooked in the opener before the enigmatic Bilel Moshsni, making his return to the Southend side, saw red for a high challenge on Chris Hackett. The ten men fought back and looked to have earned a point when Matty Lund headed in with a quarter of the game to go but Kelvin Langmead scored one of many late, late goals of his in stoppage time that helped to propel Town back into the top seven after a spell of drifting out of the playoff places.
23/03/13: Cobblers 1-0 Oxford United
Whilst the away form was hit and miss, win after win poured in at Sixfields and this victory over Oxford United was another key one. Ben Harding got on the end of a Chris Hackett cross to neatly score the only goal of a tight contest and moved us to within a point of third placed Burton Albion.
29/03/13: Cobblers 1-0 Torquay United
Another game in a similar mould was this Good Friday encounter with the Cobblers dramatically keeping themselves in contention for an automatic promotion place. Roy O’ Donovan’s goal five minutes from time made the difference as he finished from a Chris Hackett cross. With six games to go after this one there was all to play for and a playoff place at least looked certain.
20/04/13: Port Vale 2-2 Cobblers
Three defeats in a row put pay to any top three ambition and it was now all about clinching a playoff place and that was confirmed after a well fought out draw at Vale Park against a Port Vale side who were promoted on the back of the same result. Clarke Carlisle slotted in after two minutes to give Town the lead but Liam Chilvers pulled it back for the hosts. Roy O’ Donovan’s wonder goal came so close to winning it for us but an unfortunate own goal from ex Vale man Lee Collins meant that the game ended in a draw that was a decent result in the end for both. Arguably the result that helped to prepare Aidy Boothroyd and his team for the playoff atmosphere to come.
02/05/13: Cobblers 1-0 Cheltenham Town (Playoff Semi-Final, First Leg)
The first leg was as tight as you would have predicted but the Cobblers came away from it thinking that it could easily have been more than 1-0. O’ Donovan netted the only goal after neat build up from Bayo and Hackett and set up the dramatic second leg at Whaddon Road…
05/05/13: Cheltenham Town 0-1 Cobblers (Playoff Semi-Final, Second Leg)
The one that got us there! Lee Nicholls’ early penalty save seemed to give the entire team the belief that this was to be our day and our time to go on to Wembley. Luke Guttridge’s goal will go down in Cobblers folklore along with the likes of Sean Parrish’s 1997 goal at Cardiff – a moment of pure bliss that gave us a first half lead and a 2-0 lead on aggregate. A solid defensive display and a tactical master class from Boothroyd.