REPORTS FROM COBBLERS SITES
Mansfield 1-2 Cobblers - WE'RE THERE!
By Simon Sidwell
REPORT: SUPER ULLY BELTS COBBLERS INTO PLAY-OFFS!
Unlikely hero Rob Ullathorne pounced to smash home the winner for the Cobblers, that sent them into the Division Play-Off semi finals against a side they will meet twice more. Mansfield Town - and Yeovil - did their best to spoil Northampton's party, but success is only 270 minutes away. Rob Ullathorne became an instant Cobblers hero when he netted his first League goal for Northampton - and his first in five years - to catapult Town to the Play-Off shake-up where ironically Mansfield will be the side to conquer in order to pay a visit to the Millenium Stadium.
The former Leicester and Norwich full back used his experience to hit the winner midway through the second half, thanks to the Stags' normally useful offside trap. Ian Sampson looped a high pass across the line of defence, who pushed out leaving 4 or 5 Cobblers in offside positions.
But cooly, Ullathorne stayed pinned on the left wing and broke the trap with precision. He took one touch and an eternity before blasting home, with the aid of deflections from goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington and defender Jamie Day.
The 2,500 Cobblers fans who had packed out the away areas were delirious witrh passion and celebrations, as Colin Calderwood and John Deehan masterminded Town out of the demise as Christmas to eventually gain sixth place in Division Three - a great achievement from sitting 19th before the New Year.
It had all started so brightly for the visitors, who were looking focused and professional in the pursuit of play-off glory. Eric Sabin wasted a golden opportunity when he collected a high through pass and neatly nipped between both defenders. Pilkington came to meet his run and managed to put off ther striker, planting his improvised effort wide of the mark.
Sabin made up for his mistake with a piledriver moments later though. There seemed no danger when he collected a ball on the right edge of the box. He turned his marker inside, took another touch and sent into a fantastic effort that Pilkington could only palm into the top corner.
Mansfield came back into the game later on in the half, only Rhys Day's towering header wide truly threatening Northampton's goal from a corner. Sabin was unlucky not to double the advantage with an effort from just inside the box, following Josh Low's first chance to make a surging run at his opposite Jamie Eaton.
With news that Yeovil were ahead two minutes after the break, Town knew that they had to use their result to bring the chance of play-off glory. What they didn't account for was the Stags renewed surge of form in the second half. Lee Williamson surprised the Cobblers defence to strike the post, but Harper was on hand to clear.
The resulting corner saw the away side fail to clear what seemed like a fairly simple cross to head away, but it beat everyone except Colin Larkin and the back post, who volleyed neatly across goal into the opposing corner, giving nobody a chance. Suddenly Town were under the cosh, and goals were needed as Yeovil netted a second in their match with Lincoln.
Mansfield continued to pepper Harper's goal with shots, notably Liam Lawrence who pulled his effort away. Paul Trollope then got his first sight on goal and grabbbed the opportunity have a strike. He did just that, and was mightily unlucky to see it bounce away off the angle.
And then Ullathorne put the Cobblers ahead with that memorable strike. The nature of the goal mirrored Sean Parrish's effort against Scunthorpe in 1997, where Town needed to win to secure a good position in the play-off lottery. Mansfield didn't have the heart to attack, considering they were already safe, but Craig Disley won't want to see a repeat of his poor attempt from Lawrence's low cross, barely connecting to a relatively simple effort.
This was Northampton's day. The blockbusting support from the travelling faithful made sure that it was a day to remember, while a big thankyou to Mansfield fans for the ovation they gave our players when they arrived back on the pitch after the final whistle.
But the thought of playing Mansfield twice more isn't an easy prospect. The first leg takes place this Sunday at Sixfields (k/o 3:00pm), while a return to Field Mill is on Thursday week. Ticket allocations and when supporters can buy the ticket is on the Official Site now.
Rob fires Town into play-offs
Mansfield 1 Cobblers 2
AND so the drama continues…
The roller-coaster ride that is this Cobblers season took another dramatic upsurge with this thrilling win over Mansfield, a victory that leaves Town just two games away from the play-off final.
Rob Ullathorne kept his cool in the Field Mill cauldron to fire Colin Calderwood's men to three fantastic points and a superb sixth-placed finish in division three – something that looked nigh on impossible at the end of January.
But the nerves of the 2,600 Cobblers fans were put through the shredder as their team first took control of their play-off destiny, then lost it, before finally sealing the win. Yeovil's triumph at Lincoln City meant anything less would not have been enough.
