NTFC Month in Review: October – November 2012

Bayo – leading the charge!

NTFC Month in Review: October -November 2012

Continuing on the monthly reviews, I’ll be looking back on everything that’s happened between October 14th and November 14th (From Barnet away to last night’s cup game at Bradford)

The results during this time were:

Barnet (a) 0-4, Bradford (H) 0-1, Port Vale (H) 2-0, Bradford (H) FA Cup 1-1, York (a) 1-1, Accrington Stanley (a) 4-2, Bradford (a) FA Cup Replay 3-3

P:7 , W:2, D:3,L: 2

The Bradford game last night goes down as a draw – it doesn’t seem fair to call it a defeat in this respect!

This isn’t meant as a match by match run down but more of a reflection of what’s gone well and where we need to improve. Here goes for this month..

What’s gone well?

Team Spirit – The last three away games all coming inside a week looked extremely tough on paper, particularly with the injury situation. But grabbing a point from York with ten men, winning emphatically at Accrington following Bayo’s stunning hat-trick and coming agonisingly close to knocking Bradford out of the cup away from home all shows progress from the start of this period and the almost unmentionable 4-0 defeat at Barnet. You learn a lot about players when the chips are down and in these last few games we’ve seen a real change in attitude from most of the squad. That includes…

The youth of today – The midfield trop of Emyr Huws, Lewis Hornby and Lewis Wilson against Port Vale was one of the youngest that we’ve ever fielded and on that day the potential came shining through. Horny in particular has shown real promise and is maturing in front of our very eyes match by match with assured performances in the middle of the park. Added to that, sixteen year old Ivan Toney came off the bench to set up a goal in extra time last night and is another that is getting a chance alongside David Moyo, another recent graduate.  Louis Moult is another that had begun to shine before his red card at York and he could be a key player once he returns. The future suddenly looks bright!

Bayo – The hat-trick against Accrington was amazing and it’s hard to imagine that it was his first in professional football. The big man has entered double figures for the season and has taken it upon himself to replace the goals that were being scored by Alex Nicholls prior to his horrific injury.

Support – Three away days in a week is a lot for anyone to take in but there’s been healthy away followings for all three trips all things considered. There’s also been a sense of realism around with expectations halted a little, ironically leading to better results on the pitch, in the wake of the injury situation.

Nicholls…major injury

What’s not gone so well?

Alex Nicholls’ horror injury – Up until the Port Vale game, Alex Nicholls was the Cobblers’ top scorer and arguably player of the season for the first couple of months. When he went through on goal against Vale, though, his whole campaign would turn upside down. Showing his usual guts and instinct, Nicholls raced onto a dodgy back pass, rounded the keeper and scored only to be clattered by John McCombe, whose challenge broke Nicholls’ leg in two places. It’s a long way back for the striker but early signs are that surgery has gone well so we look forward to seeing him back at Sixfields, as a supporter at least, very soon!

The Barnet hoodoo strikes again – You could probably write a book on how Barnet FC get under the skin of the Cobblers with a usual season seeing at least one result go horribly against us against the Bees. No change this time out with Barnet running riot on Edgar Davids’ debut to pick up their first win of the season against a very much out of sorts Town side.

Northampton 0-1 Bradford – This has been quoted by many as the worst game seen at Sixfields in many a year. It would be more acceptable had it remained 0-0 but getting nothing from such an encounter was the icing on top of a dreadful cake.

Penalty shoot-out agony – Despite not even expecting to get to penalties at Bradford, it was still a tough pill to swallow on Tuesday night to concede that last gasp equaliser and then have to face a shoot-out that it seemed written for us to lose.

Clean Sheets – Something that’s been lacking, barring the Port Vale shut out against ten men, is clean sheets. Just one in seven games isn’t great and we need to shore up in order to challenge more.

How can we improve?

At the moment the Cobblers seem on an upward curve but picking up another four points from the two upcoming home games would be just the ticket. In fact, four of the next five fixtures come at Sixfields if you include the JPT Area Quarter Final against Leyton Orient so there’s a big chance to make that next step up towards the playoff chasers. There’s a tough looking double with Cheltenham at home and Torquay away ending the sequence so points are needed against Wycombe, Morecambe and Oxford. Getting through to the Area Semis in the Paint Trophy would be nice too!

Goal of the month

I simply have to give this to Bayo for his amazing diving header at Accrington. If it had been anyone else it might have gone un-noticed but seeing the big man diving full length to put us in front is as beastly a sight as you’re likely to witness in League Two!

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Jake Robinson (v MK Dons – JPT First Round)

September 14th-October 14th: Alex Nicholls (v Burton Albion- League Two)

Player of the Month

With two defeats kicking off the month, this all has to be based on the resurgence from Port Vale onwards so for the second month running it’s going to be Bayo Akinfenwa. Close behind would be the emerging Lewis Hornby for some sterling efforts in midfield.

Previous Months

August 14th – September 14th: Alex Nicholls

September 14th – October 14th: Bayo Akinfenwa

Month rating

Putting aside the first two results, I’ve really enjoyed the month. There seemed to be a turning point against Port Vale as we rallied around the Alex Nicholls injury and everyone appears to be in the right mind set to battle for every point. It’s not been perfect but I’ll give it an 8/10.

Previous Months:

August 14th – September 14th: 8/10

September 14th – October 14th: 7/10

NTFC Month in Review: August-September 2012

Nicholls…good opening month

So this is a new feature I’m going to try to stick to on the blog for the coming season. It’s not going to be the usual run through of results and key moments I usually produce at the end of each season but more a look at some of the things that have gone well, disappointed us and surprised us in the month in question.

