COBBLERS DREAM STILL ALIVE
Town promotion dream is still alive
Northampton Chronicle and Echo
THE fat lady is not singing just yet...and the Cobblers can still beat Mansfield and reach the play-off final on May 31.
It will take a monumental effort from Colin Calderwood and his players that's for sure, but it can be done – remember Bristol Rovers in 1998...
Mansfield go into the game leading 2-0 after Sunday's first-leg at Sixfields and they are a very good side, but they are far from invincible.
Keith Curle's outfit may be great to watch when they are in full flow and are a real threat, but they are also prone to leaking goals – they conceded 62 in their 46 league games which was the ninth worst record in the division.
It's only just over a week since Town went to Field Mill and won 2-1, and there's no reason why the Cobblers can't repeat that feat – with at least a two-goal winning margin thrown in!
Since the Boxing Day win at Bristol Rovers, the Cobblers have made a habit of coming from behind to win games, managing it on six occasions. That's the fighting spirit they'll need.
Town's away form is also a source of real encouragement with Calderwood's men unbeaten on their travels since going down 2-1 at Kidderminster on March 1.
Since then they have won five and drawn one of their six away games, a run that has included wins over Hull City, Swansea City and, of course, the Stags.
So it's fair to say this tie is far from over.
The Mansfield fans celebrated at Sixfields as if they were already off to the Millennium Stadium, while the Stags players also looked pretty pleased with themselves.
The Stags contingent made all the right noises post-match, saying that it's only half-time and they know there's still work to be done – but complacency on their part, even sub-consciously, has to be a real possibility.
"You have seen that happen many times," said Town striker Martin Smith. "They probably got on the bus back home on Sunday thinking they had done the job.
"Hopefully that is the case and we can go up there and catch them cold on Thursday night and start the game fast.
"The thing is, if you do start a match in complacent fashion then it is hard to pull yourself back round.
"We went there last week and scored two goals, and there is no reason why we can't do that again."
Close on 2,600 Cobblers fans will once again pack the Field Mill stands on Thursday, and their support will be crucial.
The players still believe they can turn the match around and the fans have to share that belief and really get behind the team.
Thursday night is all about the Cobblers getting the momentum going, and that means both on and off the pitch.
The next goal in this tie is going to be absolutely crucial – and if the Cobblers score it then I for one wouldn't bet against Calderwood's men going on and finishing the job. Keep the faith.
Still in it!
Town promotion dream is still alive
Lee Harper has not given up hope of a dream play-off final date at the Millennium Stadium.
The big goalkeeper is adamant that the Cobblers can still book their place in the Cardiff showpiece against either Huddersfield Town or Lincoln City.
Reaching the final is now a big ask for Town following their 2-0 semi-final first-leg defeat to Mansfield at Sixfields on Sunday, but Harper insists the mood in the Cobblers camp is still confident.
Town travel to Field Mill for the second-leg on Thursday, and a bullish Harper declared: "If we go there and score first then things could be interesting because we're playing well away from home.
"We'll be going there trying to win and there's no reason why we can't go there and score two goals. We didn't want to be in this position but we've got to go there and attack and try and get an early goal to give our fans something to shout about.
"It's been an okay season but we don't want to get this far after starting the season the way we did and not make it.
"We want to finish the job off and at least get to the Millennium Stadium which we've still got a chance of doing."
And he added: "I'll be disappointed if we don't get there now. We've come this far and put in such a good run over the last few months and we've all given so much that we want to finish it off now. I don't want to go out of the play-offs at the semi-finals and I definitely think we can do it."
After a good start against the Stags, Town faded away badly in Sunday's first-leg but Harper insists they will be firing on all cylinders in the return.
"We're certainly capable of playing a lot better and we went there last week and scored two goals so we've got to keep believing we can go there and do it again," he said.
"It would have been nice to go there with a lead but it wasn't to be and we've got to get over that. We've got to go there and have a good go at them."
Colin Calderwood is expected to make at least two changes to his starting line-up for Thursday's clash. Skipper Paul Reid will return at the heart of defence in place of the suspended Ashley Westwood, while Eric Sabin will play in attack, probably in place of Derek Asamoah.
That switch would be cruel on Asamoah who played well on Sunday, but Calderwood said: "Eric will start. He will be a different problem for Mansfield to cope with."
Latest | May 2004