Is it safe to talk about the football again?

O' Toole - winner

O’ Toole – winner

Crawley Town 1-2 Northampton Town

It’s been weeks since the hot topic of conversation has been on the astounding efforts of the Cobblers players on the pitch but today may be the start of a period to once again focus on what now looks like a genuine promotion challenge from the Cobblers.

After more fantastic news hours before kick-off at Crawley in that over £10 million worth of debt will now be taken from our shoulders and placed on the development surrounding Sixfields it was easy to be in an attitude of celebration no matter what the result last night.

As it was, Town produced yet another resolute performance that leaves us level on points with second placed Oxford United and within two points of leaders Plymouth Argyle. Crucially, we’re now eight points clear of eighth place and suddenly the future that looked so threatened a week ago is starting to look very bright indeed.

Assuming that all takeover paperwork is completed in good time, Town will go into the weekend knowing that whatever the result against rock bottom Yeovil Town, we’ll still be in the top three by the time the FA Cup weekend rolls around.

It’s thanks to a victory at Crawley that highlighted two sides to this unified Cobblers side – part clinical and part determined. Looking comfortable at 2-0 up by half-time – through a Joel Bryrom follow up header from a missed Marc Richards penalty and a fine strike from distance from John-Joe O’Toole – the Cobblers were reduced to ten men with half an hour to play which completely changed the course of the match.

Brendon Maloney was the man given his marching orders for bringing down Shamir Fenelon in the area and Simon Walton converted the resulting spot kick. There followed a final third that saw the type of frantic defending and last ditch tackling that’s become a staple of this squad. The fear was that with a deal for the club now close to being complete the players may drop slightly in their efforts but this was a huge step to proving that we’re not only a squad who fight when the chips are down around them but one who have loftier ambitions to stay in the promotion hunt through an exciting looking winter programme.

With Plymouth and Oxford both dropping points it was a massive result to cling onto all three points and the stage is now set for a celebration of a future being sealed this Saturday against Yeovil.

We can’t be counting any chickens about the result but the atmosphere should be red hot in the home ends as we reach the 20 game mark with the real possibility of going top of League Two. The fact that that’s the headline of the night is a hugely welcome relief.

Is it too soon for the #EIEIEIO hash tag? Indeed not…I’m pretty sure we’ve earned the right to bring it out of retirement…

The Darkest Hour?

northampton-town-1907-08-400

On 6th March 1897, a group of school teachers gathered at the Princess Royal Inn on Wellingborough Road with local solicitor AJ ‘Pat’ Darnell to form Northampton Town Football Club. It’s up to the imagination to think of what sort of conversations were had that night but I’m taking a punt that most of it was about the town not having a professional club and how it needed one. Players were rounded up, plans were made and the town (teyn) was given something that it could treasure and hold on to as their own, something to unite communities and make the everyday man, woman and child dream vicariously through a bunch of blokes on a field.

THAT is football. What’s happening on this darkest of days some 118 years later is not.

That meeting in 1897 set the wheels in motion for what would become years of battling, a season in the sun, a rise and decline that could only happen to us, a decapitated but beloved ground (greynd), new horizons, a centenary Wembley moment for the ages, promotions and subsequent yo-yoing between the bottom two divisions and stand out victories against the odds, not just at Anfield.

Once again – THAT is the sort of thing those founders would have envisioned. What we now have is the actions of a few people who a) have got themselves in a complete financial mess and b) continued to put out messages along the lines of “ah, it’ll be alright by next week/two weeks’ time/next month” threatening to destroy 118 years of history thanks to mismanagement of what has sadly become a business. When I saw this morning’s latest revelation that HMRC have launched a winding up petition against the club for unpaid taxes, it felt like not just my own heart being ripped out but the heart of our football club being grabbed and tossed over the shoulders of men in increasingly sweaty suits.

I’ve followed this club since around 1990-1991 so came into things at a difficult time yet fell in love with the football, knowing little of what was going on behind the scenes. I was lucky enough to be born in good time to witness the two Wembley finals and all that followed. I was drawn to local heroes like Andy Woodman, Ian Sampson, Ray Warburton, Sean Parrish and the one and only Neil Grayson. It makes this year around 25 years of following the club.

