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Match Reports

Tuesday, November 16. NTFC scorers: Parrish, Gould, Thompson.

The Cobblers made full use of a hastily-arranged friendly at Kettering’s Rockingham Road Ground. The Cobblers recorded a 3-0 victory thanks to second-half goals from Sean Parrish, James Gould and Ryan Thompson. Lee Howey came through 45 minutes on his return from injury, while Roy Hunter completed 80 minutes and Steve Howard played the entire match. Cobblers boss Kevin Wilson made a number of changes in the second period as the game served its purpose of filling a gap in the schedule for both the Cobblers reserves and first team.

Cobblers: Binder (Taylor), Silvestri (Nash), Meade, Parrish (Gould), Howey (Chamberlain), Hughes, Gibb, Peer (Faulds), Howard, Thompson, Hunter (Champelovier).

Saturday, October 23. Att:5,753.

A FIERCE strike from Rotherham's Paul Warne 10 minutes from time gave his side victory against a Cobblers team who had been on top for most of the game. But, not for the first time in recent weeks, the Cobblers lacked a killer touch up front.

Northampton played some neat football at times but failed to show any spark in the final third.

Their territorial dominance would be easily illustrated if only I'd remembered to count the number of corners gained by each side. At a complete guess I'd say it was about 13-2.

Rotherham seemed happy to play for a draw throughout the match and target man Leo Fortune-West was kept very quiet by Lee Howey and Ian Sampson.

Neither side created much in the way of clear-cut chances, while the activities of the referee annoyed fans and players of both sides alike. Eight players were booked in total (five Rotherham, three Cobblers) and few of those should even have warranted consideration for a caution. The ref was also very inconsistent in applying the law which requires a player to leave the field after having treatemtn. Within five minutes of John Frain being ordered off the pitch for this reason, two Rotherham players were allowed to stay on.

Duncan Spedding made a couple of excellent run-and-crosses form the left flank, although his game also featured some sliced clearances. Dean Peer had a mixed match, although James Hunt was much improved from some earlier games. There were further signs that Dave Savage's confidence is returning and he was a central figure in the Cobblers best move fo the match, midway through the second half. It featured around a dozen neat passes and was only ewnded when Steve Howard was scythed down between two visiting players (the result? free-kick to Rotherham).

Howard once again tried hard with little reward, while Simon Sturridge looked very lively and fizzed one shot just wide from 20 yards. He was later replaced by Carlo Corazzin, who could not make much impact.

With 10 minutes left, and Cobblers fans still hopeful of a winner, there was obne - but to Rotherham. A cross wfrom the right was deflected and Warne thumped a cracking drive into the net - a great strike, but only Rotherham's third decent opening of the game. Of the other two, one brought a fine low save from Keith Welch and the other saw an open-goal chance immediately after half time completely fluffed.

The nearest the Cobblers came to a goal was a powerful Sampson header which produced a terrific save, and a couple of late scrambles, one of which saw Howard get in the way of a goalbound shot.

Cobblers: Welch 8, Hendon 7, Spedding 7, Howey 7, Sampson 7, Frain 7, Peer 6 (Morrow 7), Savage 7, Hunt 7, Howard 6 (Wilson 6), Sturridge 7 (Corrazin 6).
Phil Agius

Saturday, September 18. Att:3,638.
NTFC scorer: Corazzin 38mins.

EVENTFUL is possibly the best way to describe the Cobblers' 2-1 loss to early-season pacesetters Barnet. But rest assured, if this is the best team the division has to offer, Northampton will be promoted in May.

Controversy surrounded virtually every decision made by the referee, while all the goodwill shown to the home side for their Keep Barnet Alive campaign evaporated with their despicable gamesmanship.

Early taunting of ex-Boro striker Ken Charlery may have spurred him on to his two first-half goals. The opener came after 21 minutes when (soon after a free-kick decision had been given the wrong way), he was left unmarked to nod in the lively Darren Currie's cross. It said in the programme that he dislikes it being mentioned, so I'll take pleasure in correcting that to Darren Currie, NEPHEW OF TONY.

