Ten man Cobblers gassed out at the Memorial

Bayo – consolation goal

Bristol Rovers 3-1 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, October 6th 2012

What started out as a positive and hopeful Cobblers performance on Saturday ended with more questions than answers in the on-going saga of the injured list 2012 and in the downward spiral that this result unfortunately puts our season into. The latter problem will only be solved by the plugging of the gaps for the former and that’s something that needs to be sorted as soon as possible by a Cobblers manager who will be ever busy and stressed in the coming week.

Aidy Boothroyd had problems in his squad before the trip to the Memorial Stadium and now there’s more bad news to go alongside this latest defeat, the second in the space of a few days. Danny East was hurt when bravely defending a deep cross in a busy second half and though it’s yet to be seen how long he’ll be out for it’s a worrying sign.

By that point in the match, everything was running away from the Cobblers. After a bright opening that saw Alex Nicholls miss a gilt edged chance to put us in front, Anthony Charles was sent off for what I thought was a soft foul on the onrushing Derek Riordan. Until that point we had been the better side and were even unlucky not to go into the break in front with ten men after Bayo Akinfenwa had a good chance with a header.

With a bright sun shining in the eyes of the Cobblers fans who, like us, had chosen the small terrace to view the match, it ended up being a second half that we’d be straining to see in more ways than one. Rovers came out and played exactly the way they needed to against ten men, flooding our midfield and coming forward at every opportunity.

The first goal wasn’t far in coming. After East had made his departure, replaced by striker Lewis Wilson at right back, Tom Eaves finished off a move that was far too easy for them to produce and pick apart Boothroyd’s men with.

Minutes later it was two and as good as game over as Gay Kenneth found space to put his side in complete control with another easy finish. The Cobblers were royally on the back foot and seemingly out of sight.

That was, until, Bayo produced almost a carbon copy of his goal on Tuesday night, nodding in Ben Tozer’s long throw to give the travelling contingent something to grab on to at least.

We weren’t holding on for long with Rovers finally killing us off thanks to a header from Oliver Norburn. That was that, we trudged off and were sent home as the first visiting side to lose at the Memorial Stadium this season.

Rovers deserved the win in that they did everything right after the break. Before that, they seemed to be playing too cautiously and perhaps nervously in front of a public that were wondering where that first home win was coming from. The Cobblers were playing some neat stuff but couldn’t cope with the numbers game in the second half and it’s back to the drawing board following a decent enough start to the season.

From here we have to get the wheels in motion for a new central midfielder and possibly even a right back with Danny East’s set back. It’s a tough job for Boothroyd with another busy week ahead – Town entertain his former club Colchester United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night and then host Exeter in the league on Saturday – and he needs to delve deep into his contact book.

As autumn begins to slowly make its way towards winter, we need to get back on track soon or face being lost in the abyss for a third season running.

Cobblers round off with draw thanks to Bayo’s header

Bayo – 18th goal of the season

Rotherham United 1-1 Northampton Town

It’s been tough watching the Football League show this morning. Not just because it’s the last time we get to see the mighty Cobblers play this season but because of the celebrations up and down the country as clubs celebrate promotions or clinching a last ditch place in the playoffs. All this as the Cobblers are playing out a tepid draw at a an athletics track equated to a season finale that could have been completely glossed over had it not been for a dramatic late equaliser from Bayo Akinfenwa.

The big man headed in with one of the last touches of the game and mirrored his stoppage time leveller against Bury in his last season closer for the Cobblers two years ago against Bury at Sixfields. On that occasion we were begging him to stay as his contract came to an end but we at least have the knowledge that the striker is under contract for another year. That doesn’t mean he won’t still have his suitors this summer but hopefully his biggest ever league tally will encourage him enough that Aidy Boothroyd can get even more from him next term.

For Rotherham, even a win wouldn’t have been enough to get them into the playoffs and the game seemed to drift after they took the lead through Alex Revell barring a disallowed Lewis Grabban ‘goal’.

Cue an earlier than usual gathering of home fans ready for the inevitable pitch invasion as the home fans prepared themselves to say their farewells to the Don Valley Stadium. Both sets of fans would have been united in saying it would be good riddance to an arena that really doesn’t suit the atmosphere of League Two.

