Is it safe to talk about the football again?

O' Toole - winner

O’ Toole – winner

Crawley Town 1-2 Northampton Town

It’s been weeks since the hot topic of conversation has been on the astounding efforts of the Cobblers players on the pitch but today may be the start of a period to once again focus on what now looks like a genuine promotion challenge from the Cobblers.

After more fantastic news hours before kick-off at Crawley in that over £10 million worth of debt will now be taken from our shoulders and placed on the development surrounding Sixfields it was easy to be in an attitude of celebration no matter what the result last night.

As it was, Town produced yet another resolute performance that leaves us level on points with second placed Oxford United and within two points of leaders Plymouth Argyle. Crucially, we’re now eight points clear of eighth place and suddenly the future that looked so threatened a week ago is starting to look very bright indeed.

Assuming that all takeover paperwork is completed in good time, Town will go into the weekend knowing that whatever the result against rock bottom Yeovil Town, we’ll still be in the top three by the time the FA Cup weekend rolls around.

It’s thanks to a victory at Crawley that highlighted two sides to this unified Cobblers side – part clinical and part determined. Looking comfortable at 2-0 up by half-time – through a Joel Bryrom follow up header from a missed Marc Richards penalty and a fine strike from distance from John-Joe O’Toole – the Cobblers were reduced to ten men with half an hour to play which completely changed the course of the match.

Brendon Maloney was the man given his marching orders for bringing down Shamir Fenelon in the area and Simon Walton converted the resulting spot kick. There followed a final third that saw the type of frantic defending and last ditch tackling that’s become a staple of this squad. The fear was that with a deal for the club now close to being complete the players may drop slightly in their efforts but this was a huge step to proving that we’re not only a squad who fight when the chips are down around them but one who have loftier ambitions to stay in the promotion hunt through an exciting looking winter programme.

With Plymouth and Oxford both dropping points it was a massive result to cling onto all three points and the stage is now set for a celebration of a future being sealed this Saturday against Yeovil.

We can’t be counting any chickens about the result but the atmosphere should be red hot in the home ends as we reach the 20 game mark with the real possibility of going top of League Two. The fact that that’s the headline of the night is a hugely welcome relief.

Is it too soon for the #EIEIEIO hash tag? Indeed not…I’m pretty sure we’ve earned the right to bring it out of retirement…

Celebrations still on ice…

Crawley Town 3-1 Northampton Town

I said on Saturday that it was far from over in terms of the race to secure 100% safety and it’s still, frustratingly, hanging over us after a third straight defeat made this Saturday’s trip to Hereford more dangerous than it could have been. Defeat to another promotion candidate on the road shouldn’t be frowned upon too much but the mistakes that contributed to it will be a source of concern for Aidy Boothroyd.

Neal Kitson suffered the first blot on his copy book in a forgettable first half for a Cobblers side who hadn’t been entirely outplayed as the score line at half-time might suggest but who did find themselves 3-0 down by that point. Kitson’s own goal was the third of a trio of goals that on another day could have been dealt with, one of which came from the head of former Town loanee Billy Clarke.

The only thing left for us to do was to try and ‘win the second half’ and although it won’t win us any prizes we at least did that as Brett Williams pounced for 3-1 just after the hour mark. Toni Silva rattled the bar and Williams the post late on but that’s as close as we got against a side who moved into the top three and kept us on the edge of our pants for Saturday.

It’s true that we should be OK but to any Town fan that knows their club inside and out that won’t be good enough until it’s mathematically safe for us to breathe again. Victory at Hereford would do it whilst a point would also be enough should Macclesfield fail to win at Bradford. We could really do without it going to the final two games of the season with two tricky games to round it off so let’s hope for a big turnaround at Edgar Street which may include putting another nail in the Bulls’ coffin at the same time.

Again, until there’s enough daylight to be absolutely sure, the celebrations are well and truly on ice!

Crawley Town v Northampton Town: Match Preview

It’s another one of those that falls into the ‘more in hope than expectation’ category on Tuesday night as the Cobblers travel to the Broadfield Stadium for the first time in our history. The only other time we have played an away game in Crawley was in an FA Cup tie in 1991 that took place in the Red Devil’s old Town Mead ground. Back then of course they were a non-league outfit (and typically dumped the Cobblers out of the cup) and plenty has changed in the twenty years since.

Crawley were hot favourites for the League Two title but after a slight mid-season wobble they will be delighted with a top three finish, particularly after the recent departure of manager Steve Evans to Rotherham United and rumours that their financial backing could be close to ending. Whatever happens off the pitch, they can go back into those top three places with a victory against the Cobblers so that will ensure we’re in for a tough time of things.

Form…

Crawley have drawn three of their last four games with the latest coming on Saturday as AFC Wimbledon came away from the Broadhall Stadium with a 1-1 draw. After defender Hope Akpan was sent off early on, the Wombles looked to be taking all three points home when Sammy Moore netted but Gary Alexander rescued a point with ten minutes to play.

The Cobblers need two more points to ensure safety after back to back defeats halted a good run of form. Following a 1-0 reverse at Swindon on Bank Holiday Monday, Town fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Bradford City on Saturday.

Team News…

Crawley’s Hope Akpan will serve the first of a four game suspension that keeps him out for the rest of the league season after he picked up his second red card of the season on Saturday. Sergio Torres and Pablo Mills are also still missing through suspension but Claude Davis and Kyle McFadzean return from bans.

The Cobblers will give a late fitness test to Ben Harding who missed the weekend defeat to Bradford with an ankle injury. Apart from that, though, there’s no new problems to deal with in terms of injury or suspension.

Club Links…

Billy Clarke...former Cobbler

Billy Clarke played five times for the Cobblers on loan from Ipswich Town in 2009, scoring all three of his Town goals on his debut in a 5-1 drubbing of Crewe.

Midfielder David Hunt is another ex-Cobbler having spent three years at Sixfields including being involved in the successful 2006 promotion winning side.

Strike Karl Hawley was previously on loan with the Cobblers and scored twice in eleven appearances back in the 2008/09 season.

Previous  Meetings…

08/10/11: Cobblers 0-1 Crawley

The first ever league meeting between the sides was broadcast live on Sky Sports and Crawley took home the points thanks to a Matt Tubbs strike mid-way through the first half.

16/11/91: Crawley 4-2 Cobblers (FA Cup First Round)

En route to what was, at the time, their best ever cup run, Crawley shocked the Cobblers by winning this First Round FA Cup tie at their old Town Mead ground. The Red Devils went on the reach the Third Round where they were eventually beaten by neighbours Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Man In The Middle…

Christopher Sarginson takes charge of his first Cobblers game since a goalless draw at Barnet in late 2009, during which he sent off the Bees’ Dean Sinclair.

Prediction…

If we can pick up anything from this then I’ll be well happy. Crawley will be desperate to get back into the top three but I can see Aidy getting us a bit wound up after a poor show on Saturday. I’ll have an ambitious point…1-1.