Blame for the second goal, 15 minutes later, must lie squarely at the feet of skipper John Frain, who spurned the usual option of hoofing the ball upfield and instead opted to play a suicidal ball across his own goal, keeper Keith Welch managed to parry one shot, but Charlery bundled the rebound over the line, an embarrassed Frain sliding into the net in a desperate bid to atone fro his blunder.

The two-goal deficit lasted only 90 seconds though as Ian Hendon rampaged down the right and his centre gave Carlo Corazzin the simple opportunity to tuck away his first goal of the season.

The Cobblers had looked ill at ease for much of the first half but they came out for the second in fighting mood and dominated the second 45 minutes, much of it played in driving rain with the all-white Cobbs attacking the end packed with the large away support.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were played in near darkness as Barnet had seemingly forgotten how to turn their floodlights on. Apart from countless other cock-ups by the hapless ref and his assistants, two major incidents stood out after the break.

Firstly, Steve Howard was shoved in the back when challenging in the air and as he tumbled to the ground it looked an obvious penalty, but none came.

Then the incident which left me wishing I hadn't bothered to sign Barnet's petition before the game saw Cobblers keeper Keith Welch throw the ball out of play to allow treatment to a Barnet player in midfield. On the resumption, the home players shaped up to receive the ball and despite, shouts of 'give it back' proceeded to attack down the right and force Lee Howey to head clear for a corner, which they also attacked from. Boos and jeers rang out from the Cobblers fans for this act of gamesmanship which mirrored the Arsenal-Sheff Utd FA Cup incident. In fact it was worse, as Barnet can't claim they didn't know they were doing wrong.

The Cobblers went closest to a leveller when Steve Howard sent a powerful header just over the bar, while Barnet hit the woodwork on a rare counter-attack.

The only change to the line-up saw Dean Peer return in midfield in place of Darren Byfield, now on loan at Cambridge. Peer battled away but midfield parnter James Hunt again looked the weak link in the side and Roy Hunter's return from injury cannot come soon enough. Simon Sturridge was allowed a couple of minutes at the end and again looked lively emough to merit a starting place.

Two champagne Atkins moments from the game were the boss turning round to give the bench a hefty kick in the first half, and attempting to take a throw-in himself as we attacked in the second!

Cobblers: Welch 7, Hendon 6, Sampson 6, Howey 7, Frain 5, Spedding 7, Peer 7(Sturridge), Hunt 5, Savage 6, Howard 7, Corazzin 7.
Phil Agius

Saturday, September 11. Att:4,274.
NTFC scorer: Howard 61 and 71 mins.

FOOTBALL in Northampton in the 1999-2000 season is become stranger by the week.

Any neutral observer making his first visit to Sixfields would have heard sporadic chants of 'Atkins Out', 'Boring Boring Atkins', 'We Want Football' and seen both substitutions greeted with a chorus of 'You don't Knowe What You're Doing'.

Yes, this is the same team that has now collected 13 points from a possible 15 in its last five games and moved up to a threatening fifth in the table.

Steve Howard was again the hero for the Cobblers and, despite some horrific barracking from the boo-boys, thrilled the majority of the crowd ('Pool brought only a handul of followers) with his double strike.

His critics were made to choke on their words as Howard first pounced on Ian Hendon's low right wing centre to ram the ball home from point-blank range.

But the second finish was fantastic, allowing Lee Howey's crossfield pass to bounce once before sneding a left-foot strike effortlessly past Matt Hollund's right hand. Howe sweet the "Howard for England' chants must have sounded to the ex-Pool striker.

As ever (seemingly), there were some aspects for the Atkins Out crew to get their teeth into. The Cobblers were never really troubled and dominated possession against an admittedly weakish visiting side. Keeper Keith Welch could do nothing when Miller spanked in their goal midway through the first half but it always seemd there would be sometihng in the game for the Cobblers.

