I crawled into enemy territory for a trip to League One’s Northampton Town, as they bid to earn the three points that would see them confirm their stay in the third flight of English football following last years promotion.
Despite my Peterborough roots I was greeted with a broad smile my the optimistic Cobblers safety officers. In spite of the club being cushioned by just five points before kick-off, the atmosphere was surprisingly upbeat. There was a bubbling confidence in the air as the Northampton faithful bustled their way through the turnstiles.
At £24 for an adult, the trip to Sixfields is among the most expensive admissions of a League One supporters season, but with the crackling atmosphere still ringing in my ears as I speak, the high price may be justified.
One aspect of my Easter Monday trip that I can’t validate is the half time grub. A cheese burger will set you back £6.50 outside the stadium, with chips being priced at £2. So if the you’re reading this with the view of a visit, you’re probably best to take some sandwiches.
It was pleasure to see childhood hero Matty Taylor in the flesh, even if he wasn’t at his dazzling best. The 35-year-old told me pre-match he was hoping to extend his contract at Sixfields, this would be a huge catch for Northampton Town, his experience is vital to any team looking to consolidate in such a tough league.
Attendance 6211 (676 away)
The spoils were shared in an tight encounter, with the homeside being reduced to nine men before limping across the finishing line. Town had taken the lead early on through a Marc Richards header, their first clear cut opportunity in the match.
With a rorcus away following behind them, Shrewsbury pushed for the equalizer, but it was not until mid way through the second half they would find that elusive goal. Mat Sadler was the beneficiary of the whipped free-kick from Shaun Whalley as the pendulum swung the Shropshire sides way.
The dismissal of Northampton left-back David Buchanan proved to be a pivotal factor in his side conceding on 66 minutes. But with just under half an hour remaining, and legs tiring an exhausted Town ten would eventually hold on for a crucial point to keep their heads above water.
There was time for one last dramatic moment in the first minute of injury time as John-Joe O’Toole lunged in to reduce the Clarets to nine, but Justin Edinburgh’s men would tighten the leaky defence and shake hands at one a piece.
Northampton Town central defender Zander Diamond figuered heavily throughout the 90 minutes. The former Aberdeen man dominated the aerial duels, nullifying Shrews target man Stefan Payne. Now 32, the ex-scotland youth international is arguably just exciting the prime of his career. No longer does he have the blisterring pace desired the keep tabs on the youthful League One frontman.
But with his 14 years of experience at this level, he has become a wily old fox of the lower league. Going about his business quietly with minimum of fuss. His partnership with Lewin Nyatanga has grown over the previous 8 months and they are now in tune with eachothers way. Should Edinburgh recruit smartly in the summer, Northampton’s strong defensive base, could be a catalyst for success.