One last chance?!

lastchanceThe fairy tale ending to a strange old season is fading by the game as the Cobblers now look odds on for another season in League Two. It’s the strength in depth (or lack of) that’s killing the optimism of early 2015 with Marc Richard’s injury coming at completely the wrong time. Though it’s true that we shouldn’t be reliant on one man to get us above and beyond our targets set at Christmas we have come a long way with still that outside chance of breaking the top seven.

The Carlisle and Bury defeats were reminiscent of darker days and if we’re to mount a serious challenge, either this season or next, then old habits need to be halted. Chris Wilder seems to know just what he’s doing with long term deals and permanent signings but short term loans seem to be his undoing from what I’ve seen in the last twelve months. More stop gap signings to try and fill the boots of the top scorer aren’t necessarily the answer and it may just be that we don’t have enough this time around.

But where there’s time and mathematical hope there’s a chance and this Saturday’s game at home to Luton Town could well turn out to be do or die. The Hatters are coming in off a run of five defeats in a row and seven losses in their last eight so if ever there’s a time to catch them it’s now. On the other hand, we know that Cobblers Law could rear its ugly head again and turn another team’s form completely on its head.

Either way, it seems in many ways like a visit to Last Chance Saloon on Saturday and the Cobblers, in front of a near ‘sell out’ crowd whatever that figure is these days, have to put every psychological reason why it looks too big a task behind them and find the clinical touch that we have actually managed to conjure before without Rico.

Three points on Saturday would, at the very least, keep the window ajar for just a little bit longer.

‘Derby’ defeats, old ghosts and early promise drifting away…

Happier times...Guttridge seals Wembley place in May 2013

Happier times…Guttridge seals Wembley place in May 2013

This hasn’t been a pretty terrible week for the Cobblers. Defeat last weekend at Cheltenham was followed by a game on Tuesday night that looked like a perfectly winnable one that could have reignited a stuttering October. But the U’s, with other loftier ideas, came and conquered on the ground at which they surrendered so meekly back in May.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a trip to high flying Luton Town was always likely to kick us further in the teeth, though just how dramatically that would come about makes it stand alone in the ‘cruel’ column. As at Whaddon Road, and the week before at home to Burton Albion, it was an old Cobbler coming back to haunt us. That’s three ex-players scoring against us this season with more on the horizon.

Saturday saw that little terrier Luke Guttridge come off the bench and cause a stir in the bowels of every single Cobblers fan watching, listening and clinging on to hope wherever they were in the world. We knew what was coming. The game was poised at 0-0 and we were holding out reasonably well with a battling performance when Guttridge took to the field.

True to form, he was the one who stole a march on Ben Tozer to slam home a gut wrenching winner in stoppage time before celebrating in front of the Cobblers fans. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant – Luton left with three points and we were left licking the only wounds we have left after injury after injury continues to cause havoc with the season.

The injury angle is growing ever thinner and it’s beyond a weekly joke that it’s starting to become. Without so many we are, of course, disjointed, but there’s still enough talent on the pitch to threaten a fair few sides at this level. The thin line between success and failure isn’t our friend at the moment and it’s going to take bravery and desire like that shown by Guttridge to steal in for his goal to pick us up from what’s quickly escalated to four straight defeats.

The only saving grace at the moment is the points amassed earlier this season that are keeping us afloat above that place where we’re “never going near again.”

I’m in no proper position to judge having not seen a game for a fair few weeks but it seems as if everything has just come crashing down – the work on the East Stand stopping, injuries, lack of form, ex-players coming back to haunt us, the list goes on. This is starting to become Chris Wilder’s next biggest challenge after last season’s escape from the drop. Revitalisation is needed and the Cobblers boss has got to piece together something to give everyone at the club a mid-autumn lift.

There’s a certain beast waiting to add to the ex-players scoring against us list next Saturday – that particular script needs tearing up before it even goes to print…