League Two Season Preview: Part Four

It’s the final part of this season’s League Two Preview and today we look at the final six teams: Oldham, Port Vale, Stevenage, Swindon, Tranmere and Yeovil.

Oldham Athletic

Last season…

After twenty one years in League One, Oldham finally exited the division but it was at the opposite end than they would have wished thanks to a stop/start campaign that saw them relegated on the final day at Sixfields.

John Sheridan started the season in charge but lasted only until late September following a 5-1 humbling at Rotherham and Richie Wellens was tasked with dragging the Latics away from the bottom four. The new manager bounce worked in the immediate aftermath of his appointment with four wins and two draws from his opening six games and continued to hold firm until Christmas when a late Eoin Doyle goal earned a point at Doncaster to send them up to fifteenth in the table and clear of the drop zone.

But six defeats in the next eight games took them right back down to 22nd with the club by then taken over by Moroccan businessman Abdallah Lemsagam. Another good run gave them hope of survival with an excellent 2-0 win at high flying Scunthorpe taking them out of the bottom four. There was, though, set to be a nervy and ultimately disappointing end to the campaign as a run of too many draws (seven in the final eight games) bringing them into trouble and eventually down to League Two. With Rochdale winning on the final day, they needed a win at Sixfields but a 2-2 draw sent them out of League One by the finest of margins.


In: Jose Baxter (Everton), Giles Coke (Unattached), Christopher Missilou (Unattached), Sam Graham (Sheffield United), Johan Branger (FC Dieppe), Andy Taylor (Unattached), Daniel Iverson (Leicester), Jonathan Benteke (Unattached), Chris O’Grady (Chesterfield), Sam Surridge (Bournemouth)

Out: Paul Green (Crewe), Craig Davies (Mansfield), Aaron Amadi-Holloway (Shrewsbury), Ryan McLaughlin (Blackpool)

Promotion Odds…



The untested Frankie Bunn is the latest man to be tasked with turning around Oldham’s fortunes with the former Oldham player appointed in the summer following Wellen’s departure. Another summer of upheaval means that it’s another transfer window of mass activity and without the goals of Eoin Doyle after his loan spell ended at the end of last season it’s hard to see them having a shot at returning to League One.

Jose Baxter returns from Everton and Jonathan Benteke, brother of Christian, also arrives but it may not be enough to lift the Latics to anywhere other than mid-table. They can only hope that they don’t ‘do a Chesterfield’ and get dragged into a second successive relegation battle.

Port Vale

Last season…

After relegation from League One in 2016/17 the season never really got going for Vale despite the early sacking of Michael Brown in mid-September. Brown had overseen a huge turnover of players over the summer including twenty one departures but swopped to sign former favourite Tom Pope among many others. But Brown’s new squad lost six on the bounce after an opening day win and he was shown the door, to be replaced eventually by Neil Aspin from Gateshead.

Form picked up under Aspin with eight wins from his opening thirteen games up to the end of 2017 and following a stunning 4-0 home win over league leaders Luton there were more than one or two glances at the playoff places which were just nine points away.

But the New Year wasn’t good to Vale and Aspin as they went on an awful run of fourteen games without a win, ended by an important victory over fellow strugglers Chesterfield. They just about did enough with their final games to steer clear of danger but have set their stall out over the summer to make sure they’re nowhere near the wrong end of the table this time out.


In: Scott Brown (Wycombe), Brendon Daniels (Alfreton), Luke Joyce (Carlisle), Leon Legge (Cambridge), Connell Rawlinson (New Saints), Manny Oyeleke (Aldershot), Idris Kanu (Peterborough), Theo Vassel (Gateshead), Ricky Miller (Peterborough), Louis Dodds (Chesterfield), Scott Quigley (Blackpool), Tom Conlon (Stevenage)

Out: Dior Angus (Nuneaton), Mike Calveley (Nuneaton)

Promotion Odds…



With a summer of very few significant departures and some decent quality signings including Wycombe’s Scott Brown (an ever present in the Choirboys’ promoted side from last season), Ricky Miller from Peterborough and the returning Louis Dodds there’s every chance that Vale can improve significantly on last season and throw themselves into the mix for a playoff push.


