One man’s pain as Barnet leather the Cobblers

It is midnight, as Haydon Spenceley sits at his keyboard. He’s had a tough week, one way or another, and he has work in the morning, but he cannot sleep. He cannot even countenance going to sleep.

One of the reasons, amongst the maelstrom which is keeping him from his land of slumber:

Northampton Town.

Northampton chuffing Town. 20 long years they’ve been one of very few constant companions through life, through its ups and downs, joys and sorrows. More often than not, they’ve been the cause of some of the biggest extremes of both.

On very few occasions during our marriage have the waters been so choppy as to make me question my commitment and seek the greener grass of other pastures, to succumb to the fluttering eye-lashes from rivals competing for my affection.

But tonight, as I look back on another disastrous day, in an increasingly miserable season, I tell you this, dear reader, I very nearly watched X Factor. That’s how bad it’s got.

And when my boys are toiling at the Don Valley on Tuesday night against Rotherham, will I be there? No, I sodding well will not. As of this moment I’d be happy if I never saw them again. Any of them.

“But Haydon”, you may be saying. “Aren’t Northampton those valient conquerers of Reading and Liverpool, those who brought joy to a nation as Roy’s Reds were put to the sword by a team of postmen and school teachers, barely 2 months ago?”

Why yes, they are, and tonight I feel like most of them wouldn’t get into the Royal Mail’s reserves, let alone our first team.

You see, Carling Cup exploits aside (and they were amazing, life-affirming nights) we’ve been rank bad for the vast majority of the rest of the season. A team of promising youngsters (Michael Jacobs and Liam Davis have been justifiably been attracting plaudits and covetous glances from higher up the League ladder for their performances) and experienced but diligent professionals such as Andy Holt, Leon Mckenzie and Kevin Thornton, should have been enough at least for a play-off challenge.

Certainly anyone who’s seen us when it all clicked (Brighton, Reading, Liverpool, and an all too small smattering of league games) couldn’t argue that the raw materials were missing. So, as we sit tonight, 22nd in League Two, 70th out of 72 in the Football League, one has to ask the question, what’s going on?

Today we surrendered an early lead against Barnet, who appeared to be bottom of the pile for a very good reason, lost Liam Davis to as clear a red card as you’ll ever see.

There were protestations from around me that the referee and linesman were getting back at us following last week’s referee wrongly sending off Abdul Osman and being proved wrong after his suspension was overturned.


We proceeded to not just lose, but be humiliated, 4-1 by a team who plainly wanted it more than us, and played to their strengths.

Kevin Gallen (yes, that one) and Steve Kabba (yes, really, that one) up front were a constant menace to our squalid excuse for a back four, and only an exceptional shot-stopping performance from Chris Dunn kept things to anything below a cricket score.

At times, the full back play of Grant Basey, and the wing play of Mark Marshall were too much for our defence, which seemed disorganised, lacking in effort and quality. The number of times Barnet sprang Gallen in behind our defence, so that he could lumber forward and then miss, aghast, became almost comical.

This is Barnet, who are, to be frank, not up to much, but who quite clearly worked us out, and ruthlessly exploited our (many) weaknesses with aplomb.
Barnet. We got stuffed by Barnet. And they deserved it. No, it doesn’t get any more palatable.

So, where from here? Well, up. Hopefully. Please? We can’t get much worse, that’s for sure.

Personally I have a few small aims for the next few weeks. Firstly, it’d be lovely if we could be disciplined enough to keep our full compliment on the pitch for 90 minutes. I’ve heard that makes it easier to win games. Secondly it’d be absolutely fabulous if players could play in the poisition which they were trained from childhood and signed to play in.

So, please, can we have a left back at left back, a right back at right back, some wingers on the wing, and so on? I know it’s a lot to ask, but if I have to watch any more full backs play on the wing and forwards playing in midfield, and so on and so on, I think I might give up. Surely if you have a round hole, the best way to fill it is with a round peg? No? Okay then.

We also have, in Michael Jacobs, one of the only players in League Two who terrifies defenders. Why is he not being used more? Unfathomable.

Thirdly, I want to see a change of manager. I’ve been a supporter of Ian Sampson’s since the day when it became obvious that the club’s ambition for the replacement of Stuart Gray (just over a year ago, after a defeat to, you guessed it, Barnet) did not extend to searching outside the doors of the

It’s great to be managed by a club legend who cares so deeply that we succeed, but I fear that, if he stays, we will cease to be one of the 72 come May, and that cannot, it must not, happen.

Passion only gets you so far in football, and the increasing weight of results and performances, as well as our worrying recent disciplinary record, and rumours from within the dressing room, indicate that all is not well, and that Sammo is not the man to solve them. Sadly, he must go. The season is a dead loss already, but I can’t take many more days like today.

Were there any positives? Yes. Steve Guinan didn’t get near the bench, and we’re not Almeria.

Now where’s the number for that marriage counsellor?

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Maxi Hobbs
    November 21, 2010

    It couldn’t have been a more contrasting season. I can only dream of going to Liverpool and winning, in the manner you lot did. It’s a once in a lifetime occasion, so to see you struggling so badly in the league is a real surprise to me.

    I must admit when you came to Whaddon Road earlier this season I wasn’t impressed. However, I really cannot see you being on of the dreaded two to make the drop. In Leon McKenzie there’s a goalscorer there, in Jacobs and Davis, there is undoubted quality as you say.

    Yes you got stuffed by Barnet, but so did we earlier this season, having also been a goal up. The fact is for Barnet, it was one of those game they just have to win, home to a fellow struggler. I presume they showed far more passion. However, it’s not about one game and although your in a crisis” so to speak. I believe it’ll be overcome. Whether that means Sampson departs or not I don’t know but I’m pretty sure you’ll be in the top 22 come May

    • theseventytwo
      November 21, 2010

      I like the idea of there being a “top 22”. Similarly, my club’s in the top 21 of the Championship, something to celebrate!

      Are there any funds available at Whaddon Road for loan signings?

  2. GRH
    November 21, 2010

    “Barnet, who appeared to be bottom of the pile for a very good reason,”

    Please, don’t stop there. Why not enlighten us all on what these good reasons are. Because if we are going to make snap judgements based upon one viewing (and I’m making the assumption that you’ve not seen us previously) then I would say of both teams, it is The Cobblers who very much deserve to sit bottom.

  3. Life after The Seven Two for Northampton Town » The Seventy Two
    November 22, 2011

    […] you, after you were thumped 4-1 by one of the worst sides I had ever seen (Barnet). At the time I ranted and raved, tossed and turned, debating how a team which had beaten Brighton, Reading and Liverpool that […]


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