Two hours…

2hoursTorquay United 1-2 Northampton Town

League Two

Tuesday, February 11th 2014

Two hours can go in the blink of an eye. Sands of time can just filter away as we rush through busy daily tasks or fight to keep to a deadline at work. But in football, two hours can mean so much and seem to last much longer than your run of the mill time spell anywhere else. Something transforms when a match becomes the focus of an afternoon or evening and on Tuesday night Northampton Town had two of their most important hours of the season.

At 7:40pm we were still recovering from the shock that the game at Plainmoor was actually going ahead after several downpours and the postponement of Torquay’s home game with Bury on Saturday. Indeed this fixture was scheduled to be Chris Hargreaves’ first home game in charge and was called off the first time but such has been the devastating effect of the winter rain that he could still use it as the same milestone.

By 9:40pm, and after one of the tensest finishes to a game this season due to the importance of the result, the Cobblers had pushed the nail out of their coffin that was hammered in by Torquay’s Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle a few days earlier. For 69 heroic Cobblers fans in attendance this was a result to warm the cockles of a long, long Tuesday night journey home and for the thousands listening on radios and websites, watching agonisingly by Twitter or clinging to any form of updates they could get a hold of it was something to cling on to in the relegation battle that many saw as an already lost fight.

Town came into the game having had the team bus held up for two and a half hours due to a broken windscreen wiper but showed no signs of it getting to them. Instead we stormed into a two goal lead inside fifteen minutes thanks to the striker partnership of Alan Connell and Emile Sinclair starting to gel perfectly.

The first also owed a lot to a crunching challenge from Ricky Ravenhill in our own half as the midfielder won the ball superbly and set off the move that ended with Connell producing an inch perfect pass to Sinclair. He still had plenty to do but rounded the keeper and slotted in past an onrushing defender to strike Town into the lead. It was the sort of counter attacking goal that we could only dream of scoring away from home a matter of weeks ago and the cohesion between the strikers came to fruition again minutes later.

Connell collected the ball from a Matt Duke goal kick that had been flicked on initially in midfield and played in Sinclair again with the striker racing through and finishing expertly past former Cobblers loan goalkeeper Michael Poke.  Town were in dream land and on the way to a mammoth three points but the result wasn’t clear cut as is the norm for any Cobblers win at the moment!

Krystian Pearce, outpaced by Sinclair for one of the goals, popped up to volley in from a corner late in the first half and it was game on. The second half was always set to be one where we would need to throw bodies at balls and defend for our lives and so it was. Leon McSweeney in particular put himself on the line and in front of a Jordan Chappell shot just after half time and there were plenty more goal mouth scrambles and nervy Matt Duke moments to come.

After five minutes of injury time, though, Town had the ball in the corner at the right end of the pitch and the job was done. The relief felt even stronger than the collective breath out after our 1-0 win over the Gulls on Good Friday last season. These circumstances are far, far more delicate and to say that it’s a huge three points is the understatement of the season.

Chris Wilder remains unbeaten away from home all season at Oxford and the Cobblers but personal records like that won’t mean nearly as much as the fact that he’s picked up his first three points as Town boss. It gives him back some of the momentum lost on Saturday and though this weekend’s trip to Fleetwood is a daunting one he at least goes into it with a side that’s starting to come together and play.

There will, of course, be much bigger tests than this along the road but we’ve given ourselves a real chance with the gap now five points between us and safety with the Cobblers holding a game in hand over Wycombe Wanderers.

At the start of events last night all seemed lost or, at the very least, at last chance saloon. Two hours later and we believe again.

Torquay United v Northampton Town: Match Preview

Torquay-Plainmoor_1149761Torquay United v Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, January 18th 2014

It’s been a case all ‘all quiet on the western front’ this week barring a small video release from David Cardoza so we go into the absolutely crucial trip to Torquay United with still no idea who will be taking our football club forwards. Add to that the fact that one of the candidates for the job will be sitting in the home dugout and this is a very awkward game.

Torquay made their decision early to appoint Chris Hargreaves and he’s taken no time at all to lay his marker down, leading his new charges to a 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon last weekend. Krystian Pearce put them in front before Jayden Stockley netted in his first game back at the club since re-joining on loan from Hargreaves’ former club Bournemouth.

Other results meant that it wasn’t quite enough to take the Gulls out of the bottom two but Hargreaves was delighted at the performance and result – one that took them four points clear of the Cobblers at the bottom of League Two. The well-loved former Town midfielder can’t afford any sentiment to get in his way and will smell blood as he prepares for his first home game in charge.