Last season…

After a tenth place finish in 2016/17 it would have come as some disappointment to Stevenage fans for last season to end with their side in sixteenth and a change of manager towards the end of the campaign seemed to have the summer recruitment and planning in mind.

Darren Sarll had the Borough in decent shape in the early going and they were in a playoff position in mid-October. But a torrid run up to the end of 2017 saw them win just once more – a 5-1 hammering of Chesterfield – as Borough fell down the table. Sarll never got his side back to their best and was sacked following a 2-2 draw at Port Vale that saw them throw away a 2-0 lead.

Dino Maamria, a man with plenty of history at Stevenage as a player, was brought in as the new full time boss in late March and saw them through to the end of the season. He’s now had a full summer to have a clear out ahead of his first full season in charge.


In: James Ball (Stockport), Luther Wildin (Nuneaton), Scott Cuthbert (Luton), Johnny Hunt (Mansfield), Joel Byrom (Mansfield), Emmanuel Sonupe (Kidderminster), Paul Farman (Lincoln), Michael Timlin (Southend), Ben Nugent (Unattached), Alex Reid (Fleetwood), Kurtis Guthrie (Colchester), Donovan Makoma (Barrow)

Out: Ben Wilmot (Watford), Jamal Campbell-Ryce (Carlisle), Matt Godden (Peterborough), Fraser Franks (Newport), Tom Conlon (Stevenage)

Promotion Odds…



Dino Maamria has overseen a summer of change at the Borough and looks to have done some good business including the signing of Luton’s Scott Cuthbert who played a big part in Luton’s promotion season, albeit interrupted by injury. Former Cobbler Joel Byrom has also re-joined after previously helping the club win promotion to the Football League and Luther Wildin has followed Maamria from Nuneaton.

After Maamria fought the fire well in the first stage of his return to Broadhall Way, this is the big test as a full season looms ahead. They shouldn’t be dragged into a relegation scrap but I also can’t see them troubling the top seven so I’m going mid-table for the Borough.

Swindon Town

Last season…

Following relegation from League One, Swindon appointed David Flitcroft as manager last summer hoping that he would repeat his promotion with Bury. But towards the end of a topsy-turvy campaign that saw the Robins linger around the playoff places but never truly threaten them, Flitcroft was poached by rivals for the top seven Mansfield Town at the start of March.

Former Cobblers midfielder Matt Taylor took caretaker charge for a 3-0 home defeat by Cheltenham before the experienced Phil Brown was appointed full time. The Cheltenham loss left them in ninth place but there was still ten games for Brown to attempt to turn the tide back in the right direction. He started well with a 3-1 win at Cambridge United but five draws and three defeats later and his side were out of the running for the top seven, eventually finishing ninth.


In: Jermaine McGlashan (Southend), Steven Alzate (Brighton), Jak McCourt (Chesterfield), Toumani Diagouraga (Fleetwood), Michael Doughty (Peterborough)

Out: Matt Preston (Mansfield), Tom Smith (Cheltenham), Luke Norris (Colchester), Paul Mullin (Tranmere)

Promotion Odds…



In Phil Brown, Swindon have someone who has been there and done it in the lower leagues and his summer business reflects that. Toumani Diagouraga is arguably the pick of the bunch of the players brought in by Brown with the former PSG trainee joining on a free transfer from Fleetwood to really bolster their midfield.

Town have a squad that is more than capable of going for promotion and though they may not make it into the running for the top three, the playoffs are more than achievable for this group and their experienced manager.

Tranmere Rovers

Last season…

After three seasons out of the Football League, Tranmere Rovers are back after Micky Mellon masterminded a successful run to the playoffs and to Wembley where an extraordinary showpiece final saw them pip Boreham Wood to promotion. Rovers kept pace with Macclesfield Town at the top of the Conference National for most of the season but a 2-0 win for the Silkmen at Eastleigh with a couple of games to spare saw Mellon’s team having to settle for the playoffs.

After a nervy 4-2 extra time win against Ebbsfleet at Prenton Park in the semi-final there was more drama to come under the Wembley arch. Rovers were down to ten men within the first minute when Liam Ridehalgh was sent off for a rash challenge but Andy Cook’s header gave them the lead. Bruno Andrade equalised for Boreham Wood and Rovers’ challenge was made harder given that they had used all three of their substitutes by half-time. But Mellon lifted them for one final push and James Norwood headed in a famous winner in the second half to the elation of one half of Wembley.

