Top three for Town after victory at Aldershot!

Carlisle...winner

Carlisle…winner

Aldershot Town 1-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Tuesday, January 22nd 2013

It needed a double take at the League Two table on Tuesday night but there it was in clear print – the Cobblers were sitting in third place! Exactly one year ago we were rock bottom of the entire Football League but, for a few days at least, Northampton Town are behind just two other clubs in the standings – one of whom we face in a week’s time.

With some heavy snow falling on Tuesday afternoon it was a minor miracle that the game went ahead but with the Shots desperate to play to cover the final game of Danny Hylton’s suspension ahead of their FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough on Saturday (Hylton even helped to clear the pitch of snow) there was always going to be a strong chance of that happening.

Our own talisman would also sit this one out as speculation escalated regarding the future of Bayo Akinfenwa after he was reduced to a place on the bench. Aidy Boothroyd said that he wants to ‘protect’ Akinfenwa and the optimists amongst Cobblers fans will suggest that it was just a rest for the big man. Perhaps, though, Boothroyd needed to know that we can perform and play without Bayo. Either way, as the Town team bus crawled back home on Tuesday evening there would have been nothing but smiles emanating from players and staff alike as they clicked their respective phones onto the various ‘League Two table’ pages online.

It had been a testing evening in some tricky conditions but the manner of the win, coming from behind away from home was a huge boost. I said just a couple of days ago that we desperately need to sort out the away form in order to keep hold of a place in the top seven and this would have been a big psychological evening for the players who had been in a bit of a rut away from home, winning just once in the previous eight trips.

This was to be the one that brought relief to the hardy 140 souls that made the trip down to Hampshire. It was looking like another long night may be in the offering when Aldershot took the lead within two minutes thanks to Dani Lopez’s close range effort but the Cobblers settled down after that to forge a comeback before half time. First, Michael Hector handballed and Chris Hackett levelled from the penalty spot and then just over ten minutes later Clarke Carlisle notched his first goal since re-joining the Cobblers by heading in a good delivery from Hackett from a corner.

There was to be one hairy moment to come with Kelvin Langmead clearing off the line in the early exchanges of the second half but we also had chances to extend the lead through Hackett and Lewis Hornby, who had a shot of his own cleared at the last. The Cobblers were reasonably comfortable seeing the game out, though, and as the hosts try to recover in time for their big cup date on Saturday we can relax with a blank weekend having already bagged the points that we would have been playing for.

I don’t want to get anywhere near ahead of myself but holding on to these points could turn out to be one of the biggest moments of the season. Whilst propelling us into the top three is extremely pleasant on the eye, the lasting effects may yet serve as a late reminder to anyone who is considering their future that they may just be building something here that they can’t leave behind.

Christmas cheer!

Robinson...opening goal

Robinson…opening goal

Northampton Town 2-0 Aldershot Town

League Two

Saturday, December 22nd 2012

Ninth place and a point from the playoffs as we head into Christmas is a position a lot of would have taken when the season kicked off in August. After a solid home win over Aldershot Town on Saturday that’s the reality and despite most teams now having a game extra in hand it’s a great position to be hitting the second half of the campaign with.

I said after last week’s draw with Torquay United that scraping results like that were key to any good season and the same is true about this one, a scrappy contest but one that produced two well taken goals and a clean sheet to boot. Town fans will be more than happy with that as Aidy Boothroyd prepares his side for the next obstacles of Christmas, two away games at AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham.

Saturday’s pre-season talk was how we would cope with Bayo Akinfenwa with Ishmel Deontagnac taking his place in the attack and Clive Platt leading the line. Platt would get his moment after a tight first half, made difficult for both sides by the treacherous weather. Based on that, the Sixfields ground staff deserve a lot of credit for getting the game on – only five others went ahead in Leagues One and Two.

The second half began with Jake Robinson on for Demontagnac and he made the most immediate of impacts. Robinson raced through onto a Ben Tozer through ball, his heavy touch fortunately catching in the wet pitch, and finished calmly to give the Cobblers the lead.

It wasn’t to be an easy ride to the finish, though, with the Shots fighting their way back and creating a couple of big chances through Danny Hylton and Dani Lopez that on another day could have brought them right back into the game. Lee Nicholls was in top form to deny Lopez, proving again why his extended loan spell will be crucial to the rest of this season.

Town needed a second and it eventually came through Platt who produced a fine lob went sent through on goal to send relief rushing around Sixfields and Christmas cheer spreading through the departing claret faithful.