Andy King takes the Cobblers reins for the fifth time at Plainmoor with one win, one draw and two defeats behind him including the hugely disappointing 2-0 home reverse against York City last Saturday. He seems as much in the dark as everyone else is about how long he’ll be here for but continues to come in and make some sort of sense from the direst of situations.

The only thing that we can do, as fans, is turn up on the day and try to put everything aside for ninety minutes to support our football club. You may not like the lack of communication, the patched up squad and the fact that we’re bottom of the league but we need to be right behind everyone representing Northampton Town for the stuff that really matters – league points.

Harding - out injured

Harding – out injured

Team News…

Torquay completed a deal for former Bournemouth defender Shaun Cooper this week and he goes straight into the squad. The Gulls have no fresh injury concerns but former Cobblers midfielder Ben Harding is still unavailable due to a foot injury. Ashley Yeoman may play some part after returning from a loan spell at Bideford.

The Cobblers have another new loan signing set for a debut with Crawley defender James Hurst joining on loan on Friday. Hurst started his career at West Brom and then moved on to Portsmouth before joining Icelandic Premier League side IBV on loan. He returned to West Brom in 2010 but only made one first team appearance, spending a lot of time out on loan at Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Chesterfield and Birmingham. He returned to Iceland again in 2013 with Valur and signed for Crawley on a one year deal last summer. He joins the Cobblers having made eighteen appearances for Crawley so far this season and comes straight into contention for the trip to Plainmoor.

Elsewhere, Joe Widdowson comes back in for the Cobblers after recovering from a shoulder injury whilst Roy O’Donovan is also back in the squad after turning down a move to Dubai this week. Andy King will assess O’Donovan’s fitness, though, before making any decision to bring him back in. Chris Hackett is still missing and will be for another two to three weeks whilst Mathias Doumbe isn’t expected back into training until next week.

Previous Six Meetings…

24/08/13: Cobblers 1-2 Torquay (League Two)

Jacob Blyth gave the Cobblers a seemingly comfortable lead back in the game at Sixfields earlier this season but two goals from Jordan Chappell stunned us and completely turned the game around in the second half.

29/03/13: Cobblers 1-0 Torquay (League Two)

On a tense Good Friday evening at Sixfields the game was goalless until Roy O’ Donovan nicked in for an eighty fifth minute winner that kept up an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a place in the top three last season.

15/12/12: Torquay 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

Former Cobblers loan striker Ryan Jarvis put the Gulls in front in the away fixture last season and it looked like we were on course for defeat until Kelvin Langmead hammered in one of his trademark last minute goals to earn Town a point.

28/01/12: Torquay 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Mark Ellis scored the only goal of the game in the last meeting between the sides back in January with his header fifteen minutes from time sealing three points for the Gulls.

10/09/11: Cobblers 0-0 Torquay (League Two)

Uneventful draw at Sixfields earlier that season saw both sides go home relatively happy with a point.

25/03/11: Cobblers 2-2 Torquay (League Two)

In a manic finale to this crucial game towards the end the 2010/11 season, Eunan O’Kane gave Torquay the lead early on before John Johnson levelled. Billy Kee netted a 90th minute goal to seemingly give the Gulls all three points but incredibly Guillem Bauza equalised again in stoppage time!

The man in the middle…

Michael Naylor is in charge of this one having last took a Cobblers game back in October when Rochdale scored two late goals to beat us 3-2 at Spotland. His last Torquay game was in March 2012 in a 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers. He’s shown 45 yellow cards and only 1 red in 21 games.


It’s safe to say that I’m not the most optimistic of Cobblers fans at the moment. It feel like the spirit is being drained from us as each week brings more uncertainty. With Chris Hargreaves flying off the mark last weekend and the home fans bursting to welcome him it’s going to be a really tough afternoon for anyone of a Cobblers persuasion. It’s rare that I predict a defeat but unfortunately I see it coming on Saturday. 1-2.

From the opposition…

To read the thoughts of Torquay fan Christina Smart, click here!

There’s only one Chrissie Hargreaves!

Hargreaves in his Cobblers days

Hargreaves in his Cobblers days

I would imagine that it’s pretty rare for a blogger to put out a piece a couple of days before a big relegation six pointer in praise of the opposition manager but Chris Hargreaves is worthy of that sort of exception. Things could have been so different had we jumped a little faster into the managerial appointment process and Hargreaves could well have been leading the Cobblers, and not Torquay, into Saturday’s game.