That’s a small chunk of its existence and everyone reading this will have their own special memories and histories. That also means that there’s generations and generations before them who have watched their own memories unfold. Children who despaired at George Best running riot grew up to take their children to see the glorious 1987 Division Four winning side and then those children took their own wide eyed young ones to witness Scott McGleish head us into League One in 2006.

Is any of this going through the minds of the people making the big decisions at this very moment? Mr Cardoza – are you waking up every day trying everything you can to save the club that have brought all of this to the people of this town and beyond? Or are you waking up thinking about your own future?

This might seem overly dramatic but we’re in serious territory now, if we weren’t deep in it before. The moment you see the letters HMRC you know something is seriously up. This is very different to dealing with a local council who can be talked around. They most certainly won’t hesitate in taking us to the cleaners. And I’m sorry Mr Chairman, but spinning things out for another week where you can have breathing space isn’t good enough.

It’s interesting to note that Cardoza continues to release statements AFTER news has been revealed by a third party like the council or HMRC. Had his hand not been forced, would we all have been left to find this out by ourselves? He’s got himself into one heck of a hole no matter how comparatively small the amount we owe HMRC is. The council will now have no choice but to up their own efforts in recovering the £10.25 million that was due to be paid back by today.

Once again some of the most loyal and passionate supporters, who pay into the club week in and week out in numerous forms, are left to play a waiting game and to get strung along for another week while behind very closed doors the future of a football club created by people who just wanted to give the town a club to call their own is hanging by the tightest of threads.

The heroes

What has to be said in the middle of all of this is that the players and staff have been nothing short of heroic. As all around them collapses the Cobblers somehow won 3-2 at Wycombe, genuine League Two title contenders, and then again at home against Hartlepool to make it six unbeaten in the league. Chris Wilder and the players who are producing incredible results with this backdrop deserve so much more credit and coverage (I know this is ironic being at the bottom of this particular blog entry!).

We’re currently – and stress the word currently with the real possibility of docked points – sit just two points off a place in the top three of the division with a squad that has come together and put everything else out of their minds. It seems to have had a unifying effect and long may that continue because if we do come through this they’ll be ready for whatever’s next.

Somehow, we must find joy in following the battle on the pitch – it’s the only thing that can suspend our worries for ninety minutes at a time.

wembley

Stepping up…

Hoskins...another big goal

Hoskins…another big goal

Morecambe 2-4 Northampton Town

While all around us continues to frustrate with the takeover now well into the period of due diligence and past yet another deadline date given by the powers that be, the Cobblers are at least making inroads into clawing back into the early group of pace setters in League Two. Wherever the next weeks or months take us, the results of the team are something to cling on to. Just as the Dagenham defeat a couple of weeks back was the catalyst for many to speak out against the owners, back to back wins following that have done a job of just about buying them time and keeping things sweet (ish).

Saturday was a huge away performance and showed again that on any given day anyone can beat anyone in this division. It’s far from a shock result of course but Morecambe were playing with a confidence coming into the game with four straight wins in all competitions ahead of welcoming the Cobblers.

Full credit must go to Chris Wilder for moulding a team together in the midst of all this takeover talk and it was a particularly impressive success on Saturday because of the absence of Marc Richards. In his place, Dominic Calvert-Lewin put in a good show and rounded his afternoon off with the killer fourth goal at a time when we could well have wobbled thanks to the home side pulling things back to 3-1.

It was great to see Lawson D’Ath getting back in the goals with his first of the season before Sam Hoskins continued his good run of form by netting his second in two games. Joe Byrom’s free kick looked to have completely ended the game as a contest but there’s always the worry with the Cobblers when a lead is reduced with plenty of time to play!

Tom Barkhuizan’s goal, though, only gave the slightest of hopes for Morecambe with Calvert-Lewin nipping in for Town’s fourth two minutes later. A late own goal, contested by a couple of covering Cobblers players, did little to cause the panic that the first Shrimps goal did and Wilder’s men confirmed a fine result.