Mellon’s job is far from over – Tranmere are still a big club at this level and he’ll be wanting to step things up once more.


In: Jake Caprice (Leyton Orient), Paul Mullin (Swindon), Harvey Gilmour (Sheffield United), Jonny Smith (Bristol City), Zoumana Bakayogo (Unattached), Shamal George (Liverpool)

Out: Eddie Clarke (Fleetwood), James Wallace (Fleetwood), Andy Cook (Walsall)

Promotion Odds…



The departure of twenty eight goal striker Andy Cook at the end of his contract over the summer was a huge blow to Rovers with Cook signing for League One Walsall. Replacing his goals will be crucial but in James Norwood, scorer of twenty four goals himself last season, they do have another player with huge potential to bother the ranks of the division’s leading lights up front.

Micky Mellon has already taken Shrewsbury out of this division but expectations may be slightly tampered going into this season with the Conference Playoff winners. They should be better equipped than Macclesfield to tackle league football and I’ve got them down for a top ten finish.

Yeovil Town

Last season…

It was another disappointing season for the most part for Darren Way’s Glovers with Yeovil again finishing in the bottom six of the Football League. The highlight of the campaign was an FA Cup Fourth Round clash with Manchester United at Huish Park which ended with a 4-0 defeat. But league form improved briefly after that tie with three wins and a draw from their following four games which included and important home win against fellow strugglers Barnet.

An extraordinary 6-2 victory at Coventry City was another highlight of the second half of the season but it was a scrappier 0-0 draw with Forest Green that finally confirmed league safety. Town didn’t win another game after that hammering of Coventry, a run of eight games at the end of a difficult league season.


In: Gary Warren (Inverness) Nathan Baxter (Chelsea), Carl Dickinson (Notts County), Diallang Jaiyesimi (Norwich), Sessi D’Almeida (Blackpool), Korrey Henry (West Ham), Reece Cole (Brentford)

Out: Otis Khan (Mansfield)

Promotion Odds…



The big move in Yeovil’s summer came when the talented Otis Khan left the club to join Mansfield Town and that could be a huge blow to the Glover’s chances of improving a desperate run of league positions. Darren Way has a tough task on his hands to continue fighting off the bottom two and this could well be the year that they really get themselves dragged into the thick of the relegation battle.

Page unveiled as the new man for Cobblers

523390419TM00005_PORT_VALE_The usual time scale for naming a new manager – particularly at the end of a season and before playoffs are complete – is pretty lengthy and drawn out but Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers have worked fast to get their man as Port Vale’s Rob Page was unveiled this afternoon at a Sixfields news conference. It was clear from the start of the process last week that Thomas had some ideas in mind as to the type of profile he wants for the new boss and Page is likely to have been one of the candidates identified early on.

He’s by no means a high profile appointment but after plenty of recent appointments before Chris Wilder that have flattered to deceive in terms of coming with a load of hype and expectation it’s maybe for the best that we’ve gone for a young manager who has already done a decent job at League One level. Vale was Page’s first managerial position and having led them to safety in his first few months in charge at Vale Park, it’s notable that he helped them to defy last season’s relegation odds (Vale were second favourites for the drop at the start of the campaign) to finish in the top half of the table.

To me, that’s a key point of the whole appointment. He’s worked on limited resources to stabilise Vale and has worked above and beyond the goals that would have been set for him a year ago. Though his experience as a manager isn’t as vast as many on the list, he’s preferable to me to the likes of Gary Bowyer for his knowledge of the division both as a player and during his couple of years as a manager. He’s proved to be a good communicator and man manager and obviously has motivational skills to get players to play above their potential – particularly the likes of JJ Hooper who the Cobblers released in 2014 but reappeared for the Valiants with goals and performances of some maturity this season.

Vale fans were disappointed at the news of Page leaving too, which is a pretty good indicator, though some of their reasons for why he shouldn’t choose Northampton are questionable to say the least!

The appointment is early enough now for the Cobblers to move on and Page will have the entire summer to prepare for life in League One with his new charges. The key tasks will be retaining the likes of Adam Smith, Ricky Holmes and John-Joe O’Toole and dipping into his contact book to bring in the right players that won’t disrupt the team spirit of a club that went through every emotion possible together this season.

