The Cobblers View: promotion in sight

northamptonOver the previous five seasons, the average League Two team has needed 81 points to secure automatic promotion. Some clubs at this stage might start to over-analyse the mathematics, but Northampton need not worry. They already have 61 points in early February, and could conceivably win promotion if they drew their final 18 games. Manager Chris Wilder might not want people to say it, but the Cobblers are as good as up. That we can make such an assertion with so much confidence at this stage of the season, speaks volumes for the job Wilder has done, at a club plunged into debt and off-field uncertainty. What is the secret to Northampton’s success? The Football Lab talks to supporter Jake Elliott to find out.

You’re 14 points clear in the promotion race this season and have games in hand on a lot of the teams below. Have attentions turned to winning the title, rather than just going up?

We can’t get too excited as we have important games ahead of us, for example Oxford away. They’re a top club in this division and we need to keep our cool against them. Our main aim is promotion, we should stick to that and if we do win the title we will be delighted, but promotion is what I would like us to focus on.

If your current goalscoring rate stays the same, you’ll be the first League Two team to score more than 80 goals in a season since Port Vale in 2012-13. That would be some achievement…

Yes of course it would be, but it’s not goals that win you games it’s a whole team effort. We could score more than 80 goals, however Adam Smith and Ryan Clarke could get long term injuries leading to us conceding goals.

Manager Chris Wilder has been surprisingly vocal about the need for a change of ownership. Is he right to speak out about the club’s off-field circumstances?

Yes, because it was Notts County away where he spoke about that in an interview, we had till Friday at the time and David Cardoza was still waiting for another deal. The way Chris Wilder saw it was that every member of staff wasn’t getting paid and how long can’t you not get paid for?

Ricky Holmes was named League Two Player of the Month for January. Would you agree that he is the most skilful player in the division?

Of course I would. I feel like Ricky Holmes is one of the best wingers in the league, he isn’t afraid to take a player on and when he does that he just keeps going. That creates goals, for example our second goal against York on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Adam Smith has saved you a lot of points this season. One of the signings of the season?

Absolutely, I know this is still early days, but I think he is one of the best Northampton Town goalkeepers I have ever seen play for us. If it wasn’t for Adam Smith I don’t even think we will be in the automatic promotion or even play offs as he saves that many points for us this season.

The importance of Smith’s displays, and the fact five teams have conceded fewer goals, would suggest that the defence is an area you may need to strengthen this summer. Do you think your current back-line will be good enough for League One?

I have seen Zander Diamond, Ryan Cresswell and Rod McDonald play, but haven’t seen Luke Prosser yet. Rod has had some very good games this season, but I don’t think that he is yet League One standard. I still feel like we need to add a centre back to the group of players this season to bring League One quality in that department.

Left-back David Buchanan has started all 28 league games this season. Is he proving to be a coup?

Yes of course. He is an experienced defender and he is also a leader and you need to have a couple of leaders in the squad. To have two is close to perfect as they calm the side down when players might lose their cool.

The only other outfield player to start all 28 is Joel Byrom. What qualities has he added in midfield?

Joel is a good all around midfielder. He is a consistent, hard working player who gives his all in the centre of midfield. He wants to bring the ball forward to players like Nicky Adams, Ricky Holmes and James Collins.

And finally, how many points do you think you can finish with? You’re on target for 100, which would be the highest number a fourth tier team has picked up since Plymouth Argyle in 2001-02…

I don’t know, if we were to get to 100 points that would be perfect, but I feel like we need to first get promoted early and then focus on the title. I think that 100 points is possible, but we will need our whole squad to be fit till the end and last season that was a problem for us.