It sets up a big ‘top of the table clash’ next week against league leaders Leyton Orient in a match that will again shine the focus once more on Sixfields and the ownership of our beloved club. If there are no further answers to questions that were well and truly pitched two weeks previous expect the high end battles to not just take place on the Sixfields turf.

Smith the hero again as solid Town hold on

Hoskins...match winner

Hoskins…match winner

Northampton Town 1-0 Oxford United

When the Cobblers signed Adam Smith after his acrimonious departure from Leicester City this summer, many, including myself, expected him to be playing back up fellow Sixfields bound stopper Ryan Clarke. But after impressive showings in pre-season, the rebuilding job he’s doing with his young career has well and truly rocketed off the ground. Smith is making all the early running in the Player of the Year award and after another superb showing on Saturday in a hugely needed 1-0 win over Oxford United you get the feeling that we’ve got a bit of a gem on our hands.

A penalty save with the Cobblers 1-0 up, but down to ten men thanks to Jason Taylor’s red card for an off the ball incident, was the highlight of the game for Smith but there were plenty of commanding moments including rushing out to block at strikers’ feet, quick reflex saves and a confidence that was lacking behind the back four last season.

Town needed a win like this to lift a crowd that was baying for answers to takeover questions and though the planned demonstration inside and outside of the ground had some effect it was peaceful enough that by the time Sam Hoskins grabbed his own big moment – glancing in his first league goal having come in for Alfie Potter – the focus was on unity and getting back on track.

Hoskins has been on the brink of a start and after last weekend’s disjointed team showing against Dagenham and Redbridge his energy and craft was a clever addition. The attacker is another of Wilder’s summer signings that’s been pretty consistent when he’s played and there’s no reason why he can’t be forcing his way into the reckoning on a permanent basis.

At the other end a strong backline was needed and the short term reinforcements of right back Darnell Furlong – seen playing Premier League football a few months ago – and centre back Shaun Brisley from Peterborough gave a more solid look to the defensive line that had to be strong in the face of a 10v11 second half.

That being said, Oxford appeared not to want to take the game to us and would have been disappointed that once Danny Hylton had the spot kick, awarded for Taylor indiscretion, saved beautifully by Smith just before half time they didn’t create enough to merit a point on a ground at which they blew us away last season.

It was a proper grind of a result and performance but the unity shown throughout was of complete contrast to a week ago when all involved trudged off to analyse where we went next.

That’s still the big question this week with the ‘due diligence’ period coming to an end for the takeover and if there’s still no noises coming from Sixfields in the next few days then the off field murmurs will creep back.

The ground work has been done, though, to ensure that the Cobblers are doing just enough to keep in touch with the rest of the division while the biggest saga at the club in years hopefully comes to an end.

We wait with baited breath…

Answers demanded after Town derailed…

Northampton-Town-chairman-David-Cardoza_2550286If all was going swimmingly on the pitch, if the Cobblers were top of the table leaving everyone else in their wake, if there was even a hint that this season will be any different – if, if, if…then maybe the attention currently being drawn to David Cardoza and the (still only potential) takeover would be calmer.

But after just one point taken from Accrington Stanley and Dagenham and Redbridge, the latter seeing the Daggers come up with their first EVER win against us, things are taking a dramatic turn for the worse and answers are being demanded left, right and centre. And rightfully so.

Where to start may be the biggest question of all.

The ‘heads of terms agreement’ was signed on or around the 24th June – over TWO MONTHS ago. Since then, we’ve been reassured by Cardoza that the interested party are London based and that it may now be mid-September by the time anything else can be revealed. In the midst of all that went a transfer window, during which nothing was done to address a couple of key positions on the playing side – the very thing that could have bought everyone a bit of breathing space.