With all of this in mind, here are a couple of key points from this afternoon’s press conference where Page was formerly announced as the new Cobblers boss..

Kelvin Thomas welcomes his man…

Thomas welcomed Page to the club and emphasised his delight at bringing in an “outstanding young manager” who is “energetic,  young and ambitious.” He was looking for a manager to come in and continue the work done by Chris Wilder and Alan Knill.

John Harbin joins as Performance Coach…

Joining Page at the club is Performance Coach John Harbin who has a background in Rugby League and football and has previously held similar posts at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry, QPR, Swansea, Plymouth and with Page at Port Vale.

Further announcements to come…

More backroom staff appointments will be made “in due course” with the assistant manager position still open at the time of writing. Rumours of Marc Richards agreeing to become a player/assistant are rife but that’s yet to be confirmed.

The first words…

Page was immediately interviewed by Sky Sports News this afternoon and gave a steady, confident interview and emphasised the need to manage expectations. He mentioned that he’s not met the players because they’ve already gone off on their holidays but is already looking forward to pre-season. Page acknowledged Chris Wilder’s work and said that he’s spoken to the former Town boss, who was hugely complimentary about the squad.

He also gave his first Cobblers Player interview and said it was a “no brainer” to join the Cobblers after speaking with Kelvin Thomas, who he seems to credit a lot to in terms of the decision to leave Vale Park for Sixfields. He again praised the efforts of the players last season and expressed it as a “great opportunity” to work with them.

Overall, Page seems in a very calm mood on his first day in the job.

Let the new era officially begin!

Mohamed signing keeps one eye on Sixfields…

kaidmohamedAs all eyes turn towards Brazil, back home the Cobblers have completed their latest transfer to remind us that hard work is still being done on home shores to shape our beloved club ready for our own big kick off in August. That all seems a long time away at the moment with all the fanfare across the seas and on our TV screens reaching fever pitch over the next few days but it doesn’t take away from the excitement of another solid signing for Town this afternoon.

Kaid Mohamed arrives on a season long loan deal from Port Vale with the winger, who can play on either flank, coming in to fill in one of Chris Wilder’s key target positions having already tied Chris Hackett down to a fresh contract earlier in the summer. Mohammed’s experience in the lower leagues reached its peak at Cheltenham Town when he signed in 2011 and hit eleven goals in his debut season to tie with Darryl Duffy as the club’s leading scorer. The following season saw him net seven times and ended when the Cobblers knocked the Rubies out of the League Two playoffs at the semi-final stage.

Mohamed left Whaddon Road that summer to sign a two year deal with Port Vale who had just won automatic promotion to League One. He struggled to break into the first team, though, and was farmed out to AFC Wimbledon (one of his former clubs) between November and January. Towards the end of January, he joined Bristol Rovers on another loan deal and played 21 times but couldn’t prevent the Gas from relegation.

The first thing that strikes me here is the length of the loan deal – I’ve always been an advocate of long term loans rather than quick month long deals and it’s great to see Chris Wilder and co going with a full season deal for this one. It suits both parties with Vale obviously not interested in putting their faith in Mohamed in their first team and the Cobblers not tied down to a full contract should things not work out.

Despite not making too much of a mark in League One there’s no doubting his quality at this level based on those couple of seasons as one of the stars of Cheltenham’s runs to successive top seven finishes. If he can inspire the Cobblers to something of that ilk then he can probably stay for longer!

Wilder now moves on to his other targets which now sit, by my maths, a right back, a left back, a central midfielder and a target man. With the fixtures for next season out next week and the League Cup draw coming up on Tuesday there’s still plenty of things to keep some of our focus at least on the many changing scenes at Sixfields.

Playoffs it is as Cobblers battle to draw

O' Donovan...Cobblers goal

O’ Donovan…Cobblers goal

Port Vale 2-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, April 20th 2013

And so it’s settled. After 45 games and with one remaining this season, the Cobblers will be entering the playoffs for the fifth time. It was settled by Exeter City losing at home to Cheltenham Town but at the same time, Town picked up a point and a performance to be proud of at a Port Vale side that ensured that, barring a ridiculous swing of goal difference next week, they will be in League One next season.

