Steady Progress…



All in all, the last few days have seen plenty to cheer and a little to raise concerns for the Cobblers but gaining a point at a current promotion rival and getting through a tough away game in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to reach the Area Quarter Finals represents a very good return despite the pitfalls that came from both games.

The Wycombe fixture could easily have been won – Town were in decent control of the game a goal to the good at Adams Park but a ludicrous red card for Gregor Robertson waiting for a sub to be made set up what was the frantic finale resulting in the equaliser. We can’t obviously land all the blame on the referee – there was still a goal scored from a set piece that Chris Wilder won’t be too happy with – but the dismissal with five minutes to go was a real kick in the teeth.

That one felt like a defeat by the time 5 O’clock came around on Saturday but when you look at it off the back of the win at Morecambe a week earlier it represents a good little run, particularly after the third away game in a row at Portsmouth on Tuesday night.

Good news was again tied in with bad at Fratton Park with the Cobblers winning a competitive game 2-1 thanks to goals from David Moyo and Kaid Mohammed but Marc Richards pulling his hamstring, ruling him out for 4-6 weeks. There’s an argument that Rico shouldn’t have played in such a game as he returns from injury but I really don’t think you can lay the blame at the manager for wanting his top scorer back on the pitch.

Rico could easily have picked up the same injury in a league game or in training – it just so happened that it was in the JPT where we could have been excused for resting him. Fair play to Chris Wilder for getting him out there, though, and showing at least a little intent on winning through to within four games of Wembley (I can dream can’t I?!).

The other highlight was Alex Nicholls’ return to Cobblers competitive action. It seems like every time we mention Nicholls’ name it’s with the words “his first…” in front of the sentence. The player must just be happy with being back in action again and when all has settled we’ll hopefully have another huge asset on our hands. It wasn’t his night at Pompey with two good chances missed but he’ll surely find his feet again. That could be sooner rather than later with Rico’s injury.

Here’s the options for the Quarter Final draw to be made on Saturday: Cheltenham/Bristol City (play tonight), Leyton Orient, Gillingham, Coventry, Crawley, AFC Wimbledon or Plymouth. The old preference of “anyone at home” would do here I think, though a trip to Coventry would raise the profile of the game that’s probably one round ahead of the “We can actually win this” round.

Overall, then, good work from the Cobblers against two sides who are probably going to be up and around the promotion places in League Two and another huge battle is ahead on Saturday when third place Burton Albion visit a Sixfields Stadium celebrating fifteen years of existence. Speaking of which, the votes have been counted for your top moment of Sixfields’ history and you will be able to see the results in the upcoming ‘What A Load Of Cobblers’ fanzine or here on the blog early next week ahead of the official birthday on the 15th.

A solid “Keep it up” mark for term number one of the season…

As you were (Part Two)…

 dannyeastNorthampton Town 0-1 Portsmouth

 League Two

 Monday, April 21st 2014

The most frustrating part of a tennis match usually comes when the player you’re supporting suddenly gets a series of break points after levelling at deuce but then proceeds to drop them time and again. That’s kind of what this feels like after another round of League Two games saw the Cobblers presented with a perfect chance to jump out of the bottom two when Rochdale were added to our Christmas card list when they beat Bristol Rovers. We needed just a point from the game with the newly safe from relegation Portsmouth to finally escape the drop zone that we’ve made ourselves at home in since late September.

But again we’re not talking about safety in expectation rather than hope and again the main talking point is the lack of a genuine goal threat that could well be the ball and chain that holds us back from getting above that line. Pompey were never in absolute top gear and the Cobblers produced some good moments and a much more believable fight than previous home defeats but at the end of it all we remain in the drop zone on goal difference.

Of all the former Cobblers to revisit Sixfields this season you wouldn’t have found many to name Danny East as one to come back to haunt us but he did just that by scoring the only goal of the game after just a few minutes to settle the visitors and give Town a hill to climb again.           It took us until the half hour mark to get back in the game and start to pose a threat but when presented with an absolutely glorious chance, Emile Sinclair completely missed a glaring header after a good ball in from Evan Horwood. It was a moment that will be replaying with Cobblers fans all evening and into the night and is typical of the form of late from the man who was originally plucked out to try and spearhead the attack of a survival bid.