The lack of communication once again falls into question. It’s not for the first time. This is what I wrote on October 12th last year around the East Stand ‘development’:

“The communications department seem to have been on sabbatical for over a year now. Any injury news is kept completely under wraps. Players can be ruled out for months and then appear on the bench or, in the case of Lewis Hornby (remember him?), they can pick up an injury in training and are then not heard of apart from in fleeting mentions once in a blue moon. If a player’s out for months, tells us. If someone’s career is over, tell us. There’s a growing sense that the club is being locked behind the four – sorry three – walls of Sixfields and to the fans that can’t be good…”

“…All it would take was an honest and open message from the Chairman. If money hasn’t been paid for reason a or reason b then please just tell us. The longer the issues are stretched out the more damaging it becomes on the relationship between club and fans and that only causes aggravation on the terraces and a drop in performances on the pitch. We’re in a position where the players are actually pretty decent but if everything around them crumbles it’s only a matter of time until they too get disenchanted.”

Sound familiar? Change a few words here and there and it could be directly referenced to the here and now. How on earth are players and management meant to engage fully when all around them crumbles?

I know there must be reasons for the group not being identified but each passing day alienates more and more of the people that are the genuine heart of the club – that, of course, being the fans who gamely trek around the country to give a lift to the players wearing their beloved shirts.

As for the team – it’s all gone to pot again there and this is half the reason for the sudden outburst from Cobblers fans. The second goal conceded against Dagenham was laughable and summed up everything in a nut shell – miscommunication leads to a simple defeat.

I do feel slightly sorry for Rod McDonald, a defender clearly out of his depth at the moment. It’s not his fault that he was called upon in the summer as a back-up and was then thrust into the first team ahead of his time but more foresight should have been in place. Chris Wilder knew of Zander Diamond’s injuries and of age creeping up so something more substantial should have been worked on in terms of a third centre back. The same goes up front, where Marc Richards is again going it alone in front of the interchangeable three of Potter/D’Ath/Adams – three players who individually can create moments but as a three just can’t find a rhythm.

Wilder needs a big rethink tactically – the 4-2-3-1, fluid as it is, is being worked out far too easily by opposition and the plan b just isn’t there. Giving us something to cheer about has to be level on top of the agenda for Cardoza and Wilder.

The worrying thing is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of “we’re in this together” attitude from the chairman and the manager that reflects to the fans that there genuinely isn’t anything to worry about.

The takeover is certainly taking over the season but at the moment it’s in all the wrong ways.

The frailties of a disjointed Plan B

Watson...second debut to forget

Watson…second debut to forget

Northampton Town 0-2 Plymouth Argyle

This wasn’t the Cobblers that everyone was raving about seven days ago. This wasn’t the free flowing, dangerous side that had started the season so brightly. And this definitely wasn’t the Cobblers that we hoped would turn up against one of the better sides in League Two this season. It was the Cobblers who we’ve seen far too often before – a team who, when all else failed, resulted to long ball tactics to absolutely no effect and handed the game to the visitors with terrifying ease.

I was intrigued by a fresh Town line up and looking forward to seeing how we would match up at home to another attack minded outfit. But after a decent enough start where the Cobblers were tidy but ultimately ineffective, a silly goal was given away before the Pilgrims happily scrambled in a second to seal a fully deserved three points.

With Marc Richards, Nicky Adams, Alfie Potter, the recovered Zander Diamond and, in his re-debut, Ryan Watson all coming in after the dismal defeat at Barnet on Tuesday night, hope was that it was just a blip and we started reasonably well. Reuben Reid, one of a few attacking danger men for Argyle, was taken off early on to be replaced by Ryan Brunt and we were playing some decent stuff without ever producing the penetration needed to break down a stubborn Plymouth rear guard.

Adams had our first effort on goal before Lawson D’Ath shot over from long range but there was never a sense that the killer pass or cross was coming. Still, getting to the break at 0-0 wouldn’t have been a bad return but the killer turning point came just second before the whistle.

It was a nightmare moment for Watson, who was looking to prove himself for a second time in place of the suspended (and missed) Jason Taylor. With no danger, the Leicester loan man slipped in the middle of the park and Graham Carey snapped the ball up, raced through and cooly slotted in the opening goal into the corner of a helpless Adam Smith’s net.

The goal led Wilder into panic mode and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was brought on to necessitate a change to a more open 4-4-2 formation. It was too soon and rather than form a route back into the game, it led only to Plymouth having access to a whole new plethora of space in the middle of the park. While they made use of it and kept their steely nerve in place, passing the ball with ease, the Cobblers reverted to lumping the ball up towards targets that were never going to make the ball stick.

