League One Club-by-Club Preview for 2017/2018: Northampton Town

Best Blog or Account to Follow: Danny Brothers, like me, is an exiled fan. Like me, he runs a blog from that vantage point!

2016/2017

Record Last Season + Quick Summary: 

League One - 16th; W 14 / D 11 / L 21 / F 60 / A 73 / Pts 53

An encouraging start to life in back in League One (four wins and five draws from the opening 10 games) after their title triumph in 2015/2016 was as good as it got for Rob Page and his side. Stepping into Chris Wilder’s shoes was always going to be an onerous task and the steadily decreasing number of clean sheets as the months passed by was putting more pressure on the forwards. The nadir truly came in a post-match interview following the 5-0 reverse to Bristol Rovers, the then-manager stated that it had been ‘men against girls’, giving the perfect excuse (as if the board needed one after eight defeats in 10) for his dismissal.

Their early season form gave them a buffer against the drop-zone as only six more wins yielded themselves under replacement Justin Edinburgh, but crucially, some of those came against teams below them. The winless run at the end of 2016/2017 almost dragged them into the mire but ultimately, the final day stalemate proved sufficient to preserve their status.

Top Goalscorer: Marc Richards (10 goals in 28 starts/2,763 minutes)

Top Creator: Matthew Taylor (11 assists in 43 starts/3,808 minutes)

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Matthew Taylor is as lethal as ever with his left foot, especially from set pieces; will he still be relied upon so heavily?

2017/2018

Manager/Head Coach: Justin Edinburgh; fresh from getting the boot at Gillingham, the former Tottenham veteran took the reins at Sixfields. His record up to last season had been favourable, especially his successful efforts to take Newport County into the EFL. A relatively conservative tactician, it is evident from the summer recruitment to date that the main issues in the side were defensive based and a lot of work has been done to rectify that.

Ins: Ash Taylor (Aberdeen), Daniel Powell (MK Dons), Yaser Kasim (Swindon Town), Dean Bowditch (MK Dons), Sam Foley (Port Vale), Billy Waters (Cheltenham Town), Matt Crooks (Rangers), Leon Lobjoit (Buckingham Town), George Smith (Gateshead), Regan Poole (Manchester United U23s on loan) & Leon Barnett (Bury).

Outs: Jak McCourt (Chesterfield), Adam Smith (Bristol Rovers), Paul Anderson (Mansfield Town), Harry Beautyman (Stevenage), Zander Diamond (Mansfield Town), Gabriel Zakuani (Gillingham) & Rod McDonald (Coventry City).

Predicted First XI & Shape:

Northampton1718.PNG

Tactics: The defensive spine of the team has been completed overhauled and there are now genuine options in every position for Edinburgh to experiment with. Expect the two centre backs to maintain a deep line in most games, with Leon Barnett providing cover for the forays forward by Brendan Moloney. Stalwarts David Buchanan and Matthew Taylor both have competition for their places and will need to maintain both their high level of performances and more width down the left-wing. The Cobblers pipped Scunthorpe United to the signing of anchor man Matt Crooks and much will depend on his screening ability and the balls forward to the more creative players he makes.

John-Joe O’Toole will likely spearhead the midfield diamond once more and, although Marc Richards and Alex Revell should at least start 2017/2018 up front together, the acquisitions of Billy Waters and Dean Bowditch provide Northampton with the tools to change formation and ask different questions of opposition defenders. The distribution of goals could be evenly spread once more amongst the attack-minded group, with more players out wide than the previous season capable of crafting openings.

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Leon Barnett divided opinion in the white and royal blue of Bury in 2016/2017, looking more at home in a back three. Can he win over the Cobblers’ faithful with some assured displays early on in the coming season?

 

Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Safe but sorry. As I’ve alluded to already in the previews thus far, even incrementally improving on the look of the squad in 2017/2018’s League One might only be enough to stand still. Edinburgh has overseen a high turnover already during pre-season and in doing so, has overhauled the defensive picture and greater strength in depth. I can’t see the Cobblers flirting even subtly with the bottom four but it’s hard at this moment in time to envisage a final position much higher than lower mid-table. Thankfully for them, they should concede fewer goals and keep more clean sheets, albeit from a low base in both categories.

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