As it is, we can only look with some envy as the Gulls look to continue their renaissance under a man who will forever be a legend at Northampton Town. Hargreaves the player gets plaudits from every single fan of a club he’s played for and that’s a sign of what he was like on the pitch. He was a midfielder that embodied a spirit and will to win that made it seem like he was a lifelong fan of the team he was turning out for. It’s a sad irony that he would be exactly the sort of player that the Cobblers need in our current predicament.

Of course, after leaving Town, Hargreaves still had some unfinished business in the game and went on to earn legendary status at Oxford United and Torquay United, winning promotion from the Conference with both clubs before calling it a day in 2010. He’s been pretty busy since hanging up his boots as well with a successful sports shop opening in 2011 and the completion of “Where’s Your Caravan?” a hugely popular book with lower league football fans. Recently he’s joined up with Eddie Howe at AFC Bournemouth, gaining plenty of experience en route to Plainmoor.

Hargreaves comes across as a genuinely good guy as well and you can’t begrudge him a position near to his family home and business. I honestly hope that he goes on to make a fantastic living for himself as a football manager as well – his blood, sweat and tears playing for the Cobblers proved that you don’t always have to blessed with silky skills to be considered a legend and you’d struggle to find any Town fan that wouldn’t wish him well.

I’m left like many others in just wishing it was at Sixfields that he decided to kick off that managerial career. Maybe one day…

Fan Feature: Torquay United

torquay-united-logo-150x150Torquay United: Fan Feature

Back in August, Torquay United fan Christina Smart gave us her thoughts just before the Cobblers hosted her Gulls at Sixfields. A lot has changed for both sides since with managerial changes all round and, with both sides stuck in the bottom two, it’s set to be a crunch game this weekend as we meet again. Christina gives her thoughts on the latest comings, goings and happenings at Plainmoor below.

You can follow her passionate Torquay United tweets at @stinadreama…big thanks to Christina for taking time to answer these…

So, Chris Hargreaves! A big win in his first game in charge last week… how has the outlook of the club changed since his appointment?

I understand your disappointment that we won the tug of love for our new manager, I wish you well in your next managerial appointment and you can probably guess a lot of what I’m about to say!

Chris Hargreaves (and his assistant Lee Hodges, another young ex-Gull with management experience, at Truro City) feels as right for us as Alan Knill sadly proved to be wrong, and the less said about that sad time (squirrel jokes aside) the better. All credit to Thea Bristow and the Board for returning to our core values of team spirit and work ethic with this bold appointment.

Known affectionately to us as Jesus or Tarzan because of the long flowing hair in his time here as a player, Chris Hargreaves captained us back into the Football League at Wembley on 17th May 2009, scoring an audacious goal in the process. When he collected the cup he immediately gestured over to us, the fans, yelling “This is for you!”

A staggering TEN of those Wembley heroes are right here, right now: 8 of that playing squad (Hargreaves, Hodges, Poke, Rice, Nicholson, Mansell, Benyon, and the recently reintroduced Danny Stevens; GK coach Kenny Veysey, and physio Damien Davey. It is the hunger to preserve the league status they fought so hard for together, and won, that he can immediately tap in to and hopefully translate into results.

Every point is obviously precious now, but even so, for me a draw at Kingsmeadow would have been a perfectly respectable start. Instead, we were treated to a dream come true with a clean sheet, 2 goals, 3 points, 11 man of the match performances and a team effort which everyone could be proud of.

Another thing that has been transformed is our PR. Interviews are suddenly insightful and entertaining, sprinkled with quips about getting in all the Bournemouth players and not being David Blaine.

Upbeat and positive? “How very unTorquay!” you would have said at almost any time in 2013, but things change, thankfully, and sometimes rapidly!

Any transfer news since the window opened?

Yes and no! I’ve lost count of all the loanees that have come and gone. Yeoman, Thompson and Lathrope have been welcomed back into the fold and are very much part of the survival plan.

Initially, the aim is to see what can be got out of the existing players. That’s clearly working already. Nicholson (completely frozen out under Knill, hence the Lazarus twitter avatar) and Mansell are reportedly rejuvenated, and a reinstated Pearce, who I like a lot, scored on Saturday. O’Connor is now playing at RB where he was so effective last season at Burton.

Jayden Stockley is back on another month’s loan and his Bournemouth team-mate Shaun Cooper is expected to be joining us too. Young Brighton striker Shamir Goodwin has also arrived on a month’s loan. Danny Stevens is dividing opinion by reportedly training with us; he was released after 5 years’ service, is still without a club and has always been commited to the yellow cause.

