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Club News

Focus On: Northampton Town

By Gerry Prewett

6 October 2017

Bristol Rovers head off to the East Midlands on Saturday after a rare match free mid-week.

After a very patchy start to the season Darrell Clarke is anxious to see his team stabilise their performances and after securing a double over the Cobbler's last season his team will travel with high hopes of coming back with all three points.

Northampton started their season poorly and having been winless in 12 league games (stretching back to last season) parted company with Manager Justin Edinburgh at the end of August.

Within four days Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was appointed to the hot-seat.

Hasselbaink had been sacked as QPR boss in November 2016, (winning 13 of his 47 matches in charge of the Championship club) after joining them from Burton, where he won the League Two title in 2015.

The Cobblers had a new manager bounce and won their first two games under Hasselbaink but have drawn 2 and lost 3 of their league games since. Whilst they are now, tight at the back, the Cobblers are finding it difficult to penetrate the opposition.

In the last league game last weekend they went down 1-0 at Rotherham’s New York Stadium. Early in the game George Smith, for Northampton, and Kieffer Moore for the home team, both spurned chances to score. Smith saw one shot go narrowly wide and had another blocked by Shaun Cummings.

Ash Taylor cleared off the line from Moore and keeper Matt Ingram prevented another opportunity for Moore to open his account.

Daniel Powell then drove wide of goal, before Michael Ihiekwe's shot was tipped onto the bar by Ingram and Brendan Moloney cleared Ihiekwe's effort off the line.

Rotherham took the lead in the 52nd minute when Moore capitalised after Ingram could only push out Cummings' shot from the edge of the box.

Town fought back with Billy Waters and Matty Grimes both clearing the cross-bar and Marek Rodak saving from Powell. Moore nearly made it two late on but his header struck the bar.

Hasselbaink said after the game, "It wasn't hugely disappointing. I think in the first-half we were good and there were certain chances that we gave away that we should have done better with, a lot better, but we created chances ourselves.

"I think we should score but they would say the same in the first-half and I was not happy with the second-half."

"That was the worst half since I've been here. We were second all the time, we let the ball bounce in front of us, we didn't deal with Moore, they were smarter and always first to the second ball and from that, they can play.

"That got us in trouble. We were to lose and that's not what I want my team to be and it was disappointing. I thought we were excellent against MK Dons and today in patches we were OK but second-half we were way under-par and I expected more."

As members of the old Third Division (South) Rovers have a long tradition of games against the Cobblers. The first meeting between the clubs took place in the Southern League in 1907/08 season Rovers ran out 1-0 winners at the County Ground on 11 January 1908.

The first League games took place in one week in 1921. The first game saw Rovers win 2-1 at the County Ground on 12 March with goals by Sid Leigh and Billy Palmer and Bill Thomas scoring for the home team.

On 19 March Rovers doubled the dose with a 4-2 home win, Harry Boxley, Billy Palmer and a double by Ellis Crompton for the Pirates with George Whitworth and a John Bethune own goal for the Cobblers.

In the first four post-World War II meetings between the teams, the away team won the lot!

The 1989/90 Championship season probably summed up the difference between a winning and losing team.

In the game at Twerton Park on 29th October 1989, Bobby Brown was running the Rovers defence ragged and the undefeated home record looked in danger. Goals by Devon White and Paul Nixon had the game tied at 2-2.

Late in the game, Devon White was controversially brought down in the box and Ian Holloway converted the penalty to give the Gas an unlikely lead.

Then with the seconds ticking away an unlucky Trevor Quow guided a clearance into his own net to give the final score of 4-2. It was all 6 points to Rovers largely due to their 'never say die' spirit, after another Ian Holloway penalty secured a 2-1 win at the County Ground.

The previous time Rovers had 'done the double' over the Cobblers was back in 1967/68 season. Two goals in the home game by Stuart Taylor secured the points at Eastville.

However, it was the game at the County Ground that had been so remarkable.

Rovers’ away record was nothing to shout about, of their first 7 away games they had won 1 drawn 2 and lost 4, the Cobblers had won 5 of their previous 6 games. Converted Left Half Ray Mabbutt had a field day in the County Ground mud.

Frank Large gave the home team an early lead but Rovers were quickly level when a Johnny Williams pile driver was parried by Harvey straight to Mabbutt, who stabbed the ball home. Soon after Large was brought down in the box and Mackin scored from the spot past Ronnie Briggs. It fell to Bobby Jones scoring against his old club to restore Rovers to parity.