Atkins sent on Simon Sturridge to replace Darren Byfield, who had a quiet game in possibly his last match for the club on loan from Villa, despite testing Holland with a fierce shot in the first half.Sturridge himself produced on on-target snap-shot and looked lively in the 18 minutes he was on the pitch. The manager then made a rod for his own back, taking Sturridge off again immediately after Howard had put the Cobblers ahead (to be replaced by defensive midfielder Dean Peer), and seemingly happy to defend the six-0yard box for the last 20 minutes. This they managed, with only the odd scare, but harnessing the creative talent of the team made little sense to the fans.

One odd tactical move was that Carlo Corazzin, warmly welcomed back by the fans after his international trip, seemed to be asked to play in a role wide on the right, which hardly optimises his goalpoaching talent. Duncan Spedding and Ian Hendon again impressed on the flanks and generally the ball was kept on the ground more than usual.

All in all the Cobblers were worthy of the win, but you couldn't help feeling they might have done even better.
Phil Agius

Saturday, September 4. Richard's (Heggsy's) IK'CIWT report...

I took the opportunity of accosting a Carlisle fan after the match for his take on the game - you may have seen him, dressed from head to toe in blue and white, he looked like he was a seasoned follower of the lower league scene, with a calculating eye for the glaringly obvious, I hoped!
"Can you give me your honest opinion of the game as a whole?", I asked politely. "Your guys fall over too much", was his response, to paraphrase. "Well, both sides were at it, actually", he generously added."But what do you think of the overall style of our play? How did our tactics suit the way the game progressed? is there hope for an early return to the prepenultimate flight?", I pressed him cautiously. "Errrr....." he hesitated. "... you always were quite seemed to want to play it around in midfield too much - and when that failed, you resorted to the tried and tested BIG 'OOF".
Ignoring the last barb, I tackled his first two points. "But we stood off you all match long, inviting you to run at us on almost every occasion", I stammered in disbelief. "And how can you criticize our passing game with a serious attempt to play the ball on the deck?", I argued, the utter irony of his remark obviously totally lost on him!"
We agreed to disagree and after a few less controversial observations on the game - "He's like the second coming of George Best" (their 19-year-old Thomas Black) and "Your Byfield plays like a younger Ian Wright".
So, there you have it in a nutshell - no concern for the profligacy of our hard earned domination; no plaudits for our silky smooth, sexy passing display; no great joy in snaffling away a hard-fought point from fortress Sixfields - off he went seemingly totally unaware of the inner tumoil seething beneath my breast!
Retracing our steps a little, let's return to the car park an hour before kick-off. I can't recall when we last won four league matches on the trot. And what about 14 out of the last 18 unbeaten. Nonetheless, I had a suspicion that win no.4 was not to be on the cards. History conspired against us: Three wins in a row; Carlisle beat Plymouth 4-2 to use up their month's goal allowance; we hadn't drawn yet; our pools fixture number had also not recorded a draw this season. Guaranteed scoreless draw then.
The crowd was disappointing too, despite the attraction of Luxembourg at Wembley and on Sky. If you're a Cobblers fan you support your team and record the international; after all, an England win was a foregone conclusion, wasn't it?
Arriving in the North Stand, prickly heat was beginning to annoy me and the new shirt wasn't easing the irritation. Nevertheless, as the lads emerged from the tunnel I was ready to embark upon a rousing chorus of "Fields of Green". What ever happened to the tremendous idea of frightening the bejesus out of the opposition with our chart-topping anthem blasting over the airwaves at a million decibels? The recording at Sixfields in the pre-season went OK; the CDs are selling; we know all the right words (but not necessarily in the right order) So why no rendition?
Carlisle looked the better of the sides in the first 10 minutes I thought. At least they were prepared to attack. We used to be known for our 'hard man' style of footie; Mr Carlisle Supporter still thinks so. But last season and so far this season, I have failed to understand why we choose to back off the opposition. Particularly galling when we witness the opposition closing us down when we have the ball. And to good effect.