Vice chairman Alex Rowe has enthused that funds can be available for further reinforcements if needed, and Hargreaves believes bringing in the right character is crucial. Realistically, we are perhaps more likely to utilise the more affordable loan market than to look to buy.

Obviously it’s a huge game on Saturday in terms of the relegation battle but are your sights now set on mid-table and beyond?

Looking back at my blindly optimistic prediction in the summer makes me blush with embarrassment! The goal for now is simply to escape the drop, nothing more, nothing less, game by game, point by point.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say another trip to the Conference wouldn’t be a disaster, because in many ways of course it would be. Chris Hargreaves has astutely not dismissed this possiblilty out of hand because let’s face it, he has inherited a mess: he is our Plan A and our Plan B, which very neatly takes pressure off the players, simultaneously indicating that he is with us for the long haul.

I fully expect an open-top bus survival parade in May with Hargreaves milking it for all it’s worth. I can visualise it now! That’s the least he, and all of us who stand united, will deserve if, by force of character and strength of leadership, he makes Saturdays worth living for again.

Management, staff, players and fans have been united from the very first kick of the new era, and whenever the time comes for us to move from crisis management to longer term progression we have a real chance to build a club to be proud of, a whole philosophy with the open expansive style of play Hargreaves tantalisingly promises. The future’s bright, the future’s yellow. And Where’s the Caravan now? It has a permanent pitch in Babbacombe with a freshly painted picket fence and a budding rose garden.

Who have been the star men amidst the struggle in the opening months of the season?

The last few months have been demoralising and disjointed; we simply weren’t set up to succeed. The stars were there, but for a lot of the time we just couldn’t see them for the clouds. It’s impossible to shine when you have no confidence or belief . Having said that, the rise of Martin Rice on being handed the injured Michael Poke’s goalkeeping gloves has been meteoric. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Jordan Chapell, and Downes has been immense. Marquis and McCourt did well while they were here, but we still need to uncover some shooting stars.

And finally, a score prediction for Saturday?

I’m hoping for a warm reception for Hargreaves from both sets of fans, and it’s easy to predict an emotionally charged atmosphere. Thank goodness this fixture was scheduled for so early in the New Year; I’d hate for us to meet in a winner-takes-all end of season affair. I predict that it will go to the wire and both of our teams will survive! Turning to Saturday’s 6-pointer, in muddy conditions and with the Chris Hargreaves factor, I think it will be much more like a cup game when anything can happen and probably will. A scintillating 2-2 draw… No, no, we must win. We’ll win. 2-1.

2014 has started astonishingly well and is going to be the year that keeps on giving, I just know it.

Torquay United Links…

Official Website:


Twitter: @InsidePlainmoor




BBC Website:

Local News section:

Stadium Guide:

Cobblers fall to rejuvenated Gulls

Chappell...brace at Sixfields

Chappell…brace at Sixfields

Northampton Town 1-2 Torquay United

League Two

Saturday, August 24th 2013

The big turning point at the end of last season in terms of automatic promotion hopes came when the Cobblers’ long winning run at Sixfields came to an end in a surprise defeat by York City. Though Saturday’s reverse against Torquay United won’t have as much impact in the short term it still mirrors that period of time with Town clinging on to home form when away results fell badly. When the home front fell there was nothing to hold us up and the fear is that now we can’t event rely on the ‘fortress’ we really could be in trouble.

The saving grace is that we are in the usual Cobblers early season slump period and many a time have we seen resurgence up the league after shaky starts. This defeat leaves us licking our wounds and asking more questions than need to be asked as the transfer window nears its closing time. We are also reminded that there are plenty of teams in League Two who can spring a surprise or two, compete above their perceived level and send messages that it’s not all about who spends the most.

Nobody in this division has any divine right to promotion. Seven teams will end the league season happy before the playoffs begin. That means seventeen will end the season with some form of disappointment, be it missing out on the playoffs, subdued in mid-table or relegated. We need to realise that it’s not just our own misgivings that have us third from bottom in the early goings but that other teams are just more organised and better drilled than we are, something that Torquay showed here.

It shouldn’t have got to the point where we were looking at a third defeat in four league games and all looked to be on track when Jacob Blyth headed in powerfully from a good ball in from Danny Emerton on the right. 1-0 up at the break and once again it looked like the balance was shifting back to the trusted ‘win at home, lose away’ sequence.