So it’s a case of “so far, so good” as we reach the half way mark of the League Two season. I was seriously concerned about us a year ago with a Boxing Day defeat at home to Burton Albion leaving us staring into the abyss but now there’s genuine hope of a run towards the top seven so full credit must go to the squad and management for giving us that hope and for turning around not just the form but the mood around the club.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and here’s to more positive blog posts in the coming months, starting with Boxing Day! Stay safe kids, drive carefully and enjoy all that Christmas brings J

Northampton Town v Aldershot Town: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Aldershot Town

League Two

Saturday, December 22nd 2012

It’s the last game before Christmas and what better way to go into the holidays than with a Cobblers victory?! On paper, a home game with a struggling side would seem an ideal opportunity to do just that but you can never write off Aldershot to put a spanner in the works! There will be a big hole in the front line with the absence of Bayo Akinfenwa due to his suspension but hopefully we can manage to still put something together to warm the cockles of the home support one last time at home this year.

Early Kick off…

Don’t forget it’s a 2pm kick off for this one with the Cobblers moving their start time so that no problems arise (in theory anyway!) with the Northampton Saints game starting on the same afternoon. That means that a Cobblers win would lift us into the top half for at least at hour!

Hylton the man of the round…

Aldershot striker Danny Hylton was recently named the FA Cup player of the round for Round Two as he helped his side beat Fleetwood Town 3-2 by scoring twice as the Shots progressed to a Third Round tie against Rotherham United. Hylton has scored five times in the league this season and is the club’s second top scorer behind Craig Reid.

Road to recovery…

The Shots were really struggling up until that cup game but it has sparked off a mini revival with a draw at Oxford followed by last weekend’s 4-2 home win over Rochdale. They had only scored three times at the EBB Stadium before Saturday but blew that record away with a fine attacking display, meaning that they’ll be hungry for more at Sixfields.

Impressive on the road…

Aldershot have a good record away from home as late and are six unbeaten on the road in all competitions. That run has included victories at Southend, Burton and Fleetwood Town.

 

Bayo - one match ban

Bayo – one match ban

Team News…

The Cobblers’ big gap will be that of Bayo Akinfenwa who picked up his fifth booking of the season at Torquay at the weekend so misses this game. David Artell and John Johnson won’t be back for another few weeks while Luke Guttridge is on the road to recovery but won’t be fit enough to face his former club. Joe Widdowson is, though, expected to return after missing the trip to Plainmoor with a dead leg. Ishmel Demontagnac is another to come back into the squad after serving a one match ban on Saturday.

Aldershot will be without defender Ben Herd who was sent off late on during the 4-2 win over Rochdale last weekend. They also have to contend with two other suspensions with Peter Vincenti and Troy Brown both picking up their fifth booking of the season last week meaning that they serve their one match bans tomorrow. Sonny Bradley missed the Rochdale game through illness but is expected to come back into the side for the trip to Sixfields. Elsewhere, Guy Madjo is back from a three month spell on loan at Plymouth and could come back into contention.

 

Club Links…

Defender Anthony Charles has previously been with Aldershot on two different occasions. He made 37 appearances in the 2002/03 season before re-joining the club in 2007 and spending another four years at the EBB Stadium.

Cobblers forward Jake Robinson also spent two periods of his career on loan at Aldershot, in the 2004-05 season and again in 2009, scoring eight times in the two spells.

Luke Guttridge signed for Town from Aldershot back in January after a year and a half with the club whom he joined from the Cobblers in 2010.

Fellow midfielder Ben Harding played 143 times for the Shots between 2007 and 2011. He would sign for Wycombe in 2011 but limited chances there saw him sign for the Cobblers early this year.

 

Previous Six Meetings…

10/03/12: Cobblers 3-1 Aldershot (League Two)

The Cobblers completed a league double over the Shots by winning at Sixfields. Kelvin Langmead struck on twenty minutes before Bayo Akinfenwa made the game safe by scoring twice either side of half time. Danny Hylton got a late consolation but the points were comfortably collected by Aidy Boothroyd’s men.

13/08/11: Aldershot 0-1 Cobblers (League Two)

In the first away game of last season, the Cobblers came away with the win thanks to an early Ashley Westwood goal.

19/02/11: Cobblers 1-1 Aldershot (League Two)

This was the fourth in the Cobblers’ six game drawing sequence  in the 2010/11 season with Ben Tozer opening the scoring early on. Peter Vincenti would earn a point for the Shots before Shaun Harrad was sent off with eight minutes to play.

