Injuries at the wrong time as Cobblers scrap for points

I felt from all the reports and opinions from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Morecambe that a match report would have lasted only a couple of paragraphs at best (not just me being lazy!)  but a point is a point and clean sheet was desperately needed. With one small positive, though, usually comes more negatives and the fact that we failed to really trouble Morecambe’s keeper is a concern.

Even more so is that Clive Platt and Jacob Blyth both missed the game and will now sit out for up to three weeks leaving Roy O’ Donovan and youngsters Ivan Toney and JJ Hooper as the only realistic attacking options. Paul Reid and Mathias Doumbe managed to help the side to a clean sheet in their first game as a partnership in central defence against one of the higher scoring teams in League Two so far so that’s a good sign of hopefully better times to come.

It feels a bit like we’ve gone full circle and we’re back to trying to be a team that’s difficult to beat first and foremost, something highlighted by Ben Tozer’s introduction into the Morecambe game late on for striker Toney. If that’s how it needs to be then great but we have two very tough games coming up away from home at two high flying clubs in AFC Wimbledon and Oxford United. With the lack of fire power at one end there’s likely to be endless pressure on the new defensive unit in these upcoming fixtures.

Whether we dip into the loan market again (Blyth will likely return to Leicester and attempt to come back once he’s all fixed up) is unknown but from what Boothroyd is saying it’s likely that he’ll be having a look around to see what’s about. This is where contacts are going to be absolutely key at a time when we need that massive lift to wipe away the cobwebs of the early season.

You can make a case for putting in the young players but, in the middle of a battle to get out of the bottom two, I don’t think this is the right time. Any loans need to be reliable heads that Boothroyd trusts to score goals and compete with the hunger that’s needed at this stage. It can be a different type of striker that’s needed if you’re in a scrap at one end of the table than if we were flying high at the top and that has to be recognised so that we’re not just going for a youngster from Championship side X or Y whose experience is only comparable to what we have already.

It’s going to be a tough, tough couple of weeks with these games but we can’t abandon ship when hope is fading. I’ve said it more than I would have wanted to in the last couple of season but this sort of time supporting a football club makes players stand up and find out what they’re about whilst, at the same time, challenging our own loyalties.

Hold on in there!

Safety surely secure for battling Cobblers!

Northampton Town 2-1 Oxford United

Swindon Town 1-0 Northampton Town

Firstly, apologies that an Easter Preview didn’t make it to these pages…I had one completed but for some reason forgot that I needed to actually post the thing. Looking back on it I said that I would be delighted if we were to still be nine points clear come the end of the traditional Easter double match and that we are following an epic Good Friday which made yesterday’s Bank Holiday defeat at leaders Swindon one of the more bearable reverses in recent times.

Emotions were flying all over the place on Friday evening at Sixfields as a ‘bumper’ crowd finally got a performance and a match to go with the levels of support. What more could you possibly want from a game? Neal Kitson, having saved a penalty on his debut, did it again in astonishing fashion to deny Oxford a 2-1 lead at a critical point in a match that they were looking like winning. After that I  think we would have all settled for a point from an entertaining and feisty game but there was one more twist to come as late substitute Brett William magnificently chugged away to catch a lost cause, cut in a fired in the goal that could well have kept us safe in stoppage time.

Cue scenes of wild celebration, a mini pitch invasion thrown in as well, as the Cobblers picked up three huge points. The home support had every right to be going over the top. Some Oxford fans have had a snipe at us for treating it like a cup final win but in some senses it was. Having been so dire at Sixfields for most of the first half of the season, Aidy Boothroyd has completely turned things on its head. This was perhaps his finest hour in front of the home support. It meant that, even though not mathematically, we believed 100% for the first time in our own “we are staying up” chants.

It was probably too much to ask for another victory on Monday at a County Ground that hadn’t been breached in terms of away wins since August so a 1-0 loss there is nothing to complain about. I can all but guarantee that we would have lost on Friday and got absolutely annihilated on Monday under a certain former manager who is now once again enjoying his cider and Somerset pies.

The bottom two now look doomed and with Dagenham and Plymouth picking up victories yesterday I can only see Barnet as a possible gate crasher to a relegation battle that has been whittled down to Macclesfield and Hereford. Hereford travel to Underhill on Friday night in a desperate attempt to pull back ground.

The Cobblers can completely confirm safety as soon as Saturday if we pick up all three points at Bradford and both of the bottom two sides fail to win with Macclesfield hosting playoff chasing Crewe. It would take a capitulation of titanic proportions for things to go wrong now and surely it’s time we started looking at catching the likes of Wimbledon, Burton, Bristol Rovers and Port Vale. The top half is too far off but 15th or 16th would be a superb finish considering we were rock bottom in late February and three points adrift at one point.

I really didn’t expect to be in a position like this come the final four or five games and grew my finger nails in anticipation of them needing biting off but they don’t look like being needed this year which is a very pleasant surprise! Onwards toward the penultimate home game of the season then and it’s all about holding ground above Bradford in the all new battle for 18th spot.

A belated Happy Easter to all!