But the Gulls had other ideas and came out a changed side, showing tremendous spirit to not just lie down and accept a fate that was expected by the majority of the home crowd, or so I would wager. The visitors grew more and more into the game and grabbed their reward in a two goal burst with eighteen and twelve minutes to play.

Jordan Chappell was the architect from Torquay’s side but the fact that we were in possession of the ball right before both of his goals will irk Aidy Boothroyd. Chappell first raced on to a break away involving former Cobblers loan man Karl Hawley to finish well past Matt Duke and then got on the end of Callum Ball’s pass to cut inside and skilfully curve the ball into the corner of the net to stun three sides of Sixfields.

There seemed to be some panic on Boothroyd’s side of things just after the first goal when former Gull Ian Morris was replaced by the returning Clive Platt. Morris had appeared to give balance to the midfield but Platt’s introduction meant that we were going all out for the winner and ended up being caught out. Tactically it’s one that Boothroyd will need to learn from.

There was to be no real late drama and so it was that the long journey back to Devon was made so much more bearable for the hardy souls in the Torquay end. They came, saw and turned a lost cause into a winning one and fair play to them for that.

If Boothroyd and visiting boss Alan Knill had a glass of wine after the game then maybe he could pick up a few pointers in that particular art with the next game on the road again at a perennial haunt of ours, the Memorial Stadium.

It’s another long week’s wait to try and put it right but put it right we must as the first month of the season comes to an end.

Northampton Town v Torquay United: Match Preview

sixfieldsNorthampton Town v Torquay United

League Two

Saturday, August 24th 2013

The Cobblers return home for another Sixfields test on Saturday afternoon with winless Torquay United in town. Pressure will be on after another defeat on the road last weekend and we have to push on at Sixfields whilst this travel sickness goes on. The Gulls pushed us close back on Good Friday with only a late Roy O’ Donovan strike between the sides and it’s likely to be a similarly tight game this time around.

Alan Knill was appointed full time Torquay boss over the summer having steered the club to league safety. He took over the reins from Martin Ling who was taken ill in mid-January and did enough in his interim stint to convince the powers that be that he was the right man going forward. Knill has bags of experience at this level having led Bury to fourth place and the League Two playoff semi-finals in 2009 so you get the feeling that he has unfinished business in the basement division.

His summer has been a busy one with Elliot Benyon making a full time return to Plainmoor after a four year spell at the club between 2007 and 2011 and a loan move last season. Also coming in were a couple of players with Cobblers links with ex youth team player Courtney Cameron signing, former Town loan striker Karl Hawley moving in from Scunthorpe and Ben Harding agreeing a deal shortly after leaving Sixfields at the end of last season. There’s extra spice added to the game with Ian Morris also set to play against his old club having swapped with Harding over the summer!

So plenty of old faces to reacquaint with but the big job is to get the three points to balance out the poor start on the road once more. to face former club

Morris…fit to face former club

Team News…

The Cobblers are without the suspended Chris Hackett who was shown two yellow cards just twenty two minutes into his return to action against Southend last weekend. Clive Platt returned to the bench at Roots Hall so he will be pushing for a place in the starting eleven but Lewis Hornby is still out. Matt Heath is back in line for a start after missing the last couple of games through an injury picked up in the warm up of the Newport game.

Torquay keeper Michael Poke was expected to return but his thigh problem has flared up again this week, meaning Martin Rice will continue to deputise. Other than that, the visitors have no new injury worried with Kevin Nicholson recovering well from having stitches in his cheek after a collision during the 3-1 defeat to Oxford last weekend. Elliot Benyon is pushing for a place in the starting line-up after coming back from a concussion while Dale Tongue is back following suspension.


Previous Six Meetings…

29/03/13: Cobblers 1-0 Torquay (League Two)

On a tense Good Friday evening at Sixfields the game was goalless until Roy O’ Donovan nicked in for an eighty fifth minute winner that kept up an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a place in the top three last season.

15/12/12: Torquay 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

Former Cobblers loan striker Ryan Jarvis put the Gulls in front in the away fixture last season and it looked like we were on course for defeat until Kelvin Langmead hammered in one of his trademark last minute goals to earn Town a point.

28/01/12: Torquay 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)

Mark Ellis scored the only goal of the game in the last meeting between the sides back in January with his header fifteen minutes from time sealing three points for the Gulls.

10/09/11: Cobblers 0-0 Torquay (League Two)

Uneventful draw at Sixfields earlier that season saw both sides go home relatively happy with a point.

