Northampton Town have (so far) had a perfect season in terms of results, sitting at the top of League 2, 13 points clear of Oxford United in 2nd place, and many player of the year contenders in their back pocket. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for the Cobblers.
At the end of 2015, Northampton Town were on the verge of extinction after a £10 million loan from former chairman David Cardoza wasn’t successfully paid off by the deadline. This left fans and players with no confidence in the chairman and everyone spent their mornings on social media checking to see if their beloved team still existed. Eventually, the Cobblers managed to convince Kelvin Thomas (former chairman of Oxford United) to take over and save the club. During this whirlwind of a time period, the team were racking up some big results, knocking League 1 side Coventry City out of the FA Cup and slowly climbing up the League 2 table. It seemed as though fans had forgotten that Northampton Town was, at the end of the day, a football club and not a charity fund and the majority of fans had not even realised that the players and especially the manager Chris Wilder has guided their club to the top of League 2.
Since Kelvin Thomas took over, Northampton Town have managed to extend their lead at the top of League 2 to a point where promotion is all but secure, with league wins against fellow promotion challengers Plymouth Argyle and Oxford United along the way, and an FA Cup run that the Cobblers had not managed since 2004, reaching the 3rd round only to be knocked out by Championship side MK Dons in a replay at Stadium MK. Despite their elimination from the FA Cup, Northampton have still managed to win 18 out of their last 22 league games, almost a dream for most clubs in the world.
It’s not just the story that makes the season incredible, it is the players involved. Northampton signed goalkeeper Adam Smith after he was released by Leicester City for being involved in a racist sex tape. The Cobblers fans were not expecting much from him as we seen the signing as an emergency but he has turned out to be arguably the best goalkeeper in League 2 this season. On top of Smith, Northampton can boast a whole host of star power for the level in attack. Marc Richards currently stands on 15 goals for the season, despite injuries, and John-Joe O’Toole, a midfielder that spent last season being known as the club’s clown, has 10 goals! Every player has been stepping up their game to play the beautiful game, and no one gives a better example of this than the League 2 player of the month for January, Ricky Holmes. Holmes spent months on the sidelines with a back injury but returned to score 6 goals and assist 8 times.
An example of the resilience Northampton Town’s players have is the FA Cup 2nd round tie at home to Northwich Victoria. Northampton were favourites but as per usual in the FA Cup, anything can happen, so the fans were not particularly confident going into the match. Just before half time Northwich Victoria scored and the confidence went from low to rock bottom. The players were booed off at half time, but you would think Chris Wilder must have given them a good team talk to give them hope as they started the 2nd half with a bit of class football but then Northwich go on another attack and the score becomes 2-0. The fans in the North Stand had given up at that point. It seemed as though Northampton were heading to another FA Cup defeat, but in the last 10 minutes the Northampton players suddenly sprung into life and on the 83rd minute it was 2-1. There was a bit more hope among the fans but they couldn’t be too confident as there was only 7 minutes remaining. Despite this, in the 85th minute, substitute Jason Taylor grabbed an equaliser for the Cobblers and the fans in the North Stand went crazy. It’s like we were the underdogs, but the comeback hadn’t been completed just yet. Straight from Northwich’s kick off, Northampton pressed and pressed and in the 87th minute Ricky Holmes crossed the ball in to loanee Dominic Calvert-Lewin and he headed it home for the winner. This was 5 minutes of complete domination from the Northampton side that 10 minutes earlier looked like would be the target of a giant-killing. It;s funny how things can change in 5 minutes, and it’s even funnier how a club can change from being on the verge of extinction to having a 13 point lead at the top of the league they have been stuck in since 2009. It sounds just like a dream doesn’t it?