A winning start…

Mohammed - match winner

Mohammed – match winner

It’s a rare feeling for a Cobblers fans is this – three points on the board on the opening weekend have eluded us for many a year. Indeed the last time we won on the first day (a 4-2 victory over Cheltenham Town in 2008) we thought that Leon Constantine might actually be a worthy signing…heady days! This time around, and after six opening days without even scoring a goal, there was less of a gung ho approach but more of a sense of a team worked performance that firstly broke down a Mansfield side coming to frustrate and then displayed toughness at the end of the game when the Stags were trying to claw back a point.

The debutant most were talking about before the game was John-Joe O’Toole but it was Kaid Mohammed, another making his first official appearance for Town, who claimed the headlines with a powered header at the back post for the only goal of the game. O’Toole was brought off in the second half and that move ended up giving Chris Wilder a welcome selection headache for the games to come.

That was because of another fine performance from Ivan Toney who brought more cohesion with Marc Richards to the front line and we could easily have doubled the lead on more than one occasion after the youngster came on. At home, a dual attack is likely to be better received and it’ll be interesting to see how Wilder plays it in the coming months at Sixfields. Away from home O’Toole should bring plenty to the table but it’ll be hard for the boss to ignore Toney if he continues to show as much guile and positive energy that he showed again on Saturday.

It was a general consensus that we’ll face a lot tougher tests than Mansfield this season but anything garnered from the first game of the season is a real positive. Just to not be playing catch up in the early weeks would be a huge improvement on recent seasons and having a genuinely coherent squad with substitutes coming on that could easily have started a game shows a depth that’s not been seen at this stage of a season for quite some time.

There’s of course work to be done and we’ll have a hugely tough examination at Molineux on Tuesday evening in the League Cup to really test the mettle before another tester at York in the League on Saturday but for once we’re saying that the early signs are good.

Just to be back in football mode is fantastic to be fair – until that first dodgy league defeat comes around let’s enjoy seeing our name at the right end of the ‘league table’ for a while!

Run continues but Cobblers held by ten men

Carter...third of the season.

Carter…third of the season.

Northampton Town 1-1 Mansfield Town

League Two

Saturday, March 15th 2014

It wasn’t quite what the Cobblers wanted from this weekend but, as has become the way under Chris Wilder, it certainly wasn’t a disaster and we head into Tuesday night’s clash with Rochdale at Sixfields still on an unbeaten run. It was another case of having to come from behind and against a big Mansfield side who are just keeping their heads above water it was a decent point in the end despite the Stags going down to ten men right before the equaliser.

At this stage of the season, and in particular in this closest of League Two campaigns, there’s just no use looking at the league table and planning where your points will come from. It would have been easy to think that this was a great chance to bag three more points but the Stags clearly had other ideas and were set up to stifle any momentum that we gained on Tuesday night at Exeter.

Indeed it was the visitors to strike first when Adam Murray played in Oliver Palmer who slotted in past Matt Duke to leave us with another tough battle on our hands. The unbeaten run was well and truly in doubt and Town were frustrated in attempts to get back into it before the break with Ricky Ravenhill firing over with the best effort before half time.

We were in need of a big turning point and it came just past the hour mark. Darryl Westlake put his hand in the way of an Alan Connell header and suddenly the Cobblers had a penalty and an extra man after Westlake was shown a straight red card for the incident. Darren Carter duly obliged in levelling and with a staggering THREE goals this season is now the club’s top scorer!

With the impetus now well on the Cobblers Zander Diamond headed over the bar but it wasn’t all one way traffic with Mansfield creating chances of their own through Anthony Howell and Colin Daniel. Chris Hackett got on the end of an Alan Connell cross but fired wide and that was as good as it got for the final quarter of the game with the points shared and Mansfield, as with Bristol Rovers two weeks ago, left Sixfields the happier of the two sides with a draw.

Whilst there’ll be plenty of disappointment with the result it still makes it six games without defeat and keeps the mini run going. Tuesday against Rochdale is a game in hand on many teams above us and if we can cause what would be considered an upset then we’ll be level on points with Exeter, who drew at Newport on Sunday afternoon. That in itself would provide a huge psychological boost to have finally closed the gap and whilst there’s still so much football to be played it would start to look more and more in our own hands.

There’s plenty to work on before Tuesday with the possibility of new loan signing Cristian Lopez making a starting appearance after coming from the bench for the last few minutes of this one. Lopez filled in the ‘big man’ place on the team sheet and replaces the recalled John Marquis who we could have done with against a strong and powerful Stags outfit.