25/03/11: Cobblers 2-2 Torquay (League Two)

In a manic finale to this crucial game towards the end the 2010/11 season, Eunan O’Kane gave Torquay the lead early on before John Johnson levelled. Billy Kee netted a 90th minute goal to seemingly give the Gulls all three points but incredibly Guillem Bauza equalised again in stoppage time!

07/08/10: Torquay 3-0 Cobblers (League Two)

An opening day of the season encounter at Plainmoor ended with Torquay making the perfect start to the campaign after a 3-0 hammering that saw Kevin Nicholson open the scoring against his former club and Chris Zebroski and Elliot Benyon make it safe early in the second half.


The man in the middle…

Andrew Madley is the man charged with officiating on Saturday afternoon. Madley last refereed a Cobblers game in the League Two playoff semi-final, second leg at Cheltenham Town at the end of last season with his last Torquay game being a 1-0 defeat at Gillingham back in April. He’s taken charge of four games so far this season, showing ten yellow cards and one red – to Tranmere’s Danny Holmes last weekend.



With away form taking its regular form in the first month of the season it’s crucial that we keep things going on the home front. Torquay haven’t won yet but it’ll still be a close encounter but I think we’ve got enough in us to sneak it. 1-0


From the opposition…

Gulls fan Christina Smart gave us her view on all things Torquay this week and you can read her thoughts here.

Torquay United: Fan Feature

torquay-united-logo-150x150Torquay United head to Sixfields tomorrow afternoon still looking for their first win of the season (that in itself fills me with trepidation!) and after a tough second half to last season that saw Martin Ling fall ill and Alan Knill pick up the pieces to keep the Gulls in League Two. This week, resident Torquay fanatic Christina Smart gives us the lowdown on what was a troublesome campaign last time out.

We’ve made quite a habit of getting to play-offs in recent years,Christina says, so you could say we deserved a sabbatical! It was fantastic to have 4 of our players in the 2011-12 League 2 Team of the Year, and painful to then experience last season in all its misery. There seemed to be a lack of focus, questionable allocation of resources and dithering when action was required. The season became increasingly depressing and farcical from a fan’s perspective, and rumours festered in the absence of press releases from the club.

It must have been a deeply unpleasant and surreal time for the players. Firstly, we lost key players- notably Eunan O’Kane and Bobby Olejnik, but investment was off the pitch, in our training ground. We were set up to play ultra-defensively which was boring to watch and didn’t always work,particularly now that our creative playmaker had gone. We were humiliated in the first round of the FA Cup and were punished with the resulting loss of revenue from future rounds . This perhaps explains why we didn’t bring in the loanees in January many were clamouring for. Manager Martin Ling departed, initially on sick leave, half way through the season, leaving his assistant to hold the fort until the eventual arrival of our third manager of the season, Alan Knill, who was tasked with saving our football league status

Our position became increasingly perilous as we developed a nasty confidence-shattering habit of conceding and throwing away points in the final 10 minutes of what felt like every game. Labadie and Chapell were finally brought in on loan, became instant heroes in a team seemingly and understandably bereft of selfbelief and were prematurely and infuriatingly recalled by their parent clubs, leaving our battered warriors to fling themselves barely alive over the finishing line against Bristol Rovers on the final day.

Last season has thankfully been sunk in a leaden casket deep below the sea, and we are finally starting to see positive change. In a sudden Board reshuffle, a fan-friendly CEO and a popular new Chairwoman, Thea Bristow, were both instated. We have forged ahead with ground and training facility improvements; we havea pitch-side big screen and our match day programme, TQ1, is rather good…

Knill...Gulls boss

Knill…Gulls boss

Alan Knill has previous at this level having led Bury to the playoffs before being recruited by Scunthorpe United. Things didn’t work out too well at Glanford Park but you can imagine that the old steel is still there as he attempts to rebuild his reputation once again. So is Knill the right man for the job?

Ling’s dismissal was uncomfortable,” Christina says, but the Board acted swiftly and decisively so that (unlike when Paul Buckle departed) there was a manager in place at a time when players needed to be retained/recruited. Alan Knill was the logical choice; as incumbent, he had fulfilled his brief of securing safety. His willingness to relocate, and his ability to persuade Chris Brass to join him were other positives. I’ve read mixed reports about Knill from fans of his old clubs, so I guess time will tell whether he is right for us, but so far, based on signings and attacking intent (and so long as he doesn’t introduce anything daft like goal music) I’m happy.