All talk of that division and the Cobblers was laughed off last weekend after defeat to York City at Sixfields but steady draws at both Wycombe and now Vale have put us back on a solid footing ahead of the final game of the season at home to Barnet in seven days’ time. We knew that it was a long shot to get third but what we needed was a performance to give us hope going into the playoffs and that’s what we got by all accounts at Vale Park.

Aidy Boothroyd made the bold move to bring in eighteen year old David Moyo to the starting line-up for his professional debut and dropped Bayo Akinfenwa to the bench. Kelvin Langmead was spotted warming up but he was there just to go through the motions. Clive Platt was missing but most likely being rested ahead of what already looked like a locked in playoff bid before today.

When Clarke Carlisle put the Cobblers in front I think all of us had a cheeky look at the table to see if there was any way at all that we could claw ourselves back into the running for third but it never looked likely even with the lead and the three points that it would have given us.

Vale were on the hunt for the win that would take them into League One and were level when former Cobblers loan man Liam Chilvers headed in from Tom Pope’s cross. It was then about getting to the break with no further damage, though Luke Guttridge had rattled the bar while his side were still in front.

Roy O’ Donovan, produced something from nothing to put Town back into the lead but five minutes from time came the moment that the home fans had been nervously awaiting when their former defender Lee Collins sliced the ball into his own net. Because of a vastly superior goal difference – the best in League Two in fact – than the chasing pack it was enough for the pitch invasion at the end as home fans celebrated a promotion that they’ve looked like achieving for many months. Congratulations to them on that.

For the Cobblers, Exeter’s defeat was enough to make sure of a playoff place but this point picked up and the way in which it was forged out will give us bags of hugely needed confidence ahead of the end of season lottery that will be coming up following the Barnet game. That game now has the importance of really building up momentum. The Bees picked up a late winner against Wycombe to move out of the bottom two but are just a point clear of danger going into their now traditional last game of the season drama.

I’m sure Boothroyd will want to rest some players next weekend but it makes more sense to me to make sure of a victory that would give us all a real lift and crucial momentum going into a semi-final, double legged affair for the first times since 2005. If we could win and Burton end up losing their last game at home to newly crowned champions Gillingham we will nick in to take fifth place and the important second leg would be at Sixfields.

Either way, we need to finish strong and make sure that everyone coming to the Barnet game and those listening at home are right behind this playoff campaign. There’s been a bit of negativity in the last few weeks but now we need to focus on what’s ahead and really go for it because the reality is that we are two games away from Wembley.

That sentence enough should be motivation enough. Bring it on!

More twists as others close in

Sixfields...key to success

Sixfields…key to success

So we’re down to four games. Four games that will decide whether the Cobblers will be promoted from League Two or left to face the challenge of the playoffs or even left with an unthinkable position of losing it at the last. It’s very pessimistic to think about the latter but with last night’s results you get the feeling that any kind of slip ups in the final two home games in particular could lead to a disastrous end to what has been a terrific season.

The Cobblers are now chasing third place once again with Burton Albion recovering from a 7-1 mauling at Port Vale to beat Wycombe 2-0 last night and go back above Town in the race for third place. Aidy Boothroyd will be comforted by the game in hand – away at Wycombe – and will know that the home games against York City and Barnet as well as the trip to Adams Park hold the key to any sustained challenge on automatic promotion.

The only other fixture is away at Vale and is one that will provide the sternest of tests with the Valiants now looking a lock for second place. The lifeline there could be if Vale are already promoted and Gillingham have taken any chance away of them going for the title by then.

It’s all ifs and buts and there’s so much more to come, so many questions to be answered and challenges to be met. With the Cobblers now chasing third again rather than trying to hold onto it, could it bring out the best in us?

What of the others in the playoff positions? Cheltenham, who have some tough fixtures left, will be desperate to claw their own way back into third. Rotherham, a lot of people’s tips, seem to be finding some form again as they catch up with their games in hand will undoubtedly have a say. And Bradford themselves off the back of a victory over the Cobblers and a hammering of Bristol Rovers last night have their own spare game and are looking dangerous.

There’s still games involving all of these sides against each other and it promises to be a frantic last few weeks. For The Cobblers, we must win the two home games and probably one of the away games to be in contention for third place. It makes it a big ask but if you’re going to be promoted, now is the time to stand up and earn it.

