Northampton Town FC was once the runaway winner of League 2 but that feels like a long time ago now. In fact it’s only coming up to two years ago when at the end of the 2015/16 season the Cobblers were 13 points clear of their nearest challenger Oxford Utd in second. Unfortunately the return to England’s third tier wasn’t as smooth as many in Northamptonshire would have hoped. Chris Wilder, the manager that lead the team to League 2 glory was signed in pre-season by Sheffield Utd. Rob Page was now at the helm and the Cobblers started the season as they finished the last. Unbeaten in the league for the first 7 games, granted it was 5 draws and 2 wins but one of those was an impressive 3-2 win over local rivals MK Dons. It was during this run the Cobblers beat Premier League team West Brom on penalties in the EFL Cup setting up a home tie with Manchester Utd in the next round. However this would be the high point for Page at Sixfields. In January, after a disastrous run of games Page stated ‘it was like men against girls’ following a 5 nil loss to Bristol Rovers. He was sacked 2 days later with Northampton 16th in the league. On January 16th Justin Edinburgh was charged with helping the Cobblers beat the drop. Come the end of the season it was job done for Edinburgh, Northampton finished where he took over in 16th, but safe.
When the current season started I had hoped the team would build on their brush with relegation and use this season to move up the table. Unfortunately for the club and Edinburgh this was not the case. On 31st August Edinburgh was dismissed having lost the first 4 games of the season. The club looked to a new man and a big name. On September 4th, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was appointed. He immediately got the club of the mark with a debut win over Doncaster Rovers.
Fast forward to present day and what’s the outlook? If I’m honest it looks worrying. The club is sitting 18th with 36 points and -21 goal difference (joint worst in the league) I’ve looked at the 14 remaining fixtures and if the results mirror the games earlier in the season the Cobblers will have 4 more wins and 1 draw. Put another way that’s 13 points from a possible 42. Let’s assume this is the case, come the end of the season the club would finish on 49 points and likely not a good goal difference. Port Vale finished last season with these stats and were 21st and relegated.
Something the Cobblers have going for them is their current form. Only 1 loss in January to league leaders Wigan, but an impressive win away at Bradford and home wins against Southend and MK Dons have given new confidence to the team. Not forgetting to mention the 1 all draw at Ewood Park. Even after a surprising loss at home to Rochdale, the club bounced back beating AFC Wimbledon 3-1 away. On a side note, I was at this fixture last season and saw a late Matt Taylor penalty win it for us. It’s great to see how Wimbledon has bounced back.
Tonight Northampton host Gillingham, having won the away game 2-1 nothing more than a win will do at Sixfields tonight. This won’t be easy as the Gills are in form themselves having won 4 of their last 6 including away at Charlton and Scunthorpe. That brings me on nicely to our fixture on Saturday, Scunthorpe away. I was at the home fixture to watch the 3 nil loss and I will be at Glanford Park on Saturday. I’m hoping for a much different display and result, the Iron may be flying high 4th in the league but with only 1 win in their last 6 they are very much out of form.
Can the Cobblers beat the drop? It’s in their own hands and coming into form at this part of the season is vital. Remaining fixtures include, Blackpool, Bury and Oldham, all these teams are currently below Northampton in the table so wins here would create some distance from the relegation places. My gut feeling is League 1 football will be at Sixfields next season; let’s just hope I haven’t got my rose tinted glasses on…