By Gerry Prewett.
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 FA Cup 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 29thOctober 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. 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 in to 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 on 1 October 2016, 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.
One year and one week later Rovers returned to the East Midlands and ran riot. Billy Bodin gave the Gas a 37thminute lead and that was the way things stayed until the 56thminute as Rovers scored 5 goals in 30 minutes. Ellis Harrison headed home Liam Sercombe's cross, before the Welsh striker made it 3-0 just four minutes later with a sweeping finish from close range.
On 69 minutes Alex Revell was given his marching orders after clashing with Tom Broadbent. Rory Gaffney turned in Chris Lines' shot that had rebounded off the post on 72 minutes and then Sercombe got in on the action by hitting a volley into the ground that consequently looped over the keeper.
Substitute Dom Telford rounded off the scoring and a great afternoon for The Gas when he turned in Marc Bola's low cross with four minutes of normal time left.