The Cobblers signed off in style at least and we can go into our summer break relatively happy after another relegation fright in the second half of the season. After the mess of Gary Johnson came the calm and the assurance of the start of the Boothroyd era and the summer speculation, debate and rumours can now begin.

For me it’s good timing…a few weeks ago we didn’t want it to end but after a few dragging weeks to finish things off now is the time to regroup, get the right players in and the right players out and get ready for August. Perhaps by this time next season, maybe just maybe we could be celebrating something other than survival.

Let the summer begin!

(By the way, stay tuned into the blog in the coming weeks as I bring you some playoff previews, season in review and all the up to date transfer news from around Sixfields and League Two!)

Celebrations still on ice…

Crawley Town 3-1 Northampton Town

I said on Saturday that it was far from over in terms of the race to secure 100% safety and it’s still, frustratingly, hanging over us after a third straight defeat made this Saturday’s trip to Hereford more dangerous than it could have been. Defeat to another promotion candidate on the road shouldn’t be frowned upon too much but the mistakes that contributed to it will be a source of concern for Aidy Boothroyd.

Neal Kitson suffered the first blot on his copy book in a forgettable first half for a Cobblers side who hadn’t been entirely outplayed as the score line at half-time might suggest but who did find themselves 3-0 down by that point. Kitson’s own goal was the third of a trio of goals that on another day could have been dealt with, one of which came from the head of former Town loanee Billy Clarke.

The only thing left for us to do was to try and ‘win the second half’ and although it won’t win us any prizes we at least did that as Brett Williams pounced for 3-1 just after the hour mark. Toni Silva rattled the bar and Williams the post late on but that’s as close as we got against a side who moved into the top three and kept us on the edge of our pants for Saturday.

It’s true that we should be OK but to any Town fan that knows their club inside and out that won’t be good enough until it’s mathematically safe for us to breathe again. Victory at Hereford would do it whilst a point would also be enough should Macclesfield fail to win at Bradford. We could really do without it going to the final two games of the season with two tricky games to round it off so let’s hope for a big turnaround at Edgar Street which may include putting another nail in the Bulls’ coffin at the same time.

Again, until there’s enough daylight to be absolutely sure, the celebrations are well and truly on ice!

It’s not over yet!

Wells...hat-trick

Northampton Town 1-3 Bradford City

We’re not quite there just yet. This was meant to be the day when safety was ensured, when it went beyond mathematics and the day in which we could all rejoice in confirming league status for another season. Unfortunately Bradford City didn’t see things that way and were on the hunt for precious survival points as well. They clearly hadn’t read our carefully laid out script and forced the Cobblers out of the game to ensure themselves the luxury of survival instead.

The difference in the first half was the burying of chances – quite a simple difference but one that’s effective in winning football matches, I find. Bradford’s Nahki Wells converted twice to have his side in front by the break, either side of three Cobblers chances that were all cleared off the goal line and one Ben Tozer effort that struck the bar.

There was the briefest of responses from Aidy Boothroyd’s men with Clarke Carlisle heading in his first in Town colours but within seconds that two goal lead was restored as Wells completed an impressive hat-trick and virtually ended the match despite there being over half an hour still to play.

You got the feeling that it just wasn’t to be our day. There would be no late come back this time, no drama in stoppage time. Quite simply Bradford seemed more up for it and we have to be careful not to let complacency slip in for the final few weeks of the season.

With Macclesfield picking up a point against Crewe we are eight points clear of the drop with the bottom two having nine to play for. It’s a massively unlikely possibility that we’ll be scrapping away for survival on the final day but I wouldn’t fancy us too much at Crawley on Tuesday meaning that next weekend’s trip to Hereford could be the one where we either confirm safety once and for all or get sucked right back into the race.

Today will hopefully be just a wakeup call that some of the players needed. There’s areas of the pitch where massive improvement is needed and it’ll be a long, hard slog of a summer for Boothroyd to get a squad together. That, unfortunately, starts with players leaving and those on the brink of departure need to step up their games now or they will definitely be on their way, especially if the manager does indeed intend to crop the squad down to nineteen or twenty players.

Let’s hope for better at Crawley…I for one would love us to put a dent in their automatic promotion hopes by securing safety. Stranger things have happened…