Rochdale will bring with them their own dangers of course and have the chance to go top of the league if they pick up the win at Sixfields and Chesterfield slip up at Plymouth.

There’s so little between most of the clubs in this division, though, that every game from now on becomes unpredictable, and in turn, keep us all on the very edge of our seats and at the edge of our nerves.

Northampton Town v Mansfield Town: Match Preview

sixfieldspanoramaNorthampton Town v Mansfield Town

League Two

Saturday, March 15th 2014

We’ve reached the stage where one more win would bring us right to the brink of escaping the relegation zone. For weeks the Cobblers have been clawing back the gap, winning games but then discovering other results going against us and desperately hanging on but now it’s starting to become more and more in our own hands.

With Exeter not playing till Sunday this weekend, there’s a huge incentive for Town to strike huge fear into them by claiming all three points against a Mansfield Town side who are themselves still peering over their shoulder. Indeed, a Cobblers win would bring the Stags back to within two points and also drag a few other clubs properly into the mix so it’s another massive weekend.

After a decent enough start to life back in League Two, Mansfield’s slide began with five defeats in a row in November before another three games without a win in December. The run was ended with victory over Cheltenham Town in the final game of 2013 and since then it’s been a stabilising job for Paul Cox as he looks to avoid taking his club back to where they came from last May. They’ve been as unpredictable as any League Two side since the turn of the year and that makes them pretty dangerous to the Cobblers.

There’s new found hope at Sixfields these days, though, and Chris Wilder has clearly instilled something in his men to enable them to put a good enough run together to reach this pivotal moment in the season. Every game is huge from now on but after this one is through and we’re faced with just ten games to play we’ll have a much better idea on how things are going to pan out.

Nerves at the ready…

Team News…

The Cobblers welcome back Ricky Ravenhill after the midfielder served his one match ban on Tuesday night at Exeter with Gary Deegan likely to be the man sacrificed. John Marquis was recalled by Millwall this week with the Championship side activating a 24 hour recall clause in his loan deal. He was swiftly replaced by new loanee Cristian Lopez who joins from Huddersfield Town until the end of the season. Lopez has spent a brief spell on loan at Shrewsbury Town earlier this season, scoring once in five outings before returning to his parent club. He goes straight into the squad for Saturday’s game. Joe Widdowson, meanwhile, remains a doubt with his ankle injury.

Mansfield full back Darryl Westlake could be included in the Stags’ squad after it was revealed that he didn’t tear his hamstring in the defeat to York City on Tuesday night as first feared. One man who will be missing, though, is Ritchie Sutton, who has a hamstring injury that looks set to keep him out for up to three weeks.

Previous Six Meetings…

21/09/13: Mansfield 3-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Earlier this season the Cobblers had one of those away days that we’d unfortunately become accustomed to as the Stags eased to a comfortable win. Ben Hutchinson put them in front on the half hour mark before Sam Clucas made it two just a few minutes later. An own goal on his debut by Mathias Doumbe sealed a miserable day for Town.

18/03/06: Mansfield 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Richard Barker scored the only goal of the game the last time the sides met in 2006 at Field Mill but the Cobblers would still go on to win promotion a couple of months later.

26/12/05: Cobblers 1-0 Mansfield (League Two)

David Hunt’s goal was enough to give the Cobblers a narrow win on Boxing Day 2005.

01/01/05: Cobblers 2-1 Mansfield (League Two)

Former Cobblers striker Derek Asamoah was sent off two minutes before half time for Mansfield for diving but the away side took the lead as Paul Warne’s corner was met by David Rowson who nodded into his own net. But the Cobblers hit back in the second half when Trevor Benjamin made the most of a couple of deflections to fire us level and Martin Smith headed in for the winner with fifteen minutes to play.

05/09/04: Mansfield 4-1 Cobblers (League Two)

The first meeting since the playoff semi-final a few months earlier saw Mansfield hammer the Cobblers. Derek Asamoah, who had swapped Sixfields for Field Mill in the summer, headed his new side in front before Eric Sabin levelled briefly. Before the break Wayne Corden made it 2-1 and the home side never looked back. Second half goals from future Cobbler Colin Larkin and (a second from) Corden confirmed a big home win.

