The Perfect Response

Mohammed

Northampton Town 5-1 Hartlepool United

League Two

Tuesday, September 16th 2014

As far as responses to a defeat goes this was pretty close to perfect. It was a night where, even after conceding a disappointing opening goal via a slip from Ryan Cresswell, the Cobblers opened their wings and let loose to devastating effect. Town showed some breath taking attacking flair, scored some excellent goals and completely blew away a Hartlepool side who didn’t know what had hit them by the end of a memorable night for Chris Wilder and his increasingly effective side.

An added bonus was the continuity of Marc Richards’ terrific run of form in front of goal. The striker is on fire at the moment and a brace against the Monkey Hangers takes him to seven goals this season already and to joint top in the League Two leading scorer charts. There were also classy performances from the likes of Kaid Mohammed, who returned after missing out at Newport to score twice himself, Chris Hackett and Lawson D’Ath. D’Ath was sent out from the start to partner Richards up front and his rise to prominence will be starting to worry Jon-Joe O’Toole, Ivan Toney and Emile Sinclair in terms of the battle for long term starting places.

You would never have guessed at what was to come when the visitors took the lead within the first minute of the game. Charlie Wyke, who later had to leave the field in worrying fashion on a stretcher, made the most of the Cobblers’ defensive error to race through and score past Jordan Archer in the Town goal.

But as soon as Richards had levelled with a penalty ten minutes later following Mohammed being felled in the area there was no looking back. Mohammed hit a sweet shot on the half volley for 2-1 after Chris Hackett had created the chance and the two combined again for the third with Hackett’s cross converted by Mohammed at the back post.

Wyke’s injury for the visitors seemed to hinder their attacking options with veteran Marlon Harewood ineffective after replacing the goal scorer. The Cobblers, though, were looking dangerous from every attack and added to their tally after the break.

D’Ath nicked a deserved goal to add to his growing collection and you would be a wise man to bet on his short term deal being extended sometime soon. He’s been effective pretty much every time he’s come off the bench and is up to four goals already including Saturday’s belter at Newport and Wilder must be looking at his contract situation this morning after another telling performance.

The last goal rounded things off marvellously as Richards produced another moment of magic to add to his own personal goal of the season competition with a stunning long range effort into the top corner. It was the perfect way to end a Cobblers performance full of intent and now focus has to go on not being complacent come the weekend visit of Accrington Stanley to Sixfields.

Stanley are reeling after losing at Oxford last night and sit in the lower reaches of the table so many will see them as there for the taking. What football does, though, is shoot you right in the foot if you get above your station and we have to channel all the positives from this win into doing it all again on Saturday. It’s a tough league to predict week in, week out and we’re not going to convert chances like this every time so it’s all going to be about finding consistency through winning in different ways.

This Cobblers side, though, is starting to look very, very exciting and giving us that hope that this could be a season we talk about long into the future for all the right reasons.

A day of firsts for battling Cobblers

Doumbe...first Cobblers goal

Doumbe…first Cobblers goal

Northampton Town 2-0 Hartlepool United

League Two

Saturday, 22nd February 2014

A first home win and first clean sheet of 2014, first goals for the club for Mathias Doumbe and Brennan Dickenson and the first assists of the season for Chris Hackett all meant that the Cobblers clawed back some territory at least to Torquay United in the immediate fight to get off the foot of League Two. Results above the Gulls didn’t go to plan but that means that today’s three points become even more important to the goal of catching those hovering above the drop zone.

It was by no means pretty at Sixfields but no-one with a Town persuasion will care one jot if every home game from now until the end of the season ends with a result like this. It’s one that gives everyone a big lift with the performances of Hackett and, in particular, new signing Zander Diamond playing a big role on a big day. We’re still five points away from Wycombe who frustratingly found their way past league leaders Chesterfield but keep picking up points like this and the rest will look after itself.

It was a relief to get back to some sort of normality weather wise with the game never in doubt for one of the only weekends so far this year and the game was a tight one as the visitors seemed to be happy to play the role of soaking everything up and looking to catch us on the counter attack. Dickenson almost gave us the lead with a rare chance but his header flew wide and it looked as though we’d go in goalless at the break.