Finger nails at the ready…

Mixed emotions after big win over Vale

Nicholls…serious injury

Northampton Town 2-0 Port Vale

League Two

Saturday, October 27th 2012

After a 2-0 home win over the team that went into the afternoon vying for top spot in League Two you would expect any report of the match to be full of superlatives and joyous statements that the season is back on track. But the lasting damage coming from the incident that occurred after the first goal was scored will be the main talking point despite Town taking home three crucial points in the quest to stay in touch with the top half of the table.

Alex Nicholls, the Cobblers’ leading scorer this season, broke through after a mistake in the Vale defence, nipped in and rounded Chris Neal in the visitors’ goal before tapping the ball into the empty net. Sixfields erupted, buoyed by what was a deserved lead up until that point, until the realisation hit that something else had happened. Vale defender John McCombe had clattered into Nicholls after the ball had been put in and the striker was lying flat out on the Sixfields turf in front of the South Stand.

It was looking grim as more and more time was taken for medics to tend to Nicholls and when an ambulance was called onto the pitch there were no more doubts – he was going to be out for a long, long time. With a goal going in just before that and a lengthy delay most Vale fans were understanding and gave Nicholls a couple of good ovations as he was being treated and on his departure from the pitch but unfortunately the minority did their club no favours at all by berating Nicholls, making diving gestures to him and even shouting at his family members as they ran onto the pitch.

It’s hard when so many of their supporters were doing the right thing but it can’t be ignored that some idiots still, for reasons only they know of, took it upon themselves to tarnish the reputation of their football club. Perhaps just as shocking was the fact that nothing seemed to be being done about it by the Sixfields stewards. It was a horror show in more ways than one and something that put a massive dent in any celebrations of a goal.

John McCombe was sent off for the challenge and though I would say it was the right decision having watched it back again I don’t think there was any more to it than that. There was no evidence of any sort of stamp or anything malicious and in fairness to the player he apologised to Aidy Boothroyd straight after the game. His suspension, though, will be a whole lot less than the punishment that Nicholls will be going through in the next few months.

Alex Nicholls will fight back, of that I’m sure, and I just hope and pray that we do see him in a Cobblers shirt again. The chant of “win it for Nicholls” was most appropriate and the fact that we went on to do just that made sure that his efforts went towards something.

Louis Moult was Nicholls’ replacement and he came on looking to stake his claim and to take his chance before Aidy Boothroyd could even consider bringing in any replacements for the striker. Moult was lively throughout the rest of the half and got his reward when, after Anthony Charles had a goal ruled out, he raced on to the end of some fantastic hold up play from Bayo Akinfenwa to slot in a well taken goal. Having come through the ranks at Stoke City, Moult would have thoroughly enjoyed that one!

The system had been changed by Boothroyd to a wing back system and it had been working well even up to the goal with Danny East and Joe Widdowson flourishing in their respective new roles and perhaps the youngest ever Cobblers midfield of Emyr Huws, Lewis Wilson and Lewis Hornby belying their inexperience tags by holding things together impressively against high quality opposition.

In the second half we switched to a style that made sure of the points and though it was nowhere near as easy on the eye, it was understandable for Boothroyd to want to make sure of a good lead being held on to. Moult faded when put out wide whilst Bayo did his best to play the loan striker role in a spell of taking what we had from one of the more difficult fixtures of the season.

Vale fought hard to get back into it and had a couple of good chances to do so, notably for Ashley Vincent as he broke clear but couldn’t beat Lee Nicholls at his near post. It was hard to judge the visitors on their overall play with the ten man situation making it tough for them to stamp their authority onto the game but it’s clear that they have a dogged and technically sound squad that will still be up there come the end of the season.

Lee Nicholls, meanwhile, has hinted that this may be the last game in his loan spell at the club and with mounting injuries elsewhere we may indeed need to let him return and build in other area. If it was his final game we thank him for a fantastic few months keeping goal. One way or another we will hear of him again I’m sure.

As the dust settles from what could be seen as one of the Cobblers’ best wins of the season come the final reckoning the thoughts are mainly with Alex Nicholls as he begins what looks like being a long, hard journey back. We will all welcome him back with open arms when that day comes and wish him a speedy recovery.