20/05/04: Mansfield 1-3 Cobblers – Mansfield win 5-4 on penalties (League Two Playoff Semi-Final, Second Leg)

An extraordinary second leg of the playoffs saw the Cobblers come from two goals down on aggregate with three goals either side of half time. Marc Richards got the ball rolling before Chris Hargreaves levelled the tie just before the break. In our first attack of the second half, Martin Smith curled in for 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to send the thousands of Town fans into a state of delirium but there were more twists to come. Tom Curtis appeared to foul Eric Sabin on the half way line but incredibly the decision went the other way with Curtis popping up to lash in just seconds after he could easily have been sent off! Derek Asamoah was brought down late on but there was nothing giving from referee Phil Crossley and Mansfield went on to win the penalty shoot-out with Sabin missing the crucial kick for Town. The most emotional game of football that I have ever seen and one that may not be matched for a long time!

The man in the middle…

The referee for this one is Andy Haines who last took charge of a Cobblers game in another crucial home game in March 2012 when we were again fighting relegation. On that day we saw off Aldershot Town 3-1 so hopefully we’ll have a similar outcome on Saturday!

Prediction…

This is the big chance to close the gap from three points to zero points and to really pile the pressure on Exeter who don’t play until Sunday. Mansfield need the points as well as they’re in the clutch of teams just above the drop zone but fingers crossed for our momentum to continue. 2-1.

Stagnant Cobblers lose on the road again

Mansfield Town 3-0 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 21st 2013

I’m losing the will to write these match thoughts. Another away day comes and goes and, though we did manage the incredible feat of actually keeping eleven men on the pitch for a full ninety minutes this time, the Cobblers slipped to another horrific defeat on the road. The fact that not even our home form is keeping us afloat this time is making this season into a complete disaster with the safety net of Sixfields already broken.

This latest shocker came at Field Mill, a scene of heroes of the past but what is now fast becoming a graveyard. If only we had one or two in the current squad with the fire of a Chris Hargreaves or Ian Sampson or the guile and skill of a Martin Smith, all of which gave us that extraordinary night in 2004. The problem we’re now faced with is that we do have supposed quality in the side but the full potential is just not being reached.

It doesn’t feel anything like the last time we were in this position- second bottom of the entire Football League – yet here we are. There’s no sign of any players with the questionable abilities of a Chris Arthur of Ashley Corker, bless ‘em, with the current crop of players individually appearing fully fitting of a side that you would imagine to challenge for the top seven.

Mansfield were in no mood to care about any of this, though, and took advantage of a shaky Town side to ease into fifth place – an impressive return to League Two so far. The Cobblers had a decent start again and could have taken the lead when Chris Hackett just missed a flick from Clive Platt but were punished when a stunning free kick from Ben Hutchinson flew into the net to open the scoring.

The Stags never looked back and the Cobblers’ demise created another painful Saturday afternoon.

The home side doubled their lead shortly after the opener in scenes similar to those dark away days last season when Sam Clucas finished past Matt Duke to send his team into the break 2-0 up.

Darren Carter twice tested Alan Marriott with free kicks before Ian Morris also had a shot well saved as we briefly flirted with the idea of a comeback. It wasn’t to be though and it was all summed up when debutant defender Mathias Kouo-Doumbe somehow slicing the ball past Duke from full on twenty five yards.

Game over, then, and four out of four away games have ended with no points with the Cobblers languishing in all too familiar territory at the wrong end of League Two. It’s desperate stuff and leaves us with just one side – Accrington Stanley – below us in the league ladder. The home game with Morecambe next weekend becomes arguably the first must win game of the season. That’s not to say that it’s an easy fixture with the Shrimps going very well in eighth place but any home game right now would feel like one that we would have to pick something up from.

It’s another weekend of the stats reading in our favour but the result handsomely not doing. The result is what matters most right now and I would swap all the perceived ‘better football’ for a 1-0 scrap right now. We need it, the players need it and Aidy Boothroyd definitely needs it.

It’s not yet six pointer territory but in terms of confidence and belief these next couple of weeks will play a massive role in what’s to be the final outcome of this flagging season.

Mansfield Town v Northampton Town: Match Preview

Football - FA Cup - 3rd Round - Mansfield Town FC v Liverpool FCMansfield Town v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, September 21st 2013

Just the mention of Field Mill is enough to send the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The ground where the Cobblers blasted their way into the playoffs in 2004 on the final day of the season was emotional enough after Colin Calderwood and John Deehan had masterminded an incredible rise back up the table.

But what happened a week or so later is now stuff of folklore and whenever we make the short journey there it never fails to bring back those memories of Town stunning the Stags, who were 2-0 up from the first leg of the playoff semi-final at Sixfields, by coming back to lead 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. The shenanigans involving one Tom Curtis and the ensuing period of extra time along with Derek Asamoah’s clear penalty being turned down made the eventual penalty shoot-out defeat all that more difficult to take.

