Gills defeat brings more than just loss of points

Johnson…joins Guttridge on the injured list

Defeat at home to Gillingham on Tuesday night included not only a hit on our chances of re-entering the race for an early position in the top seven of League Two but also, more long term, on two key members of the playing staff.

Gillingham, whilst not completely overpowering the Cobblers, left with a pretty deserved victory with Bayo Akinfenwa’s third goal of the season late on not enough to start an unlikely fight back against his former side. As frustrating as it was to lose out on the chance to jump back into the top half of the table, perhaps more worrying were the injuries sustained by Luke Guttridge and John Johnson.

Guttridge was withdrawn early on and it was today revealed that he has a broken metatarsal, an injury that will keep him out for at least three months. Johnson, meanwhile, will be missing for something in the region of four to six weeks with a knee injury, emphasising the timeliness of Danny East’s loan extension that keeps him at Sixfields until January.

The big problem is Guttridge’s though, particularly with Ben Harding also missing for the next month from the centre of midfield. Ben Tozer will need to step up to the plate in the coming weeks and really take hold of that position whilst a new loan is an absolute must ahead of this weekend’s trip to Bristol Rovers.

Chris Hackett filled in on Tuesday night for the majority of the game but his ore natural width is needed on the right hand side. Aidy Boothroyd has said that he expects a new face to be arriving within the next couple of days following the diagnosis of Guttridge and hopefully he has something up his sleeve to take us through the next couple of months.

With that small squad we can be relieved that most of our loans have been put to good use, possibly with the exception of Henoc Mukendi who we haven’t seen the best of just yet. There’s a small amount of room, at least, for a bit of manoeuvring in the loan market and we should be able to trust Aidy enough to bring in the right character based on his previous dips into that particular area of transfer dealings.

Here’s to a speedy recovery to all!

NTFC Season In Review 2011/12: February

Guttridge…back in Cobblers colours

With the Cobblers sitting on the bottom of the Football League at the start of February, there needed to be points in the bag and performances would have to come second in the fight for survival. In a weather-affected month, we ended up playing just three times in February and all of those were at home.

Wimbledon were the first visitors on a cold Tuesday night and, having won 3-0 at Kingsmeadow in September, the Cobblers were looking for a rare league double. With the game looking like an odds-on goalless draw as it was going on, Luke Guttridge stepped up to score his first goal since returning to the club and earned Aidy Boothroyd his first home win since taking over as well as a first clean sheet.

Plenty to take into the following Tuesday with fellow strugglers Macclesfield coming to town. The Cobblers fell behind on seventeen minutes with George Donnelly putting the Silkmen in front but Michael Jacobs levelled before Guttridge made it two in two on the stroke of half time for 2-1. Bayo Akinfenwa volleyed in his tenth of the season to completely turn the tide in our favour and despite a late rally and goal from Macclesfield’s Ben Tomlinson we held on for back to back victories.

That victory took Town off the bottom and to within goal difference of jumping out of the bottom two ahead of the visit of Port Vale in the final game of February.

Vale weren’t so forgiving though and were two up by the hour mark with John McCombe’s towering header and Sean Rigg’s calm finish putting them in the ascendancy. Bayo Akinfenwa’s late goal wasn’t enough and the Cobblers ended the month still in the relegation zone.

March would become a massive month for the club with eight games scheduled thanks to the postponements of February and would become a memorable one for many a reason…

Highlight of the month: Back to back wins completed with the 3-2 win over Macclesfield Town, another side right in the relegation battle.

Lowlight of the month: Port Vale putting the Cobblers back in their place with a strong showing in a 2-1 win at Sixfields.

Player of the month: Luke Guttridge – showed why Boothroyd brought him back to the club with some dynamic performances and important goals.

Pancake Day success as Cobblers record back to back wins!

Bayo...tenth goal of the season

Ingredients:

3 x goals scored by Michael Jacobs, Luke Guttridge and Adebayo Akinfenwa  

Only 2 x conceded goals

3 x points

4484 x Northampton Town supporters

45 x Macclesfield supporters

A slice of good fortune

A sprinkle of hearts for the mouth

Mix all ingredients together to create the perfect ‘Cobblers Pancake’ and soon enough you will be to within touching distance of escaping the bottom two.

Last night all of the above came together to create one of the nervier and entertaining games of the season so far. It was crucial that we picked up maximum points by any means necessary and that’s exactly what happened with Macclesfield now suffering from eight defeats in a row. Indeed the Silkmen are now right in the thick of a relegation battle that can be argued to include anyone from Barnet in 18th down to bottom club Dagenham and Redbridge, who The Cobblers now sit three points clear of.

It was by no means silky, slick and overpowering as performances go but that’s not going to come into anyone’s minds this morning from a Cobblers persuasion as we look at the League Two table a lot happier. It’s a sign of how low things have got when we’re over the moon with being level on points with the team third from bottom but Aidy Boothroyd is putting his stamp on this team and looking upwards.

The signing of a player from one of the relegation rivals in Bradford keeper Matt Duke could be seen as an odd move but he started for the first time and became the fifth stopper to don the Cobblers gloves this season. His experience, if anything else, should come in very handy but I wonder if it came to it whether Bradford would quickly recall him should it come down to us and them for one of the final places in the drop zone?! That debate is for another day and after this tension filled game we are hopefully on the way to ensuring that the only thing we’re playing for at the end of the season is points and not the future of the club.

It’s become a rarity for Town to fall behind in games under Boothroyd but that we did on the fifteen minute mark with George Donnelly firing in from close range. The lead didn’t last long though and Michael Jacobs’ goal direct from a corner, whether he meant it or not, was crucial in getting us back on terms within eight minutes.

It would get better as a first half turn around was complete right on the whistle with Luke Guttridge continuing his terrific return to the club with a well taken header from a Ben Harding free kick. Just what the doctor ordered!

The next goal was always going to be the big one and it certainly turned out to be just that with Bayo Akinfenwa bringing the ball down for a crisp volley to net his tenth goal of the season. Anyone questioning the need for the big man in the team over the transfer window may be thinking again after Bayo’s impact in the last few weeks. The fact is that there is no other player like him in the league and I still think we would be foolish to have him leave. Akinfenwa would later depart as a substitute for Ben Tozer to a standing ovation.

The script wasn’t all to go to our plans though and while some of us were calculating that just one more goal was needed to escape the bottom two on goals scored, Macclesfield suddenly hit back for 3-2. Ben Tomlinson grabbed the opportunity after some shaky defending and reduced the deficit to start the nerves of final few minutes.

One more chance went begging for the visitors as a low cross was held well by Duke. Sixfields (minus 45 South Stand observers) exhaled, the whistle finally blew and the win was ours!

So not only is it two wins in a row but it’s two home wins in a row, an even rarer treat on a night where tickets were halved in price. The same initiative, with 40% going towards Macmillan Cancer Care.

The excellent venture is in place for Saturday’s home game with Port Vale and hopefully it will lead to a decent attendance once again…it’s a tougher game on paper so the support is greatly needed as we edge closer and closer to a great escape!