Now it's all back to the same venue in nine days' time to see who is off to the Millennium Stadium – following the little matter of Sunday's first-leg at Sixfields.
Town's travelling army sang 'we are going up' after the weekend win, and you do get the feeling the promotion force is with this admirable Cobblers team.
From the shambles of early-season, Calderwood and John Deehan have turned things around and taken a bunch of talented but disjointed players and moulded them into a team of style and substance.
"When Colin and I came in, we said the target was to try and get into the play-offs and then to win them," said a delighted Deehan. "It has been a tremendous achievement by the players to get to 75 points.
"We now have two big games against Mansfield, and we would love to go on and get into the play-off final. Hopefully we have three games to go and if we want to achieve what we want, we have to get the right results from the first two and then win the third."
Things all went so smoothly for the Cobblers in the first half at Mansfield, Eric Sabin firing them ahead on 19 minutes with a powerful curling shot from 18 yards, the ball flying into the top corner.
Sabin also went close on two other occasions as the Cobblers carved out the better chances while Mansfield failed to trouble Lee Harper – but it was a different story after the break.
Harper made a top class stop on 53 minutes to deny Lee Williamson, but from the resultant corner some slack Town marking allowed Colin Larkin to drive home a far-post volley.
For the next 10 minutes Town fans were forced to watch through their fingers as the lively Stags dominated, but they had no end product and were made to pay.
Paul Trollope smacked the crossbar with a 25-yard drive before the all-important matchwinner came from the unlikeliest source in Ullathorne, the defender lurking unmarked wide on the left to collect Sampson's clever diagonal pass and drill his shot past Pilkington from a tight angle. It was his first goal in five years!
It was still unbearably tense and substitute Craig Disley let Town off the hook with an amazing miss, the striker sidefooting wide from six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
The Town fans started to party as news filtered through that Lincoln had equalised at Yeovil, but moments later it was confirmed the Glovers had gone back in front and it was panic stations once more –thankfully, the Town men on the pitch kept their cool!
Football First match report:
By John Lomas
transcribed by carole
ROB'S A GOOD 'UN
ROB ULLATHORNE was the unlikely hero with the crucial winner to put Northampton into the play-offs.
And, as it turned out with results elsewhere, this was a dress rehearsal for the semi finals with the Cobblers finding themselves paired with the Stags.
The first leg will be at Sixfields next Sunday, with the Field Mill return the following Thursday.
Mansfield had already secured their play-off place so Northampton were the hungrier - and it showed.
Eric Sabin put the visitors ahead after 19 minutes, only to see Colin Larkin level the scores on 54 minutes.
At this point, Yeovil led at Lincoln and Northampton's hopes were fading.
But Ullathorne got forward to grab the 70th minute winner and Northampton's director of football John Deeham said: “Getting into the play-offs looked almost unattainable at Christmas so this is a tremendous achievement.
“You have to feel for Yeovil who are probably the first team to get 74 points and not make the play-offs.
“We have two big games with Mansfield to look forward to now. For me they probably are the best footballing team in the division this season.
“They played terrific football against us and showed no malice. But I think we were just about worthy winners.”
Cobblers team manager and former Mansfield star Colin Calderwood added: “This is a great achievement which I genuinely believe my players deserve some sort of success.
Sabin's fierce drive from the edge of the box on 19 minutes saw home keeper Kevin Pilkington only able to push it higher into his net.
But after Lee Williamson had seen his shot deflected against a post, the resulting corner – saw the ball sail over everyone to Larkin who tucked it away at the far post.
However, Northampton were far from finished and, after Paul Trollope had shot against the Mansfield crossbar, Ullathorne raced behind a square defence who were calling for offside and calmly slotted home the winner 20 minutes from time.
Mansfield manager Keith Curle declined to comment after the game.
But his chairman Keith Haslam said: “Obviously, we would have liked to have won the game but at least we have the second leg of the semi-finals at home.
“We shouldn't be frightened by anyone now and we're in with a good chance. I thought we played well and their second goal was dubious, as I thought he was offside.
“Northampton are an experience side who have had a marvellous run, so by no means will it be easy.
“But we have enough experience in our side now and Northampton told us after the game, that we are the best side they've played.”
Mansfield Town………Northampton Town
47-----------Possession %---- 53
0------------Yellow Cards-------1 (correction - Rhys Day was booked)
3------------Shots on Target---5
5------------Shots off Target---5
Latest | May 2004