Since then Mansfield have been on a journey backwards into non-league before returning, after a five year absence, in April following a 1-0 win over Wrexham that secured the Conference title. Former Kettering Town defender Paul Cox, taking charge of his 100th league game at the club tomorrow, masterminded the rise back to the league and his side sit eighth after a positive start in League Two that’s seen them lose just once in the opening seven games. That defeat was on the opening day at Scunthorpe and the Stags have since drawn three and won three and are on terrific form as they prepare to host the struggling Cobblers.

Town are down on four points and with away form showing no sign of letting up it’s looking like a tough, tough game tomorrow. Overturning the form book is crucial. It need not be anything like the drama of 2004…anything, like a deflected own goal or Clive Platt bundling one in off his stomach will do at this point as long as we come away with something!

 

Doumbe...new addition

Doumbe…new addition

Team News…

Mansfield are without Chris Clements with the midfielder damaging knee ligaments during his side’s win over York City last weekend. Martin Riley is another to miss out through a suspension after being sent off in the same game. But Matt Rhead is available again after completing his own one match ban.

Ahead of Saturday the Cobblers have signed up defender Mathias Kuou-Doumbe on a contract until the end of the season. Aidy Boothroyd has been touting an experienced defender as the next signing and the deal has been done in time for the former Hibs, Plymouth and MK Dons defender to be a part of the squad for the trip to Field Mill. Elsewhere, Ian Morris is the favourite to come in for suspended midfielder Gary Deegan with Matty Harriott another to be pushing for a start.

 

Previous Six Meetings…

18/03/06: Mansfield 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Richard Barker scored the only goal of the game the last time the sides met in 2006 at Field Mill but the Cobblers would still go on to win promotion a couple of months later.

26/12/05: Cobblers 1-0 Mansfield (League Two)

David Hunt’s goal was enough to give the Cobblers a narrow win on Boxing Day 2005.

01/01/05: Cobblers 2-1 Mansfield (League Two)

Former Cobblers striker Derek Asamoah was sent off two minutes before half time for Mansfield for diving but the away side took the lead as Paul Warne’s corner was met by David Rowson who nodded into his own net. But the Cobblers hit back in the second half when Trevor Benjamin made the most of a couple of deflections to fire us level and Martin Smith headed in for the winner with fifteen minutes to play.

05/09/04: Mansfield 4-1 Cobblers (League Two)

The first meeting since the playoff semi-final a few months earlier saw Mansfield hammer the Cobblers. Derek Asamoah, who had swapped Sixfields for Field Mill in the summer, headed his new side in front before Eric Sabin levelled briefly. Before the break Wayne Corden made it 2-1 and the home side never looked back. Second half goals from future Cobbler Colin Larkin and (a second from) Corden confirmed a big home win.

20/05/04: Mansfield 1-3 Cobblers – Mansfield win 5-4 on penalties (League Two Playoff Semi-Final, Second Leg)

An extraordinary second leg of the playoffs saw the Cobblers come from two goals down on aggregate with three goals either side of half time. Marc Richards got the ball rolling before Chris Hargreaves levelled the tie just before the break. In our first attack of the second half, Martin Smith curled in for 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to send the thousands of Town fans into a state of delirium but there were more twists to come. Tom Curtis appeared to foul Eric Sabin on the half way line but incredibly the decision went the other way with Curtis popping up to lash in just seconds after he could easily have been sent off! Derek Asamoah was brought down late on but there was nothing giving from referee Phil Crossley and Mansfield went on to win the penalty shoot out with Sabin missing the crucial kick for Town. The most emotional game of football that I have ever seen and one that may not be matched for a long time!

16/05/04: Cobblers 0-2 Mansfield (League Two Playoff Semi-Final, First Leg)

In the first leg, Rhys Day had put Mansfield in control before Junior Mendes followed up from a Tom Curtis shot to put the Stags two goals to the good. Ashley Westwood was sent off late on for the Cobblers.

 

The man in the middle…

Steve Rushton is the man handed responsibility for this one. He’s only refereed three games so far this season but showed two red cards in his last match; Crawley’s 3-2 win over Gillingham in League One. We don’t have good memories from his last Cobblers game after Rushton sent off Town’s Danny East in last season’s defeat at Fleetwood Town.

 

Prediction…

The Cobblers could do with some luck but must take chances after wasting plenty of them during last week’s defeat to Exeter. A lot will depend on what happens in midfield with Gary Deegan suspended but it’s a chance for someone else to stake a claim. I’m going out on a limb here but this could be the one. 1-0 Cobblers.