The new manager’s first pre-season has seen him bring in a couple of ex Cobblers players in Karl Hawley and Ben Harding whilst exciting youngster Callum Ball has had a decent start in Gulls colours. Christina says that they could do with a couple more to fill up the squad but that team spirit is a key factor:

The new signings look potentially exciting, and so far no-one has disgraced himself! The squad is still a little thin and we could do with a couple more additions (a right back and creative midfielder) if we could afford them. Dale Tonge mentioned in an interview that team spirit is greatly underated in football and that it happens naturally at Torquay. I don’t mind if no-one stands out. I love it when the players play for each other and work hard to win as a team. Eleven heroes would do just fine!

“Knill has urged fans to be patient: Hawley and Ball arrived at Plainmoor on the Thursday before the season began, and Pearce came in that week too, so I think it’s fair to say that the team is still gelling. I’m certainly not panicking just yet, although I know others are already starting to. We’re a stronger squad; luck can be whimsical, but the goals and wins will come.

So are there any key danger men to watch out for or youngsters to watch?

Haha danger isn’t the first word that springs to mind when I think of my beloved Torquay, although there is surely no scarier sight on earth than a Lee Mansell war cry! I’d love this to be Billy Bodin’s year; he seems to be on the verge of blossoming into the player we know he can be. Chapell and Hawley could shine for us. Of the youngsters, I wouldn’t write off the goal-scoring prowess of Ashley Yeoman or the scintillating pace of Niall Thompson, but Dan Sullivan could be the one to watch. He debuted for us at Morecambe and last week revived the dying art of scoring with both feet in a brace against Cheltenham reserves.”

In terms of predictions and hopes, Christina reckons that simple progress would be all that is needed this season and that she would take a point tomorrow afternoon. She finishes:

I’d say somewhere in the top half of the table is definitely achievable. Around 10th would be fine, and then we can push on next season. It’ll be interesting to see how Ben Harding and Ian Morris fare after swapping clubs.

We’re definitely due a win at Sixfields, but I don’t expect it to come on Saturday. I’d be happy with a 1-1 draw, so long as we beat Hartlepool the following week! Come on You Yellows!

You can follow Christina on Twitter @stinadreama for passionate, heartfelt and genuine tweets about Torquay United.

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Perfect Ten for Cobblers!

O' Donovan...winner

O’ Donovan…winner

Northampton Town 1-0 Torquay United

League Two

Friday, March 29th 2013

I forgot how special and emotional these promotion pushes can be. Sat in a pool side restaurant here in Peru, five hours behind English time and with the sun beaming down it would be easy to feel detachment from the Cobblers’ Good Friday encounter with Torquay United. But as soon as the game started and I found relevant connection to stream commentary I was right back in and it was as if I’d never left the shores of England, for a couple of hours at least.

This was set to be a big one, with any sort of victory set to propel us into the top three in League Two. It reminded me a lot of Ian Taylor’s solitary goal in a 1-0 win over the Gulls during the promotion season of 2006. On that occasion, Colin Calderwood was masterminding a campaign of success thanks to many victories of that kind and it seems Aidy Boothroyd has the same formula. On that occasion, Town won the game to go second in the table despite a backdrop of ridiculous booing of the Scottish Cobblers boss up until Taylor’s goal. This was a similar outcome but there’s no chance of Boothroyd receiving such negativity from the stands.

Instead, he’s slowly rebuilding a reputation and whether you like him or not, with six games to play he is at the helm of a side well in the running for automatic promotion. Despite much of the usual optimism at the start of the season I don’t think any of us would have expected to see that sentence being written back in August.

Torquay gave as good as they got by all accounts and were desperately unlucky not to have been given the chance to take the lead in the second half thanks to what seems like a stone wall penalty missed by the officials.

It’s this sort of luck that’s helped us along the way in recent weeks with last minute goals, stubborn defensive displays and a home record to savour creating the perfect mix for the run in. This was no different as Town notched the only goal of the game through Roy O’ Donovan’s strike five minutes from time, creating a roar not heard at Sixfields for a very long time.

The visitors left wondering how they had failed to take home at least a point from a game that they were always in but in terms of a relegation battle they should be pretty comfortable based on this showing.

With six games to play this promotion race is becoming ever more real and the game at Cheltenham Town on Monday afternoon is a six pointer in every sense of the word. The Cobblers sit three points clear of the Rubies with a game in hand so any sort of result there would be a big step towards keeping them at arm’s length. It’s that, and the other three of four away games that are likely to shape whether it’s automatic promotion or a place in the playoffs come the end of April.