Had we stuck to the original game plan we would have at least had some cohesion to the play. As it was, there was no direction and a complete lack of a game plan. Whether that’s down to the players on the pitch or the manager is up for debate but Wilder is experienced enough to spot when something isn’t working and get the message across to his charges.

Plymouth, inevitably, took advantage and were, to be fair, very good themselves and earnt the second goal, given to them by a scrambled Jake Jervis effort from a corner with twenty minutes to go. Sam Hoskins and Paul Corry were the other subs to be used by Town but if we’d been playing all night we wouldn’t have found a way back in. Josh Lelan’s late red card summed up a dire second half.

The plus point in all of this is that this type of performance highlighted some huge flaws in our plan b before the transfer window closes in just over a weeks’ time. It’s glaringly obvious that we need back up in central defence and a different option up front who will make the ball stick if we’re to change tack at times to go long ball. There’s no point in going direct with no target man. Rico can try all he might but he needs to be eating off scraps rather than trying to be something he’s not.

The only other positive is the goalkeeper Adam Smith, who was commanding as well as being a fine shot stopper. He’ll win and keep us points by himself this season, I’ve no doubt about it.

Other than that, reality has well and truly hit the dream start to the 2015/16 season.

Individual thoughts on the new look Cobblers…

Adam Smith: Already looking an outstanding acquisition and is doing all his talking on the pitch since his acrimonious departure from Leicester.

Josh Lelan: Still extremely raw and the red card was a product of getting caught out of position too often. Brendon Maloney won’t be too worried about getting his place back once he returns from injury on this viewing.

Ryan Cresswell: As dominating as ever in the air but will be challenged pace-wise by many forwards this season.

Zander Diamond: Glad he’s back but as with Cresswell could be beaten too easily in ground races. I worry about options here.

David Buchanen: Touches of class but not the attacking force he’s been early season.

Ryan Watson: A second debut to forget and not just for the slip for the goal. Hopefully just early nerves.

Joel Byrom: Went missing at times when we needed a calming influence at 1-0 down.

Nicky Adams: Signs are there of a terrier like striker but needed to grab the game by the throat more often and drive us forward.

Alfie Potter: Was performing well in the number ten role before his half-time substitution.

Lawson D’Ath: Moments of class but again not enough drive and creativity on this occasion.

Marc Richards: Not showing his usual presence so far but needs to be the poacher rather than the target man.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Sub): Ineffectual and not the option we needed from the bench. Would work better if we’re defending a lead and need energy.

Sam Hoskins (Sub): Not enough time to play to his strengths and seemed a desperation sub rather than anything else.

Paul Corry (Sub): Played for the last fifteen minutes. Apparently.

Elementary…

ryan watsonRyan Watson has made his triumphant return to Sixfields by signing a loan deal until January as more beef is added to an already impressive Cobblers midfield. With Jason Taylor’s red card at Barnet and a frantic Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday run of games through August Chris Wilder has moved to bring in a man who was just getting going in his first spell with us last season.

The 22-year-old played five times for the Cobblers a year ago but when a cruciate knee ligament injury hit the Leicester man returned to his parent club. But now back in full health, he’s back and should go straight into the squad for the visit of Plymouth Argyle on Saturday afternoon.

It’s a signing that makes complete sense given the solid start he made last season and the amount of games we’ve got coming up. Watson proved himself well in his short stay and will likely see plenty of action with injuries and suspensions already taking their toll on the Cobblers squad.

Don’t rule out more late signings in the next couple of weeks (Central defensive back up please!) as the transfer deadline rolls towards closure on September 1st.

 

Different venue, same outcome as Barnet sting Town again

Akinde...brace

Akinde…brace

Barnet 2-0 Northampton Town

The stadium and surroundings may have been different but it was the same old trip to Barnet last night as the Cobblers fell to a first defeat of the season. For the second successive season that the Bees have been in the league, their first win came against us and though last time out it was in October this will have meant just as much to get off the mark.

