League Two Relegation Battle: The Run Ins…

It’s that time of year when graphics appear across Sky Sports News, Match of The Day and newspapers analysing the run-ins for the key battles of promotion, playoffs and relegation issues so I thought I would throw in a look at the League Two basement battle for good measure. The Cobblers are by no means out of it…I will be including teams from ourselves in 18th down to the bottom of the table. I would have included Burton but their mid-week victory has them ten points clear now and that should be enough.

Here goes then!

Northampton Town

The Cobblers have a game in hand on most teams below but face five away games in the last eight, starting at playoff chasing Crewe on Saturday. An Oxford-Swindon double over Easter looks daunting the say the least so the home clash with Bradford and trip to Hereford could well decide a part of our fate…

Fixtures: Crewe (a), Oxford (H), Swindon (a), Bradford (H), Crawley (a), Hereford (a), Gillingham (H), Rotherham (a)

Bradford City

One place and one point below Town are Bradford City and they go into a huge six pointer at Plymouth this weekend before facing one of the tougher run-ins of all the teams in trouble. Games against promotion chasing Southend, Shrewsbury, Cheltenham and Swindon as well as that trip to Sixfields make it a nervy ending for the Bantams…

Fixtures: Plymouth (a), Southend (H), Shrewsbury (a), Northampton (a), Macclesfield (H), Cheltenham (a), Swindon (H)

Barnet

Home form will be crucial for Barnet as they look to keep their heads above water. The Bees are currently three points clear of the bottom two but have a tough Easter week that takes in a Tuesday night visit from Swindon, a Good Friday trip to Cheltenham and a Holiday Monday clash with Crawley. They also face a massive home game with Hereford on Friday 13th April…

Fixtures: Torquay (H), Swindon (H), Cheltenham (a), Crawley (H), Hereford (H), Southend (a), AFC Wimbledon (H), Burton Albion (a)

Dagenham and Redbridge

John Still’s men have clawed their way out of the bottom two in recent weeks and their destiny is in their own hands and they look to avoid a second successive relegation. The Daggers’ run in doesn’t look as bad as it could be and they will be quietly confident of survival…

Fixtures: Port Vale (a), Burton Albion (H), Gillingham (a), Aldershot (a), Crawley (H), Shrewsbury (a), Bristol Rovers (H)

Plymouth Argyle

The Plymouth board have decided that they will review manager Carl Fletcher’s position at the end of the season and survival would be a massive tick on his name should he help the Pilgrims to overcome the tense finale. They have a big couple of weeks coming up with the home game with Bradford coming up on Saturday before a trip to Hereford on Good Friday and a Home Park visit of Aldershot on Holiday Monday…

Fixtures: Bradford (H), Hereford (a), Aldershot (H), Swindon (a), Oxford (H), Morecambe (a), Cheltenham (H)

Macclesfield Town

Macclesfield are fifteen games without a win and have sunk into the bottom two so they face a mammoth task to pick up the pieces and get out of the downward spiral they find themselves in. The Silkmen have four games out of seven away from home and it’s a pretty tough looking run of fixtures for an out of form side…

Fixtures: Gillingham (a), Shrewsbury (H), Port Vale (a), Crewe (H), Bradford (a), Burton (H), Southend (a)

Hereford United

Rock bottom of the table are Hereford and their fate could be held in the three games against fellow strugglers in Plymouth, Barnet and the Cobblers because the final two games of the season see them come up against two of the current top three in Crawley and Torquay…

Fixtures: Rotherham (a), Plymouth (H), Accrington (a), Barnet (a), Northampton (H), Crawley (a), Torquay (H)

In conclusion…

So who goes down? I’m absolutely shocking at predictions, as highlighted by my predicted league table that I came up with at the start of the campaign so should probably keep quiet but I’ll stick my neck out and say that Hereford and Macclesfield will be the ones to eventually fall through the trap door. It’s likely to change a lot in the next few weeks but momentum is key at this stage and with some tough fixtures coming up for both I’m going for the current inhabitants of the bottom two to still be there come May 5th.

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!