A 30-yard shot from Johnny Williams gave Rovers a 3-2 lead but that man Large made sure things were all square by half time.

It was some while into the second-half before the goals started to roll in again, Mabbutt accepting a simple tap-in past Bryan Harvey before Large scored the Cobblers fourth goal and completed his hat-trick.

Not to be outdone, Mabbutt scored once more to complete the only hat trick of his career and to give Rovers an incredible 5-4 away win

In the 1997/98 Play-Off Semi-Finals, having secured a 3-1 home win many Rovers fans were already booking tickets for Wembley.

However, the Cobblers thought (quite rightly, as it turned out) that their away goal, scored late in the game, would be crucial. Peter Beadle (penalty), Frankie Bennett and Barry Hayles scored for Rovers and John Gayle scored the late Cobblers goal.

So it turned out, the 3-0 reverse at Sixfields was stunning. Carl Heggs, Ian Clarkson and Ray Warburton ensured that it was the Midlands team who went through.

Rovers have happier memories from a more recent trip to Sixfields.

On 9 April 2016, on their dramatic run into promotion, Rovers started confidently and Tom Lockyer headed over from a corner.

In a frantic opening, John Marquis fired over for Cobblers. The home team broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute when Ricky Holmes crossed for Nicky Adams to head past Steve Mildenhall.

Rovers responded with Billy Bodin firing wide and blazing over in quick succession while Ollie Clark was also off target. In between Holmes went close to doubling Northampton's lead when his free-kick hit the underside of the bar.

But Cobblers took just four minutes after the restart to increase their advantage when Sam Hoskins turned in a low cross from Marquis.

Hoskins went close moments later as Northampton looked to finish it off. Mildenhall kept out another effort from Hoskins and then did well to palm away a fierce drive from Adams with John-Joe O'Toole heading wide from the ensuing corner.

Rovers reduced the arrears in the 76th minute when Matty Taylor turned in a low cross from Daniel Leadbitter. Then to the delight of everyone from Bristol, the equaliser arrived in the 88th minute when Lee Brown's low cross was turned in by Substitute Ellis Harrison.

In the game last season, Alex Revell gave the home team the lead after 9 minutes and that was the way the score stayed until Rory Gaffney equalised on the hour.

Just eleven minutes later Peter Hartley put the away team in front before Revell scored his second of the game just five minutes later.

Then with Rovers pouring forward in search of 3 points, Chelsea loanee Charlie Colkett scored a dramatic last-minute winner.

 Meanwhile, Hasselbaink is concerned about the heavy schedule his team is facing as they are bout to play their 9th game in 28 days, “We have had a heavy schedule over the last few weeks but i thought we played well in patches on Tuesday (when they beat Peterborough on penalties in the Checkatrade Trophy).

We are making progress and we are always looking at what we are doing well in certain areas and certain aspects of the game and what we can improve.”

“It’s a little bit unfortunate that because of the schedule we haven’t been able to work properly on the training ground, we are trying to put in minutes where we can coach the players but we are also having to look after them because of a number of games. At the moment it’s game, recovery, game, recovery and in the middle of all that we are trying to look for some way forward."

Talking about the fitness of his squad he summarised, Brendan Moloney, "He is being assessed but we are hopeful that he is OK. It was muscle fatigue on Tuesday night and we didn't want to take any risks. We are hopeful he will be fine for Saturday."

Sam Hoskins, "Sam is back in full training and if he comes through that we can build things up. He rolled his ankle in training and that was unfortunate as he was doing very well. He was due to play at Peterborough before this little setback but he is not far away at all."

Matt Crooks, "Matt has injured the same knee he had a problem with last season, His knee over extended in the incident at MK Dons and he is seeing the specialist again. He may need an operation, we don't know yet but we are hoping the specialist will advise rest and strengthening and a return in a maximum of 6 weeks."

John-Joe O'Toole, "John-Joe is getting better, he is training with the group now on a no-contact basis so that is good news."

Leon Barnett, "Leon hurt his Achilles after the Rotherham game. It is the same problem Marc Richards had in the past. He will be out for at least 4 weeks and we will miss him."

Chris Long, "We are being very cautious with Chris. He had a hamstring problem at Charlton earlier in the season and the same thing against Bradford and we want him to be right before he returns.

"If we rush him back too quick he could have the same problem again. He saw the chiropractor to free his back up so his hamstring could settle down and he will now up his workload so he might be back in 10 days or so."

Shaun McWilliams, "Shaun is fit and training and available for Saturday."

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