Up next is a second game against Bradford City in the FA Cup and I’d like to see us use this new system again, though adjustments in terms of a new signing for the middle of the park could dictate whether that does indeed happen. It’s nice to go into that on the back of a win and now we need to kick on and try and build the momentum that’s been lacking so far this season.

Northampton Town v Port Vale: Match Preview

Northampton Town v Port Vale

League Two

Saturday, October 27th 2012

The last team you want to play after two poor defeats in a row is one that is second in the league and that has lost just once on their travels all season. But that’s what faces the Cobblers on Saturday afternoon with Port Vale coming to town in fine form having lost only once in twelve games. Vale also did the double over the Cobblers in the league last season so there’s plenty of cause for concern ahead of a tough, tough match!

Remember, this is a 2pm kick off and not 3pm as the club looks to avoid a direct clash with the Northampton Saints Rugby game that kicks off at 3.


Takeover nears completion…

There were serious concerns for the future of Port Vale Football Club towards the end of last season when a winding up petition meant that they went into administration and suffered from a ten point deduction which would end any realistic hopes for promotion. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, with the Alchemy Investment Group fronted by Paul Wildes, a Wirrall based businessman, confirmed as the preferred new owner recently.

Pope on top after stunning start to the season…

Vale’s Tom Pope has made a storming start to this season, scoring fourteen times to top the League Two scoring charts after fourteen games. Pope joined the club on a full time basis in 2011 after scoring three times in thirteen games on loan from Rotherham. Last season saw injury put pay to any consistency but he’s really hit the ground running this time around with bags of goals including four in the Valiants’ 6-2 win over his former club in September.


Team News…

The Cobblers welcomed back Danny East on Tuesday night with the right back coming in for the newly injured Chris Hackett at right back. John Johnson looks likely to sit out again whilst Ben Harding is still a couple of weeks away after a further set back this week. Luke Guttridge and David Artell are out until the New Year with Nana still a while away from fitness as well after more than a year on the sidelines.

Port Vale are without Richard Duffy who was injured at Burton on Tuesday evening with Adam Yates filling in for him at right back. The central defensive positions are causing the big headache for manager Mickey Adams with the experience of Gareth Owen and the more youthful Joe Davis vying to fill the gap left by the suspended Clayton McDonald.


Artell…summer controversy

Club Links…

Injured Cobblers defender David Artell was involved in a controversial summer transfer to the Cobblers after signing for Vale a few weeks earlier but turning down a fresh contract handed to him by the club’s administrators.


Previous Six Meetings…

25/02/12: Cobblers 1-2 Port Vale (League Two)

John McCombe put Vale in front in the last meeting between the sides back in February before Sean Rigg added a second just before the hour mark. Bayo Akinfenwa struck late but it wasn’t enough to avoid a double league defeat to Vale last season.

14/10/11: Port Vale 3-0 Cobblers (League Two)

A horror show of a first half saw the Cobblers three goals down inside twenty five minutes in the first meeting last season thanks to goals from Tom Pope, Anthony Griffith and John McCombe and we had no answer in the second half.


12/02/11: Port Vale 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

Abdul Osman was sent off for the second time in the season against Vale but the Cobblers held out for a point earned a few minutes prior to the red card thanks to an equaliser from Leon McKenzie. Justin Richards’ penalty had given Vale the lead but McKenzie swooped three minutes later to clinch a draw.

13/11/10: Cobblers 0-0 Port Vale (League Two)

Stale mate at Sixfields with Abdul Osman sent off just after half-time.

06/03/10: Port Vale 1-3 Cobblers (League Two)

As the Cobblers made a late surge towards the playoff places in 2010, this was a crucial win against one of the teams chasing the same goal. Ultimately neither side made it but it was still a memorable away day with Bayo Akinfenwa giving us the lead. Doug Loft equalised but Abdul Osman and Billy McKay won it before the break.

12/12/09: Cobblers 1-1 Port Vale (League Two)

As the 2009/10 season crept towards Christmas, the teams shared the spoils at Sixfields. Marc Richards’ penalty gave him a happy return to his former stomping ground but after John McCombe was sent off just after half-time, Bayo converted the spot kick to grab a point for Town.


The Man in the Middle…

In charge at Sixfields on Saturday will be Richard Clark, who was working in the Blue Square Premier League last season. So far he has shown fifteen yellow cards and two reds in his maiden season in the Football League.