The fact that we’re talking of the playoffs as a genuine option now and a possible worst case scenario is amazing. If we can keep our nerve away from home and continue this astonishing run at Sixfields then the roar heard today – epicentre at Upton Way with ripples reaching around the globe – is just the beginning.

Burton Albion…it’s your move next…


Win number nine keeps the dream alive

Northampton Town 1-0 Oxford United

League Two

Saturday, March 23rd 2013

The first match to take place while I{m out in Peru saw the Cobblers keep alive dreams of a top three finish with Oxford United beaten by the single goal at Sixfields. The ninth home win in a row meant that, due to others not playing and Cheltenham being held at Barnet, we are back into fourth place in League Two with just seven games to play. A strong defensive performance was needed in the second half to hold back the Us who hold realistic playoff ambitions of their own but Ben Harding’s well taken goal on the stroke of half time was enough and the games are running out for us to not seal at least a place in the top seven.

It was another sign that this Cobblers side is capable of producing things that those from the last couple of seasons haven’t been able to. Scrapping out 1-0 wins, keeping a multitude of clean sheets and even winning when playing in front of a big crowd at Sixfields. So many times before we’ve seen this sort of occasion attract over 6,000 and let us down with a poor performance. This latest tester was overcome thanks to the dogged determination of this squad who are giving us all genuine hope that we won’t even need the playoffs – an unthinkable thing a few months ago.

The match report sent over by my Dad spoke of Kelvin Langmead’s first half injury – one that we will be derperately hoping is on the mend quickly- but also of a sterling performance from Clarke Carlisle. There’s no doubt that the central defensive pairing are putting in shifts to match those knocking in the crucial goals at the other end of the pitch.

Here in Peru I witnessed first hand the passion felt by football supporters on Friday night as their national team saw off Chile by the same 1-0 scoreline to reignite faint hopes of  World Cup qualification. The nations celebrations went into the night and reminded me of how we get around Sixfields when things go right. Beeping horns on the streets took me back to playoff semi final victories and promotions and if we can keep picking up these big results then I may even be dancing on the pitch when I return from these hot shores with just over a week of the season to go.

Next up are Torquay United on Friday with the Gulls looking to knock down a fortress that is still gloriously holding out.

Skipper grabs a point to keep Town in touch

Langmead...late equaliser

Langmead…late equaliser

Torquay United 1-1 Northampton Town

League Two

Saturday, December 15th 2012

When you look back at the end of the season there’s key things you identify…whole games, big goals or, as it was at Plainmoor on Saturday, critical single moments that don’t seem huge at the time but put in perspective become massive components of a campaign. Kelvin Langmead’s scrambled equaliser came right at the very end of a match befitting two sides battling to reach the top seven and earned a point that will be very handy come May.

Both sides had competed well in difficult conditions on the Devon coast with Torquay looking like they’d earned all three points when a former Cobbler raced onto a fine cross from the left from Danny Stevens. That man was Ryan Jarvis, a Town loanee during the 2010/11 season, a man who was limited to three appearances for the club before returning to parent club Leyton Orient.

Jarvis would unfortunately leave the ground with a bad injury after suffering from a partially punctured lung and fractured ribs during a late challenge. He did, remarkably, finish the game – an indication of the attitude being instilled in this Torquay side by boss Martin Ling that made this trip such a tough one for Aidy Boothroyd’s men.

Such spirit is also apparent with this new Cobblers side, though, and in particular in captain marvel Kelvin Langmead who had a broken nose by the time he fired in the leveller a minute into stoppage time. By then the heavens had opened and it was one of the unprettiest goals you’re likely to see. There’ll be no complaints about that, though, as Town held on to a position just outside the top half of the table.

The one piece of bad news coming from the game was that Bayo Akinfenwa’s yellow card means that he’ll miss out on next Saturday’s home game with Aldershot Town. It was inevitable but will still see a big hole in the front line be created when we line up against the Shots. It’s a game we need to win in order to have a chance at going into the half way stage in the top half and to have that in mind shows that most things have gone to plan so far this season.

It’s never going to be perfect with such a transitional season taking place under the watchful eye of Boothroyd but keeping up with those fighting for the top seven places, especially in games like this one, is a welcome change to where we were during the Christmas period last year.

An early present would be three points on Saturday in order to tick one thing from our ‘wish list’ before Christmas Day.