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.