Seeing as though we kicked off the season on August 14th with the League Cup it makes sense to do these on a similar date of each month rather than just at the end of the month, which will then mean I end them in mid-May unless there’s some sort of end of season business to deal with. We won’t talk of anything near that question for a fair few months yet though!

So here we go…any comments always welcome!

What’s gone well?

The defence (sporadically) – The big question marks have been about the defending but for a large majority of the first month we’ve seen some solid displays. Kelvin Langmead looks like a new player and appears to have shed a stone or two over the summer. Coupled with a new partner in central defence, the towering David Artell he seems to be flourishing, especially having been handed the captaincy over the summer. Joe Widdowson, John Johnson and new boy Danny East have been solid either side whilst Lee Nicholls has enjoyed a terrific start to his loan spell in goal. More on him later. With one or two blips (the nine goals conceded in the three games against Southend, Wolves and Plymouth) there’s still some work to do but for the most part it’s nice to know that we can be hard to beat on our day and that’s a start!

Alex Nicholls – What a start to his Cobblers career. Five goals in all competitions has set the former Walsall man on the way to what looks pretty certain to be his highest ever scoring return for a season (previous best is eight with Walsall). Nicholls has played on the wing in the past but was signed with the knowledge that he’d be played in his more natural position of front man and boy has he flourished. His added work ethic and battling qualities make him a prime candidate for fans’ favourite and if he can keep up a record anything even close to his first month then we’ll be in for a good season.

Chris Hackett – Hackett seems the type that fans can often get frustrated with (a la Josh Low). He’s undoubtedly talented and for this level can have a massive impact but you get the feeling he’s a confidence player. More often than not, though, he’s been the spark that we’ve been lacking for so many seasons and will add another goal threat in every game. A key figure to the team if he can stay fit.

Bayo as a super sub – I’m the first to call for Bayo to start games but when you have a beast like him on the bench then you’re automatically starting games with an ace up the sleeve. As defences tire, the big man comes on and changes games, something that he seems happy to do for the time being. Setting up both goals during the win over Wimbledon last weekend was the typical impact he’s had in this opening month. #Beastmode at its best!

Effective loans – Not many things bother me more than short term loans that don’t have any impact on the side, staying for a month for fitness or ‘experience’ before leaving and not forming any sort of connection to the club. Part of Stuart Gray’s downfall in his last months in charge involved this sort of player, and the wrong sort of player. Aidy Boothroyd has been sensible in choosing the right type of player and the right type of deal as and when they are needed. Lee Nicholls has been outstanding in goal, Danny East solid as cover for John Johnson and Henoc Mukendi, though raw, is here for the long term and is looking honest enough a player to learn.

Progression in the JPT – The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy isn’t for everyone but I’m all for a rare run in the one cup competition that we’re realistically able to have a go at. Beating the plastic Dons made the First Round win that bit sweeter and with some fringe players getting some good game time it was a complete win to set up another decent tie at home to Colchester in Round Two.

Robinson…Twitter trouble

What’s not gone so well?

The defence (sporadically) – Yes, the defence makes both categories. Like I mentioned before, it’s been good for the most part but there’s been small bursts of panic that reminded us of last season which we certainly don’t want to revisit. A couple of the Southend and Plymouth goes in particular were disappointing to concede and we need to be a little bit more solid when under that sort of pressure.

Jake Robinson’s Twitter outburst – Now I’m not one of those who called for Robinson’s head when he tweeted about not being in the squad for the trip to Rochdale on the opening day but it wasn’t the best outlet for his frustration. Bayo was out of the side back in January, kept his head down and worked his way back in so that Aidy Boothroyd couldn’t ignore him. That’s what Robinson should have done. It was almost wiped out by that stunner of a goal against MK Dons and there could yet be a place for him at Sixfields but whilst we continue to be fruitful in front of goal it makes sense that he’s able to get games, and hopefully more goals, under his belt down the road at Luton. Hopefully he’ll come back all the better and the Cobblers front line will be that bit stronger.

Tired Legs – Playing Championship side Wolves on a Thursday and then travelling to Plymouth on the Saturday was never going to be easy and even the most cryogenic of chambers would struggle to put the Town players back in tip top condition. It’s no coincidence that those were the only two defeats of the season so far and hopefully now things have started to settle down game wise we’ll be in better shape.

The Sixfields PA system – It feels like the same pre-match CD is being inserted that was doing the rounds in 2001 and the general sound doesn’t seem to travel well at all still. A pre-match atmosphere is more important than it might seem to get supporters ‘in the mood’ and the Sixfields system needs some sort of overhaul to lift us before a ball is kicked.

Steve Evans – An automatic entry to this category for simply being allowed into Sixfields. Enjoy your time at home for the next six games, Steve! (By the way, I have nothing at all against Rotherham United at all and find their supporters to be as realistic and friendly as any in League Two but with Evans in charge it unfortunately puts a temporary black mark against your team!)

How can we improve?

By shoring up the defence (not by any new players – I feel the right men are in place – but by more consistency) and by continuing to produce good form at home. Only Wolves have won at Sixfields so far with a last gasp Southend equaliser preventing a three game winning run in the league. Couple that with battling points away from home and we won’t be far wrong. Easier said than done of course!

Goal of the month

This category is for Cobblers goals only and is a decent competition this month. Jake Robinson’s stunner against the plastics would have usually won it every other month but, for me, I enjoyed the sheer pace and skill of Chris Hackett’s strike against the real Dons a few days later.

Player of the Month

Again a stiff competition for the first time in a while with plenty staking their claim but I can’t look any further than Alex Nicholls for his all round game and five goals.

Month rating

I’m going to give the month of August-September a mark of 8/10 with plenty more to be happy about than to be negative about. Two wins, two draws and one defeat in the league, progression to Round Two of both of the early cup competitions and some positive play means that it’s been a very good start to the campaign. Keep it up boys!