Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League One - 22nd (relegated); W 12 / D 11 / L 23 / F 43 / A 77 / Pts 47
The Cobblers’ season got off to a terrible start, losing the first four matches in League One. A swift decision was taken to sack Justin Edinburgh, and, with the transfer window closed, the board appointed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in his place. The former Netherlands striker had enjoyed previous success in the same tier with Burton Albion, and won his first couple of fixtures at the helm. An indifferent sequence followed, topped off by a shambolic display in their 6-0 home defeat against Bristol Rovers. The main problems were pretty basic in nature: conceding way too many goals and when they did win, they rarely were able to repeat that feat in the next match.
The poorest sequence came from mid-January onwards, with a single triumph away at AFC Wimbledon looking like a blip in amongst stalemates and heavy reverses. Hasselbaink himself was relieved of duties with only five games of the season remaining and Northampton in the relegation mire. Dean Austin was brought in initially as a caretaker, but despite winning two and drawing one during the run-in, it was insufficient to save them from sliding back into League Two after a relatively short period in the tier above.
Top Goalscorer: Chris Long (9 goals in 30 starts/2,591 minutes)
Top Creator: Matt Grimes (9 assists in 43 starts/3,903 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Dean Austin; featured prominently as a player in the Premier League for both Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace and stayed faithful to the Eagles when they entered administration, taking a massive pay cut in the process in an era before the income from television deals had reached anything like the amount it is now, which endeared him to supporters in no small way. Suffering with two injuries at once, he called time on his professional career, lasting one more season with Woking before hanging up his boots for good. Initially appointed Director of Football at Farnborough Town, he was asked to take full control at short notice before the 2004/2005 campaign got underway. Financial pressures hampered his time in charge, and it was a long time before he cut his teeth as a manager again, learning the ropes under figures, such as Brendan Rodgers. He had been assistant to Hasselbaink prior to the Dutchman’s sacking, and now finds himself tasked with steering the Cobblers back up the ziggurat.
Ins: Hakeem Odofin (Wolverhampton Wanderers U23s on loan), Andy Williams (Doncaster Rovers) & Junior Morias (Peterborough United).
Outs: Raheem Hanley (free agent), Leon Lobjoit (free agent), Kevin Luckassen (free agent), Aaron Phillips (free agent), Richard O’Donnell (Bradford City), Joe Bunney (Blackpool on loan) & Brendan Moloney (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: Austin’s charges currently lack options out wide and in goal. David Cornell will be the custodian at the time of writing, but I don’t expect that to remain the case before the window closes. He likes to come for crosses, which always has a risk attached to it. Ahead of him, the back four look solid. David Buchanan’s balance and surprising aerial ability often catches his marker out, especially if a much taller player is instructed to stick close to him. Aaron Pierre’s strength and relative quickness will make him a tough customer for opposing strikers in the fourth tier, and partnered with captain Ash Taylor, the duo are unlikely to lose many battles in the air or on the floor. Shay Facey is another reliable figure on the right and could get forward a little more than Buchanan, especially with a possible lopsided midfield ahead of him.
Shaun McWilliams will hold things together as the pivot and will possibly be joined by Matt Crooks when possession is lost in central areas. Daniel Powell can operate on either flank and has the pace and technical dribbling skills to push his side up the park, particularly when under pressure. John-Joe O’Toole’s quality is famous in the EFL’s lower reaches, and if he can stay injury-free, will be the heartbeat of the team. He will be a major scorer in his own right, as well as a supplier of chances for the strikers. Junior Morias likes to come in from the half-space to draw out the adjacent centre back and create space. His physical power extends to his shooting, and his work rate will ensure that Northampton defend from the front. Andy Williams has a good all-round game; he found minutes hard to come by for Doncaster Rovers, he has an excellent track record and should be a decent foil for the likes of Morias.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Play-off chasers; as mentioned above, they are a couple of players short as I write, but I expect some more incomings to add to the three they’ve acquired thus far. The defence is largely the same as the ones that shipped so many goals last season, hence the pressing need for a confident goalkeeper to instil the same in them. The squad is there for a variety of narrow shapes in midfield, and there is impressive depth up top. Dean Austin can be a galvanising force for the Cobblers, and the top seven should be within their reach if they reduce the costly individual and collective errors that dogged much of their relegation season.