A bad injury to Hartlepool defender Michael Duckworth meant that the game was delayed by a few minutes and the half was deep into first half stoppage time when Doumbe stooped to head in after Joe Widdowson had put Hackett’s free kick back into the area. A much needed half time lead, then, to build on and it would mean that Hartlepool would have to come out a bit after the break.

But the Cobblers didn’t give them a chance to do that with Hackett providing a pin point cross for Dickenson to nod home two minutes into the second half. This was a rare position to be in at Sixfields – the last time the Cobblers were two goals to the good at home was way back in August in the first home game of the season against Newport County – and it was vital that we held on.

After that, though, there were no jitters that you’d usually associate with Town barring a Simon Walton shot that hit the post and a fine Matt Duke save from Luke Williams’ effort. That was all that the Monkey Hangers could muster, though, and the points were in the bag!

Torquay United’s home defeat to Accrington Stanley means that we’re now level on points with the Gulls, who aren’t showing the sort of form I’d expected when Chris Hargreaves took over. The disappointment was from outside the drop zone as mentioned before but Portsmouth could be key – we still hold a game in hand over them and have cut the gap to seven points between us after they were thumped 5-1 at Scunthorpe.

There’s so much more football to play even this week with two more games at Sixfields and plenty of crunch games elsewhere so by the time we reflect on the results in a week’s time things may look a whole lot different. To beat a side in ninth place is a very good day’s work but Southend United on Tuesday will bring their usual attempts at hoodoo before a massive clash with Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon. Four points from those two and I’ll be a very happy man.

So more of the same please Cobblers – I quite like this winning lark!

Northampton Town v Hartlepool United: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Hartlepool United

League Two

Saturday, February 22nd 2014

It’s the start of three home games in a row and the unofficial start of the final straight of the season. Sixteen games remain with ten of them coming at Sixfields so you don’t need to be a mastermind to figure out what needs to be done. Town haven’t won a game at home in 2014 and while only three have been played due to postponements it’s still something that has to change now. The defeat at Fleetwood last time out makes it that bit more imperative that we pick up at least six or seven points from the coming weeks’ football to put us at least back in touching distance with the other relegation candidates, a few of whom we play in the coming fixture back log.

The first of a trio of massive encounters sees Hartlepool United rock up into town with more than a passing glance at the playoffs coming from Victoria Park. The Monkey Hangers sit in ninth place and are six points off the top seven but confidence is building after an unbeaten February so far. That run included an excellent 3-0 win over Newport County last weekend before Tuesday night’s decent 1-1 draw at Roots Hall against Southend United. They had to come from a goal behind in that one as Bradley Walker’s long range volley pegged the Shrimpers back after Barry Corr’s opener just before the break.

Colin Cooper is still cutting his teeth in the hot seat with the appointment last May his first as a full time manager having previously only taken caretaker charge at Middlesbrough and Bradford City. The rebuilding job has been a steady one, though, and it’s a credit to the former ‘Boro, Millwall and Nottingham Forest defender that he’s managed to stabilise the club after last seasons’ relegation from League One. They still harbour hopes of making a return at the first attempt and will be looking for three big points on Saturday.

The Cobblers, though, need to be fired up and have to bring the home support with them. Get it right in the three games at Sixfields this week and we’ll start to believe again that the great escape can be built on the sort of form that saw us clamber into the playoffs this time a year ago.

It’s now or never…

Diamond...new addition

Diamond…new addition

Team News…

The Cobblers were dealt another blow this week with the news that Lee Collins will be out for the rest of the season with a foot tendon injury. Chris Wilder has worked quickly to bring in a replacement with an emergency loan deal for Burton Albion’s former Scotland Under 21 international Zander Diamond sealed in time for Saturday’s game. Diamond started his career with Aberdeen and after over 200 appearances for the club moved south to Oldham Athletic in 2011 before moving to Burton a year later, playing a big part in their run to the League Two playoffs last season. Diamond goes straight into the squad for this one. Gregor Robertson also comes back into contention for a defensive place after missing out last weekend.