04/09/10: Aldershot 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

An injury time leveller from Ben Harding broke down the Cobblers after Billy McKay’s neatly taken goal in the first half looked to have given us all three points at the EBB Stadium.

12/02/10: Cobblers 0-3 Aldershot (League Two)

In one of his first appearances for the club, Kevin Thornton was sent off after just eleven minutes. From the resulting free kick, Marvin Morgan put the visitors in front and would go on to claim a second after Kirk Hudson had extended their lead in the second half.

24/11/09: Aldershot 2-1 Cobblers (League Two)

Luke Guttridge put the Cobblers into the lead on a cold Tuesday night at the EBB Stadium. But a real collapse late on saw the hosts completely turn it around thanks to a Scott Donnelly penalty and a Marvin Morgan winner in the last minute of the game.

 

The Man in the middle…

Taking charge on Saturday is Tim Robinson who is in his first year in the Football League. Robinson has refereed thirteen matches so far this season, showing thirty one yellow cards and just one red.

 

Prediction…

This falls under the ‘need to win’ category if we’re to keep momentum flowing and it’ll be interesting to see how we fare without Bayo. But I still think we have enough in the tank to go into Christmas on a high. 2-1

Bayo heroics continue with another big three points…

Bayo - Could return

Northampton Town 3-1 Aldershot Town

‘Ole’ football at Sixfields? Was this really happening? With about fifteen minutes to play of yesterday’s game with Aldershot Town, a club who until last Tuesday were in one of their strongest runs of form in history, as the Cobblers sprayed passes around Sixfields there were numerous ‘oles’ going up as the claret faithful finally were able to enjoy a closing part of a match. This week there were no fight backs, no heart in mouth action at the wrong end of the pitch and no heads in hands as another lead looked in danger.

Instead there was a bizarre sense of calm, of celebration and finally of relief as the Cobblers jumped out of the bottom two and moved two points clear of the drop zone, now inhabited by Plymouth Argyle and, Tuesday’s opponents in a massive encounter, Dagenham and Redbridge. We head to the capital in a couple of days’ time with renewed swagger and confidence for, despite that home defeat to Port Vale a couple of weeks ago, Town have picked up thirteen points from a possible eighteen in the last six games. Relegation form it most certainly is not.

Despite all the talk before this game of Luke Guttridge’s ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with Aldershot boss Dean Holdsworth there was never really a lot of doubt that the midfielder would play and the headlines were almost writing themselves in the first few minutes when he latched onto a knock down from Bayo Akinfenwa to strike just wide. But from then on it was a sub text that was completely forgotten about as the Cobblers took control and were storming into yet another half time lead.

First it was Kelvin Langmead adding to his recent upsurge in form as he latched on to a long throw from Ben Tozer to smash us in front on the twenty minute mark with a controlled volley at the far post. Then, before the break it was another long throw that led to Bayo Akinfenwa nodding in to make it five games running in which he’s found the net. After spending time on the side-lines in early 2012, Bayo has come back in remarkable fashion to rise to second top scorer in the league following this game.

The big man made it to sixteen goals, one behind current top scorer Izale McLeod of Barnet, by netting a second half penalty after Michael Jacobs was brought down and was then removed in preparation for Tuesday huge game.

Aldershot were done and we could arguably have added more. It was refreshing to be sat comfortably after the last couple of games and despite a late goal from Danny Hylton there were no nerves on the way to the collection of these three massive points in the fight for survival.

Dagenham’s defeat at Wimbledon coupled with Plymouth’s single goal loss at Rotherham means that the Cobblers are out of the bottom two ahead of Tuesday’s six pointer. The game is one of our games in hand of course and it’s a chance to extend the gap between ourselves and danger. The Daggers should be well up for it as well and there’s likely to be an intense atmosphere at Victoria Road.

It’s not going to be the be all and end all of the season of course but it could go a long, long way to determining whether the Cobblers will be fighting this battle to the very end of the season or whether there is actually a route out before the bottoms begin to squeak…

Northampton Town v Aldershot Town: Match Preview

When Ashley Westwood steered in the only goal of the game down at Aldershot in August there wasn’t a concern in the world. It was a second win in a week following an impressive Carling Cup victory at Ipswich and sustained a mini unbeaten run that kicked off this season. So who could possibly have predicted where we would end up come the next meeting that takes place tomorrow afternoon?!