We all seem to be waiting for the 'Lincoln Factor' to re-emerge; that first 45 minutes of consumate skill and endeavour; the total domination of the foe; scoring a goal! And (ultimately, though not without scares) winning the game. We've seen it done; Why can't it be reproduced more often?
We did then take a little more control of the game and shades of Lincoln were evident but that other bete noire of the Cobblers fan, the lack of goals also conspired against us. "Played 6, Goals Against 2" is a record to be proud of. I think that makes us just about the stingiest defence in the entire league. But "Played 6, Goals For 4" does not make for entertaining football. As has been stated - particularly at the end of last season when results were encouraging - going undefeated all season could still see you relegated. So goals are an important ingredient in the 'feel good' factor. They also help to win matches.
Distraught as I was last season with the two 3-3 draws, they were infinitely more entertaining than dull 0-0 bore draws. Scoring can become habit-forming. So we let a few in at the back now and then. Ask Barnet fans if they enjoyed the 6-3 win over York. If it is IA's tactic to let the opposition run at us without making a tackle until they reach our penalty area, then it gives up territorial advantage as well as boosting the confidence of the other side. Not to mention the chance of leaking a goal.
On Saturday, after our period of domination proved fruitless and we were coming under more and more pressure from Carlisle, who saw the chance to sneak a win from under our noses, our apparent inability to chase the game virtually handed the game to the Cumbrians and caused great frustration on the terraces. I've seen it written a number of times that we would rather go down fighting than go out with a whimper.
The boy, Chris is not usually so subdued after a match. At one stage last term, a point was a thing of joy and excitement! Now it's points wasted.
One pleasing facet of the ongoing 'fans v staff' acrimony has been the support for the players recently. Maybe it's the realisation that the players want to play and maybe have their hands tied, tactically speaking. But generally, individual mistakes have been forgiven, glossed over or accepted as part of the Third Division package. Perhaps three consecutive wins, however acquired, had blunted the usual razor-sharp antipathy - football fans are known to be the most fickle of folk, after all.
Of the players, Steve Howard deserves special mention. His play against Carlisle was as I remember on first seeing him last season, after which I waxed lyrical about his and our prospects. He is not an out-and-out striker, a clone of John Gayle, bless him. Steve is the Trojan Horse of Northampton - solid dependable and full of surprises.
His holding and distribution skills displayed on Saturday were a joy to behold, the lynch pin of the 'attack'. Once the tactics are right to fit the style of play, once the understanding is achieved we will be rewarded with a promotion-worthy team, of which we can all be proud.
A word to about Ian Hendon. To my mind he epitomises the attacking spirit which is so desperately required at this level of football. No team at this end of the league is going to win 'straight As' for artistry, style and grace. But he is always urging the others on, berating them for sloppiness and showing by example the way forward, literally. In my book, the 'H Men' are doing just fine (what about James Hunt? - ed). And isn't it nice to feel confident in your keeper! Keep it up, Keith Welch.
Having started with the intention of venting my spleen, unloading my frustration and dumping on everything Cobblers, I seem to have come round to a fairly positive way of thinking. Hell, I've even given some free advice on tactics. How more supportive can a dedicated fan be? Let's hope that the positive approach is adopted wholeheartedly on Saturday, such that the returning Chris Freestone will see who got the better end of the 'swap' deal.

Wednesday, August 4.

The Cobblers completed their pre-season build-up with a 0-0 draw at Atherstone United. The hastily-arranged game served its purpose by giving several players a run-out on their return from injury.

Cobblers: Binder, Hendon, Abercrombie, Sampson, Doherty, Spedding (Gould 90), Matthew, Hunter, McGavin, Corazzin (Dickson 90), Pearson (Thompson 65).

Monday, August 2. Scorer: Darren Byfield.

New loan signing Darren Byfield capped an impressive debut by scoring the only goal of the game at Bromsgrove.