Elsewhere, Emile Sinclair and Alan Connell will be hoping to reclaim starting berths after both were benched in a switch of tactics at Fleetwood.

For Hartlepool, Neil Austin is still struggling to recover from a toe injury suffered when making a goal bound block in a match against Scunthorpe United recently. Austin has missed the last three games and though he’s stepped up his recovery he remains a doubt for the visitors. Apart from that, though, the visitors have no fresh injury worries and could name an unchanged side.

Previous Six Meetings…

23/11/13: Hartlepool 2-0 Cobblers (League Two)

The Cobblers came close to breaking the deadlock earlier this season at Victoria Park when Luke Norris crashed a header against the post but the home side took the lead mid-way through the first half through Luke James. Just after half time the game was made safe when Mathias Doumbe felled James Poole and Simon Walton beat Matt Duke from the penalty spot.

31/08/10: Hartlepool 4-0 Cobblers (JPT First Round)

A comfortable win for the Pools in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2010 as goals from Evan Horwood, Anthony Sweeney, Andy Monkhouse and Denis Behan sent them into the Second Round.

16/01/09: Hartlepool 2-0 Cobblers (League One)

Joel Porter’s brace helped the hosts to a good win over the Cobblers back in the heady days of League One.

10/10/08: Cobblers 1-0 Hartlepool (League One)

Karl Hawley’s first half goal was enough to give Town victory at Sixfields in a tight contest in October 2008.

22/02/08: Hartlepool 0-1 Cobblers (League One)

This one looked as though it was petering out towards a goalless draw until Giles Coke popped up with a big goal for the Cobblers to nick the three points with just eight minutes to play.

12/01/08: Cobblers 1-1 Hartlepool (League One)

Just over a month earlier and the sides shared the spoils at Sixfields. Liam Dolman had the Cobblers in front early on but Ben Clark netted on the stroke of half time to earn his side a point.

The man in the middle…

Bond… Darren Bond is the official for the clash at Sixfields. He last took charge of a Cobblers game last January in the 1-0 win over Burton Albion and was last the referee for a Hartlepool back in October as the Monkey Hangers beat AFC Wimbledon at Victoria Park. He’s shown 66 yellow cards and 3 reds so far this season.

Prediction…

Things have got to dramatically change at home if we’re going to avoid playing non-league football at Sixfields next season and I’m really hoping it starts with this Saturday to give the home fans a massive lift. Hartlepool are playing well and getting results as they look to gate crash the playoffs and it’ll take a big performance but we could nick it by the odd goal. 1-0.

Hartlepool United v Northampton Town: Match Preview

hartlepool-uniteedHartlepool United v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, November 23rd 2013

It’s rare to go into the weekend with the Cobblers off the back of two successive victories but, after the cup win at Bishop’s Stortford and the morale boosting 1-0 win over Fleetwood Town last weekend, we make the long journey to Hartlepool with much more of a spring in our steps. The Monkey Hangers are comfortably perched in mid-table after a poor start to the season and will be going all out to bounce back from a 2-0 reverse at Newport County last weekend.

That win for the Cobblers on Saturday could be absolutely huge in terms of confidence in the camp and if we can go to Victoria Park and get something to add to that it puts us back in good stead for an escape from the bottom two. We’ll have to contend with one of the leading lights from the first part of the League Two season with Pools striker Luke James in top form – he’s hit eight goals so far and is likely to really put Paul Reid and Mathias Doumbe through the mill.

The good news this week for us is that Luke Norris will be staying until January with an extension of his loan deal complete. Norris has struck five times in six games including that belter at Sixfields against Fleetwood and will be chomping at the bit to add to his tally.

Strikers in focus, then, at Victoria Park in what should be a decent afternoon’s entertainment for those brave souls who make the long journey!

Team News…

Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper has no new injury worries ahead of the game with the only absence being that of young defender Dan Jones who recently underwent surgery to solve a knee problem.

For the Cobblers, Chris Hackett went off injured during Saturday’s win over Fleetwood but he’s been given the all clear to make the trip and should start. Clive Platt, Kevin Amankwaah and Matt Heath are all back in training but only Amankwaah and Heath are expected to be in the squad with Platt not being rushed back. Roy O’Donovan is still not fully fit whilst Kelvin Langmead and Alex Nicholls remain out until at least the New Year.