Westwood is now in charge of troubled neighbours Kettering Town, Gary Johnson has thankfully departed after that glimmer of a decent start to his season and the Cobblers are slowly having to pick up the pieces. Aidy Boothroyd finally has a first eleven that is mainly his own now though and, whisper it quietly, has started to help us turn the corner in the tightest of relegation battles.

Aldershot had a funny old season in the mid-table cluster that we would so love to call our own. A dreadful Christmas and New Year run without scoring for six games has the Shots looking over their own shoulders but suddenly they hit back with six wins on the bounce – a run that was ended by the narrowest of margins at Torquay United on Tuesday night. Dean Holdsworth’s men are still only nine points from the playoff places though and may have one eye on a late assault on the end of season lottery. That makes this one another tough game for the Cobblers and for Aidy Boothroyd’s attempt at the Great Escape…

Form…

The Cobblers have now taken ten points from a possible fifteen since the start of February and have moved off the bottom of League Two thanks to a 3-2 home win over Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night. After letting slip a two goal lead at Cheltenham last weekend, it so nearly happened again but thankfully a three goal cushion was just enough to earn a huge three points.

Aldershot were on a fine run of six wins in a row until Tuesday when they were edged out by Torquay but will take their place in the top ten this afternoon when Port Vale are docked ten points for entering administration.

Team News…

Both Bayo Akinfenwa and Michael Jacobs look to have shaken off knocks picked up on Tuesday night so it once again looks like Boothroyd can name an unchanged side – something that’s got to help the continuity of a team growing in confidence by the week. Meanwhile, the Cobblers boss is set to play Luke Guttridge despite the midfielder holding a reported ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with Shots boss Dean Holdsworth that he would not face them again this season on departing the EBB Stadium in January. Boothroyd says that he will fine the player if he refuses to play so there could be some tension  in the dug outs tomorrow, particularly if Guttridge plays and scores!

Aldershot have extended the loan spell of Hull City defender Sonny Bradley into a third month so he will be available for selection once more. But keeper Ross Worner has been ruled out for the season with a back injury.

Club Links…

Cobblers forward Jake Robinson spent two periods of his career on loan at Aldershot, in the 2004-05 season and again in 2009, scoring eight times in the two spells.

Luke Guttridge signed for Town from Aldershot back in January after a year and a half with the club whom he joined from the Cobblers in 2010.

Fellow midfielder Ben Harding played 143 times for the Shots between 2007 and 2011. He would sign for Wycombe in 2011 but limited chances there saw him sign for the Cobblers early this year.

Previous Six Meetings…

13/08/11: Aldershot 0-1 Cobblers

In the first away day of this season, the Cobblers came away with the win thanks to an early Ashley Westwood goal.

19/02/11: Cobblers 1-1 Aldershot

This was the fourth in the Cobblers’ six game drawing sequence last season with Ben Tozer opening the scoring early on. Peter Vincenti would earn a point for the Shots before Shaun Harrad was sent off with eight minutes to play.

04/09/10: Aldershot 1-1 Cobblers

An injury time leveller from Ben Harding breaks down the Cobblers after Billy McKay’s neatly taken goal in the first half looked to have given us all three points.

12/02/10: Cobblers 0-3 Aldershot

In one of his first appearances for the club, Kevin Thornton is sent off after just eleven minutes. From the resulting free kick, Marvin Morgan put the visitors in front and would go on to claim a second after Kirk Hudson had extended their lead in the second half.

24/11/09: Aldershot 2-1 Cobblers

Luke Guttridge, now an Aldershot player, puts the Cobblers into the lead on a cold Tuesday night at the EBB Stadium. But a real collapse late on sees the hosts completely turn it around thanks to a Scott Donnelly penalty and a Marvin Morgan winner in the last minute of the game.

26/01/91: Cobblers 2-1 Aldershot

En route to a tenth place finish in Division Four that year, the Shots were beaten at the County Ground and only survived relegation because of the expansion in the Football League that season meaning that their finishing place of second bottom of the table didn’t lead to them dropping out of the league.

The Man In The Middle…

The man in charge at Sixfields will be Andy Haines. The last five games he has officiated have all ended 1-1 with his last game in charge of the Cobblers coming in a 1-0 defeat at Rochdale that earned the Spotland club promotion in 2010.

Prediction…

Things are starting to look up again and that always concerns me when it comes to predictions! I’d like to be able to sit on the fence but I’ll give it the old kiss of death and go for a 2-1 home win!