There’s undoubtedly feelings of revenge in the air for them too after Town relegated them in 2013 on a final day of the season that helped to spare AFC Wimbledon in the process. But the main point is that Chris Wilder has more thinking to do if he’s to get back to the positive feelings around the club by the time a dangerous Plymouth side arrive at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon.

Wilder made a big gamble by changing his successful starting eleven with key attacking options amended by choice (Marc Richards and Nicky Adams replaced by Sam Hoskins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin) and by necessity (Ricky Holmes injured in the warm up). Zander Diamond, taken off at half time against Exeter, was also missing through injury as Rod McDonald came in.

It was a gamble that the manager would eventually pay for as chances went begging in the first half and the home side came out with more intent to take the win after the break.

Hoskins and Calvert Lewin forced Bees keeper Graham Stack into a double save early on before Lawson D’Ath missed a golden opportunity from a spillage from the Barnet number one. The lack of a clinical touch would come back to haunt us as, despite good amounts of possession and intent, Town faded in the second half.

Luke Gambin’s introduction for the hosts on the hour sparked them into life and it was his run that set up John Akinde soon after with the striker going down under Jason Taylor’s challenge for a penalty. Taylor was swiftly shown red and the complexion of the game was turned completely on its head. Akinde slotted home the penalty and from then on it was all in Barnet’s hands.

Rico was introduced from the bench but couldn’t muster up anything as the Cobblers struggled with ten men. Adam Smith pulled off a top drawer double save from Andy Yiadom but couldn’t prevent the crucial second goal late on. Town had pushed Ryan Cresswell up front to try and nick an equaliser when the Bees broke away and Akinde rounded things off with a straight forward second, rounding Smith and passing the ball into the net.

So the dream start is over as Town come crashing back down to earth in true Barnet away day fashion! Plenty to ponder ahead of the visit of a Plymouth Argyle side that have also won two out of three games and come to Sixfields on the back of a crushing 4-1 defeat of Carlisle United on Tuesday night. With their own group of fine attacking talent, that one should see plenty of goals.

Less tinkering, more first team flair please Mr Wilder!

The perfect start

Taylor...first Cobblers goal

Taylor…first Cobblers goal

Northampton Town 3-0 Exeter City

Three win, seven goals, none conceded, six points, cup progress and a big name clash with Newcastle United drawn out of the hat. For the Cobblers in recent years, this represents nothing less than a dream start to the season. After years of false starts, new signings needing ‘time to gel’ and playing catch up with the rest of the division, we’ve finally begun with a flourish and it comes at, ironically, a time when everything off the field is at one of the most uncertain levels.

After a hard fought win at Bristol Rovers and easing past Blackpool this was another stern test and one in which the score line didn’t tell the whole story. Exeter have a fair bit about them this season and will no doubt be amongst the front runners in the playoff race so any time we can take three points and three goals from a side like this is fantastic. What’s so positive this season is that goals are coming from different places already and we’ve got even more energy going forwards than the decent side that finished the last campaign.

What the Cobblers finally seem to have (and I recognise the kiss of death potential here) is stability in a system, players who are making the it work and enough competition to really challenge each position whilst keeping a sense that we’re not overloaded with short term solutions. We’re playing without shackles, particularly at home, and there’s seems to be a real hunger around the squad.

For this one, Exeter will feel unlucky to lose as heavily as they did but the ruthless finishing that we’ve lacked in the past is now there with another three very different goals getting us over the line for a place in the very early leading pack in League Two.

The first was an absolute belter from Jason Taylor. Usually found breaking up attacks, providing the meat in the midfield sandwich and out muscling opposition, Taylor scored his first Cobblers goal, and what a beauty it was. The ball broke to the former Cheltenham man around twenty five yards out and the volley that he produced was heading into the top corner from the moment it left his boot.

That set the tide and soon it was two with Ryan Cresswell popping up with a trademark header before half time to put Town in control. There were some concerns at the break when Zander Diamond was taken off to be replaced by Rod McDonald but after the match it was confirmed that it was as a precaution with so many games coming up and McDonald would go on to play his part in a third straight clean sheet for the Cobblers.