Previous Six Meetings…

31/08/10: Hartlepool 4-0 Cobblers (JPT First Round)

A comfortable win for the Pools in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as goals from Evan Horwood, Anthony Sweeney, Andy Monkhouse and Denis Behan sent them into the Second Round.

16/01/09: Hartlepool 2-0 Cobblers (League One)

Joel Porter’s brace helped the hosts to a good win over the Cobblers the last time the clubs met in the league.

10/10/08: Cobblers 1-0 Hartlepool (League One)

Karl Hawley’s first half goal was enough to give Town victory at Sixfields in a tight contest in October 2008.

22/02/08: Hartlepool 0-1 Cobblers (League One)

This one looked as though it was petering out towards a goalless draw until Giles Coke popped up with a big goal for the Cobblers to nick the three points with just eight minutes to play.

12/01/08: Cobblers 1-1 Hartlepool (League One)

Just over a month earlier and the sides shared the spoils at Sixfields. Liam Dolman had the Cobblers in front early on but Ben Clark netted on the stroke of half time to earn his side a point.

04/03/00: Hartlepool 1-2 Cobblers (Division Three)

Paul Stephenson struck early to put Hartlepool a goal up before Graham Lee added a second for the home side on the half hour mark. Carlo Corazzin hit back and halved the deficit for Town but it wasn’t enough to prevent defeat at Victoria Park.

The man in the middle…

The official for this one is Mark Haywood, who has already taken charge of a Cobblers game this season – the 1-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers where he sent off Roy O’ Donovan in stoppage time. His last Hartlepool game was their 2-1 home defeat to Chesterfield back in April 2012. So far this season, Haywood has shown 33 yellow cards and 3 reds in 14 games.

Prediction…

This should be another marker for the new look Cobblers starting eleven and will arguably tell us more about our prospects than last Saturday. If we can gather together the battling qualities shown against Fleetwood then we stand a good chance of coming away from this one with a point. 1-1.

From the Opposition…

To hear from the Hartlepool side of things, check out this week’s Fan Feature, with Pools fan Paul Bage.

Fan Feature: Hartlepool United

hartlepoolThis week’s Fan Feature sees me talk to Monkey Hangers expert Paul Bage as he looks back on a mixed season so far and ahead to Saturday’s meeting with the Cobblers. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulHUFC…

How has the club changed since relegation last season?

We have pretty much kept the same squad that we came down with, we changed our manager/assistant manager and Cooper has added some good players to our squad.

How has the transition back to League Two been?

It was tough, for a while. We couldn’t score. We could do everything else apart from put the ball in the net and silly mistakes were costing us.

This is Colin Cooper’s first full managerial position…how’s he getting on?

After a tough start, things are coming together. Players were going into games expecting to lose, it’s what we had done for the past year. He’s changed the mindset around from expecting to lose every game to believing we can win games.

You’re in mid-table at the moment…is that about on target or do you have higher ambitions?

Before the start of the season I said we would finish 8th to 14th. I still think that now. After such a good October, I think a lot of the fans do expect to finish higher. I think next season is a more realistic chance of us finishing in top 7.  We have a very young squad. Luke James has just turned 19, our first choice centre back are only 20 and 22.

Luke James is really coming of age this season…how far can he go?

I think he could play in the Premier League one day, I don’t think he is ready yet but he is showing us what he can do. He is fast and runs at defenders. Defenders hate playing against him.

And, finally, a prediction for the game on Saturday?

I think it will be tougher than most people think. You’s are coming into this on the back on a FA Cup win and an impressive result against Fleetwood last week. I’ll say 1-0 to us, Luke James with the goal.

Hartlepool United Links…

Official Website: http://www.hartlepoolunited.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hartlepoolunited

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Official_HUFC

Forum: http://www.pooliebunker.co.uk/

Ground Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/hartlepool_united/

BBC News Section: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/hartlepool-united

Local News: http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/sport/football/hartlepool-utd