The scarily more prolific Darren Carter tested Trevor Carson right at the end of the half but it would be Sinclair’s miss that Town fans would be talking about over their half time Bovrils. It clearly affected Chris Wilder’s thinking with Sinclair hauled off in place of young Ivan Toney for the second half in both an act of notice to Sinclair that patience is running out and an act of faith to his replacement who equipped himself well after taking to the field.

Toney put a header just over as the atmosphere started to crank up and John Marquis followed that with an effort that Carson did well to save. The final change for us came when Kelvin Langmead came on for his second appearance since coming back from that long injury and was thrown right into the mix up front in a desperate bid for the crucial point. As we pushed forward there were inevitable gaps opening up at the back and Matt Duke had to be at his very best to keep out Pompey substitute Ricky Holmes.

It wouldn’t matter though as Langmead’s late deflected effort was the best we could muster and the travelling army of Pompey fans went home happy to the south coast.

With Wycombe losing at Fleetwood it’s just about as you were once again and with the Chairboys hosting Bristol Rovers on Saturday we know that nothing will be concluded at the weekend and it goes to the final day no matter what. Just what we need from the Oxford game will be dictated by what we do at Dagenham and with that other huge game between the sides just above us we know that a win at Victoria Park would be pivotal. Scoring the goals that create a victory is another matter though and with such big question marks over the lack of conviction in front of goal it’s not easy to see how we get there.

But get there we really, really must.

King edges his way into contention as Cobblers battle through Christmas…

andy king2013 has seen Cobblers fans being taken well and truly through the mire away from home with some dire performances, quick collapses and days when the players didn’t seem to even get on the team coach in the first place. Almost as much as home form kept the Cobblers in the hunt for the playoffs last season, the form on the road was a major force behind Aidy Boothroyd’s sacking just before Christmas.

Boothroyd’s loss was Andy King’s gain and there could surely be no more daunting task in English football than to turn around the fortunes of the league’s bottom club with dwindling resources that were damaged a whole lot more over the festive period.

A run of the mill defeat at Burton on Boxing Day left King’s hopes of pushing himself into the chairman’s thinking in limbo but, ironically, he led the Cobblers to a performance on Sunday afternoon off the back of some extraordinary injury problems and in particular in the strikers’ department. After Stuart Dallas was recalled by Brentford, Izale McLeod and Roy O’Donovan joined Clive Platt on the treatment table leaving Luke Norris as the sole senior forward going into the game at Fratton Park.

Norris was then taken off in the first half and David Moyo was thrown into the same deep end as Andy King found himself in as the nineteen year old, on loan with Northern Premier League side Stamford until only a few days ago, led the Cobblers line. It certainly wasn’t looking good and it would need a lion hearted performance if we were to take anything back from the south coast.

And as the home support grew restless, Town produced exactly what was required and so nearly got so much more. Matty Harriott, who along with Ben Tozer was another to be thrown straight back in after loan spells were cut short, forced Pompey keeper Trevor Carson into a save mid-way through the second half and Moyo headed over as the Cobblers pressed for an unlikely winner.

But a point was a valuable addition to the season’s tally and we had to soak up a bit of pressure before claiming it which meant really digging in – something that we’re going to have to do immediately whoever the playing personnel are that run out in the claret shirts for the second half of this season.

Nineteen points from the first twenty three games is nothing short of a disaster but this is where the players need to realise that they were part of the problem, roll their sleeves up and fight for whichever manager occupies their dug out. The supporters will stick by them and they should have no doubt about that if they even glanced momentarily at the away end at Fratton Park. 728 was the official count of Cobblers fans and – on a cold late December afternoon with their team bottom of the Football League and shocking on the road – that is outstanding.

We’ll need every bit of help we can get in the coming weeks and it’s still a mystery as to whether King will even be considered for the top job but he’ll get at least one more shot at it against top club Chesterfield on New Year’s Day, maybe even at Newport in six days’ time as well. After that come two huge six pointers against York City and Torquay United so whoever wins the race to lead us into 2014 and beyond is in for a big first few weeks in charge.

Getting the players to believe in themselves is the first job, though, and on the showing of Sunday afternoon Andy King can add that particular positive attribute to his C.V. should he join the queue outside Mr Cardoza’s office.

A Happy New Year to you all!