The Aston Villa striker caused the home side problems all night with his pace and aggression and was on hand to sidefoot home Carlo Corazzin’s low cross after 27 minutes.

Defender Ian Sampson came through his first pre-season outing unscathed, while Ian Hendon, Richard Hope, Roy Hunter, Damian Matthew and Carlo Corazzin also had outings.

The referee ended the game after 75 minutes as a huge thunderstorm engulfed the ground.

Cobblers: Binder, Hendon, Abercrombie (Thompson h-t), Sampson, Doherty, Hope, Gould, Matthew, Byfield (Dickson 71), Corazzin, Hunter.

Saturday, July 31 Att:2,870 (Cobblers 1,300)

Northampton Town completed their senior pre-season build-up with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at a sweltering Nene Park in the Maunsell Cup Final.

Rushden won with a sixth-minute header from Mark Cooper. Dave Savage missed the game through illness, while Keith Welch, Ian Hendon, Ian Sampson, Duncan Spedding, Roy Hunter, Damian Matthew and Carlo Corazzin all missed the game through injury.

Cobblers: O’Reilly, Clarkson, Frain, Hughes (Wilson 51), Howey, Dobson, Gibb, Hunt, Howard, Sturridge (McGavin 74), Parrish.

Thursday, July 29

Carlo Corazzin and Damian Matthew both made successful returns from injury in the Cobblers' 0-0 draw at Moor Green.

Last season's top scorer Corazzin completed 72 minutes and midfielder Matthew was highly impressive for 87 minutes as both players put their injury problems behind them.

The Cobblers took the opportunity to field a number of trialists, although Richard Hope, Sean Parrish and Andy Morrow all enjoyed a run out.

Cobblers: Binder, Lovelock (Thompson h-t), Roscoe (Silvestri 61), Doherty, Patterson, Hope, Parrish, Matthew (Gould 87), Douglas (Dickson 61), Corazzin (Morrow 72), Morrow (Abercrombie h-t).

Wednesday, July 28 at Sixfields.Att: 1,288. NTFC scorers: Lee Howey, Dave Savage.

Lee Howey gave the Cobblers the lead with a sixth-minute header from a John Frain free-kick.

James Hunt hit the bar in the second half after a fine build-up involving Kevin Wilson, Savage and Simon Sturridge as the Cobblers enjoyed a good work-out.

Savage doubled the lead after 74 minutes when he slotted home after more good work from Hunt.

The Hatters pulled one back through Emmy Boyce with five minutes to go.

Cobblers: O’Reilly, Clarkson, Frain, Hughes, Howey (Gibb h-t), Dobson, Savage, Hunt, Howard, Sturridge (Douglas 78), McGavin (Wilson h-t) (Parrish 75).

Monday, July 26

Boss Ian Atkins played a full 90 minutes as a Cobblers side went down 2-0 in a friendly to Conference club Hednesford.

The Cobblers side contained three trialists and two youth players in addition to Atkins, although midfielder James Hunt and striker Chris Lee both completed their first full games of the pre-season.

Cobblers: O’Reilly, Lovelock (trialist) (Silvestri), Gould, Nash, Atkins, Abercrombie (trialist), Hunt, Robinson (trialist), Lee, Wilson, Morrow (Dickson).

Saturday, July 24 at Sixfields.Att: 1,340. NTFC scorer: Simon Sturridge.

The Cobblers drew 1-1 with an Aston Villa XI at sweltering Sixfields in their first home friendly.

Town took the lead after just 30 seconds when striker Simon Sturridge slotted home after Steve McGavin’s header had given the striker a shooting opportunity.

Steve Howard went close, although keeper Keith Welch had to be alert to keep his clean sheet intact.

Both sides made numerous substitutions as the heat began to take its toll, and this allowed both James Hunt and Chris Lee to make their first appearances of the pre-season campaign.

The visitors, containing first-teamers Simon Grayson and Darren Byfield equalised through a Stephen Evans header after 84 minutes.