After Alfie Potter missed a sitter following up from Lawson D’Ath’ s shot, Will Hoskins came close to halving the deficit for City but Adam Smith, returning in goal after being rested on Tuesday night, made a top drawer save. Had that gone in, the end result may well have looked different but it was the Cobblers who sealed the points in the final knockings.

Marc Richards, who had seen a couple of good chances go begging at Bristol and in this game, must be hugely relieved to be off the mark as he looks to top his goal scoring efforts from last season. It was a breakaway goal that closed the game out with Ricky Holmes racing down the right and crossing for Richards to calmly slot home.

It meant that the perfect week was completed in style and sends us to Barnet with spirit levels rocketing.

The Cobblers are in the groove.

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Travelling to Barnet on Tuesday night provides its own challenge with the Bees having lost both of their opening league games. They’ll be chomping at the bit to get off the mark and Martin Allen will have them hungry to get it right at the third attempt. It’s a shame we can’t bask in the glory of being fourth for a whole week…dare we dream of it getting even better?!

Wycombe, Leyton Orient, Portsmouth and Hartlepool join the Cobblers on six points with League Two boasting more teams with 100% records than the Championship and League One put together. All will be put to the test on Tuesday night with a full set of fixtures scheduled. Wycombe go to Morecambe, Orient are at home to Stevenage, Portsmouth are at Crawley and Hartlepool host Newport County.

Foot on the Gas

john-joe-otoole-northampton_3334877

Bristol Rovers 0-1 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, August 8th 2015

After a summer of unanswered questions, transfer sagas and takeover mysteries it felt like the Cobblers were going into the start of the season on Saturday not entirely ready. With Ivan Toney’s expected move to Newcastle United finally done earlier in the week and a hasty replacement found in loanee Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Sheffield United there was an uncertain air about the set up as we headed to what was a big early test at the Memorial Stadium.

Facing a newly promoted side on their own patch just after their elevation is never the first match you’d put down on your preferred opposition list for opening day but Chris Wilder had the boys ready to go and three vital points were bagged on the first weekend for the second season in a row. Mansfield Town were beaten 1-0 at Sixfields a year ago and this one followed a similar pattern with a tight game decided by the single goal.

In the goal scorer, we have another strange old dilemma. John-Joe O’Toole is currently on the transfer list but seemed to have a decent pre-season and was a surprise starter against his former club. The move could have gone either way but turned out to be a master stroke by Wilder as O’Toole rose to head home a magnificently volleyed cross from new boy David Buchanen. The midfielder, who had a bit of momentum in mid-season last time out before fading, is clearly motivated by either a possible change of situation here or to be noticed but either way it worked in our favour as the Gas were put to the sword.

Just as important was the clean sheet that will give confidence to the back four and goalkeeper Adam Smith, who beat Ryan Clarke to the gloves. It can only be a good thing that we’ve got two keepers on a pretty level setting going for the jersey every week and the competition for the spot will be one to watch in the coming weeks.

There wasn’t a complete onslaught that you might expect from Rovers after we took the lead but Smith had to be on his toes to stop Ellis Harrison after Ryan Cresswell had forced Smith’s opposite number Steve Mildenhall into action at the other end.

Celebrations, then, for nearly 600 travelling fans and a relieving three points to kick off the season in the West Country. There’s more to come from both sides this season but getting away from the Memorial Stadium with maximum points is something that I can’t see many teams doing in the coming months.

Let the claret surge, version 2.0 begin!

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Chris Wilder has hinted at changes for the League Cup tie with Blackpool on Tuesday night but believes that the side won’t see any reduction in quality. The Tangerines have had a tumultuous couple of years but started their League One season with a 2-2 draw at Colchester United on Saturday. I don’t believe some doom mongers who think a second successive relegation is on the cards for Blackpool and this will be a big tester and similar to a pre-season game with both sides looking to take shape.

Speaking of Colchester, the Cobblers have drawn the U’s at home in the First Round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy which takes place in the week beginning 31st August. Any home tie at this stage is a good draw and it’ll be another chance for Wilder to assess some different options.