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Nosebleed Territory
Come from behind By: Eric Hitchmo 22/01/2012
Northampton Town A
21/01/2012   (Click date for match details)
League 2011-2012
W  2- 1
Attendance: 4561  (485 Away)
More On Northampton Town

What is it about Northampton away? Save for last season, where I did not attend, the three games I have been to at Sixfields have yielded three wins for Barnet. They've all been from 1-0 half time deficits, and all the goals have been scored directly in front of us. These are the sorts of things that make me happy. How uncharacteristic of this website to be so. Regular readers may expect a bit of writer's block when approaching such glee, however there will be no such issue today.

A small group of us met in Euston early on, as is standard procedure for Northampton. A local trip, you can always be guaranteed a half decent crowd making the journey. Beers flowed slowly, owing to previous evening's antics, but we arrived into Northampton at 2:00 in jovial spirits. The area around the ground is a testament to out of town developments, where chains and franchises prosper from matchday crowds. The Sixfields Tavern appeared to be the only pub in close proximity to the ground and was indeed heaving as we arrived. There seemed to be a nervous buzz around the place. It was a game that Northampton could not consider losing. To them, we would rightly be seen as a realistic relegation rival, and beating us would have seen them close to within two points of us, albeit having played a game more. However, as strong as the requirement for a home win was, the opportunity of an away win and what that would mean for us was similarly tantalising. Nosebleed territory, if you will.

As we made our way to the ground as the players entered the field, several people converged on the hill to watch the game. A healthy contingent gathered behind the goal and while the view from the hill was pretty good, we decided it would be better to join them. Close to 500 made the trip, reasonable.

There was though, very little to cheer about in the first 45 minutes. I heard us having a chance early on as I was still entering the ground, but from then on we struggled to find any fluidity in our play. The windy conditions won't have helped in any way and they certainly had a hand in the opening goal. Moments previously, a corner had held up in the wind and been inexplicably headed away from the target by the big man Bayo Akinfenwa. He wasn't to make the same mistake when presented with an identical opportunity in the 10th minute. We failed to learn our lesson and Akinfenwa was able to hold off Brill with ease to nod home. We struggled going forward, but the home side were being limited to speculative long range efforts which were smartly dealt with by Brill. The home side were well on top as the half time whistle sounded.

The atmosphere around the ground from both sets of fans was pretty muted. A lone dragon stood in the corner with a drum to gee up the home fans at random intervals which was pretty odd. I'm not entirely sure what relevance a dragon has to Northampton, then again, a Cobbler isn't really mascot material.

It was clear that something needed to change in the second half, and with a bit of luck we grabbed an equaliser almost immediately. After a bit of pinball in the box, the ball rolled outside the area to Mark Byrne who ran onto it and curled it beautifully into the far corner of the Northampton goal. It seemed to go in slow motion, but you just knew it was going in from the moment it left his boot. Good celebrations in the away end as per usual, and the atmosphere was cranked up from mute to OK. Suddenly in an instant the whole feel of the game had changed. Northampton visibly shit themselves and panicked every time the ball came near them. Having led in each of their last six games before we arrived and only won one of them, it's clear to see why. They were nervous and worried, it soon became clear that if there was to be a winner in this game, it was to be us.

The pattern of the remaining time followed this, with all the pressure coming from us. Where Northampton were wilting, we were growing in confidence with every attack. A route one boot from Dean Brill found its way to Izale McLeod who did the hard bits right having shrugged off the defender and rounded the keeper, but his shot was straight at the man on the line who was able to use his head to divert the shot wide. A massive opportunity missed. The home crowd were getting restless, they'd seen this all before. They got on their player's backs, they got on the referee's back, calling for every possible foul and outraged when anything went against them.

Indeed, they were to call foul in the build up to our winner. A seemingly innocuous clash in the middle of the field took a defender out of the game and Ricky Holmes was allowed to burst clear. With the attention of a defender close by, everyone was taken by surprise with his early shot, especially the home keeper who could not keep his low left foot drill out. The crowd goes wild, as appears to now be custom at Sixfields.

With the weather worsening, a weak Northampton storm would have to be dealt with too. The home fans were again apoplectic as Kamdjo bought their man down in the box. You've certainly seen them given, but the referee waved away the desperate appeals from players and crowd alike. Our backline has become so strong and they were able to deal with what was thrown at them. Michael Hector was a rock once more. Paul Downing is also very able. Darren Dennehy stepping in again shows we have quality in depth and Jack Saville continues to excel outside of his normal position. If anything, we looked like we could add another but the focus was clearly on preserving the lead and running the clock down at all times.

A late free kick for Northampton provided plenty of panic, but it was weakly struck into the wall, and the rebound was off target with the offside flag gleefully raised into the air by the assistant. It was to be the last action of the game as the joyous away support rejoiced in a third consecutive league win and the angry home crowd sidled off to consider what might have been.

While we experienced no hostility post-match from any of the Northampton fans, their reaction online has been less than gracious. I understand the frustration and the peril at hand, but their resent and bitterness at losing to "a club like Barnet" is clear for all to see. It's not as if it's unfamiliar territory for us to be thought of in such a way. Most clubs would look us and think they should be beating us at home and that's fair enough, however when these clubs throw their toys out of the pram and belittle us, it really does raise a little smile. These clubs should start acknowledging their own faults rather than picking on the little kid. It's worth noting that not all of the Cobblers fans have reacted in this manner, but it has been a sizeable minority doing so.

Still, an eventful and merry train ride home back to London and back to the pub into the evening to celebrate an ever-improving football situation. It's a visit from Crewe next week who are playoff hunting, but who's to say we can't upset them as well?

Happy New Year indeed.

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