With a couple of defeats on the bounce coming into this one there’s a bit of extra pressure and we need to stop the rot before it gets anything like last seasons’ shambles of an October/November run. Aidy Boothroyd has a tough job on his hands to get his players firing again and I think the best we can get out of a high flying Vale side is a hopeful draw. 2-2.

Artell checks in after controversial Vale departure

Artell the latest new signing

As has been rumoured all weekend, defender David Artell has signed for the Cobblers this afternoon having left Port Vale despite the fact that he only joined them a few weeks ago. With the club still in administration, they had reissued contracts to all of the new faces that had arrived in the summer plus all of those who had been offered new terms. But Artell, who led Crewe to Wembley and a playoff final victory at the end of last season, declined the new terms and walked away to join the Cobblers who had previously been interested in him earlier in the summer.

It’s not the nicest way to solve the central defensive problem that has been plaguing the Cobblers since the departure of Clarke Carlisle at the end of last season but it’s one that gives us a proven leader and some genuine experience at this level. I’m sure Vale fans will be chomping at the bit to give him a nice ‘welcome’ when we meet in late October at Sixfields and that’s something he’ll have to deal with. Putting myself in Vale fan’s shoes I would be just as angry as they are if someone walked out on us so it’s fair enough but it’s something we have to live with and someone who I’m sure we’ll get behind once the season kicks off with the League Cup game at home to Cardiff tomorrow evening.

Artell’s past includes spells at Rotherham United, where he began his career, Shrewsbury Town, Mansfield Town, Chester and Morecambe before he joined Crewe in 2010 and helped them to promotion last season. Whilst at Crewe there’s been the odd bust up with Dario Gradi and an on the pitch bust up with his own keeper, Steve Phillips, so that’s going to need to be channelled by Aidy Boothroyd into positive energy.

It’s a tough one but finally we do have that defender we’ve been craving for a fair few weeks and is pretty much the final piece of the puzzle for Boothroyd ahead of tomorrow night.

All that’s left to do now is to get this season rocking and rolling!

Next four up as previews near the end!

Another four teams are in the spotlight today with Plymouth, Port Vale, Rochdale and Rotherham United coming under scrutiny. To view the previews, click on the relevant links below:

Plymouth Argyle

Port Vale


Rotherham United

And for links to all 20 of the previews that have been posted so far, click here!

Vale too good as the dream of three wins in a row ends…

It’s back to losing ways this week for the Cobblers as Port Vale left Sixfields with all three points to further ignite their ever more impressive rise back towards the playoffs. Following up two massively important home wins with a third was always looking like a tough ask before the game for the Cobblers but coming up against an up for it visiting side that weren’t ever going to lie down meant that  the task for Aidy Boothroyd’s Cobblers was a lot steeper.

From all reports we simply weren’t at the races and while Vale are at a higher level than the likes of Wimbledon and Macclesfield Town, recently felled at Sixfields, we still need to be concentrating and working harder if we’re to be convinced that come May we won’t be fighting for our lives once again.

From the moment John McCombe nodded in the opener it always felt like Town would be in trouble and Matt Duke was under high levels of pressure early on either side of the goal. It took until the thirty seventh minute for us to conjure a decent opening with Luke Guttridge volleying wide but that was as good as it got for a subdued Cobblers outfit.

We had a massive task to get back on terms and when Sean Rigg doubled the arrears on the hour mark it looked like game over despite there being a healthy period of time left. It was only then that the Cobblers woke up and with the substitution of Ben Tozer for Toni Silva, suring up the midfield battle, we finally looked like competing.

Bayo Akinfenwa got on the end of a Jake Robinson cross to make it 2-1 and suddenly there was some sense of urgency and hope. That was Bayo’s eleventh of the season and fiftieth for the club –  a milestone that might be forgotten thanks to the lack of an equaliser late on.

With five of the bottom six picking up a point there’s a massive emphasis on Tuesday’s league programme when the Cobblers don’t play but Barnet and Bradford (against each other), Hereford (at Gillingham), Plymouth and Macclesfield (another relegation six pointer) and Dagenham (at Morecambe) all do. We can only watch and hope that things go our way because there’s a massively tough game at Cheltenham to come for Town this Saturday.

I’ve got a feeling that these nerves aren’t going anywhere yet!