Cobblers: Welch (O’Reilly 82), Clarkson, Frain, Hughes (Spedding 52), Howey, Hope (Dobson 52), Savage, McGavin (Parrish 80), Howard (Lee 80), Sturridge (R Thompson 82), Hunter (Hunt 52).

Friday, July 23 at Meadow Park. NTFC scorer: Andy Morrow.

A Cobblers side containing just one professional were beaten 3-1 by Dr Martens Premier League side Gloucester City.

Town were 2-0 down inside 10 minutes but first-year pro Andy Morrow pulled a goal back from 25 yards midway through the first half and the Northampton side, containing six youth teamers and four trialists dominated until half-time.

After the break the home side’s experience showed, although many of the youngsters emerged with credit.

Cobblers: Dongar (trialist), Chamberlain, Abercrombe (trialist), Nash, Meade, Heckles (trialist) (Champelovier), Nakamoto (trialist) (Thompson), Silvestri, Dickson, Morrow, Gould. Unused subs: Binder, Taylor.

Wednesday, July 21 at Ladysmead.

The Cobblers had plenty of chances to score. Kevin Wilson hit the post early on and later saw a shot cleared off the line, while fellow striker Steve McGavin also hit the woodwork and was later denied by another goal-line clearance.

Goalkeeper Keith Welch was rarely troubled as Ian Atkins' men kept their third consecutive clean sheet.

The Cobblers boss declared himself satisfied with the tempo of the game and was also pleased to see Ian Clarkson and Roy Hunter both turn in strong performances.

Cobblers: Welch, Hendon, Spedding, Clarkson, Hughes, Dobson, Hunter, Parrish, McGavin, Gibb, Wilson. Unused subs: Hope, Thompson, Morrow, Dickson, Binder.

Monday, July 19. NTFC goals: Kevin Wilson, Steve Howard.

The Cobblers made it two friendly wins in four days with a 2-0 victory at Raunds Town on Monday evening.

Town took the lead after 53 minutes when Kevin Wilson converted following a right-wing corner.

Ian Atkins' men always looked in control and doubled their lead on 60 minutes when youth teamer Ryan Thompson's shot was parried and Steve Howard slotted his second goal in two games from an acute angle.

Alex O’Reilly made an assured debut in the Cobblers goal and Ian Clarkson indicated that last year's injury problems are behind him with a solid display at right back.

Cobblers: O’Reilly (Binder 45), Clarkson, Frain, Hughes (Hunter 67), Howey, Hope, Savage (Robinson 70), Parrish, Howard (Dickson 77), Thompson (Morrow 70), Wilson.

Friday, July 16 at Rockingham Triangle. NTFC goals: Howard, Sturridge, McGavin, Morrow.

A fairly strong Cobblers side triumphed thanks to goals from Steve Howard, trialist and former Stoke City striker Simon Sturridge, recent signing Steve McGavin and first year pro Andy Morrow.

Sturridge hit the post in the 31st minute when home keeper Clay tipped his low shot on to the post.But Howard gave the Cobblers the lead after 44 minutes, heading home Sturridge’s right-wing cross.

The compliment was returned seven minutes into the second half when ex-Hartlepool man Howard laid the ball off to Sturridge who slotted home.

Bosman signing McGavin added a third goal of real quality, curling home from the edge of the box after Dave Savage had laid the ball into his path.

The fourth goal owed a lot to the Cobblers' youngsters as substitute and former YTS striker Andy Morrow headed home fellow sub and current youth teamer Ryan Thompson’s right-wing centre.

Another youth teamer, Mark Dickson, nearly added a fifth but his curling 89th-minute shot struck the post.

Summer signing goalkeeper Keith Welch had a quiet debut.

Cobblers: Welch, Gibb (Thompson 77), Spedding, Hughes, Howey, Dobson, Savage, Frain, Howard (Dickson 79), Sturridge (Morrow 73), McGavin (Hope 71).

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