Key player: Nicky Adams
It’s not difficult to pick the key player for Northampton Town, because without him the side wouldn’t have had a sniff of promotion. Nicky Adams won his third promotion from League Two in five years, and recorded double figures in league assists for the fourth time during those years. His crossing from deep really is outstanding and poses such a threat, from open play and set-pieces. He was a key part of their system, hitting accurate long-passes that expose any team pressing forward, forcing them to sit back and, intentionally, allowing Adams yet more space, time and territory to pick his crosses.
In the play-off final, his crossing and long-diagonal passing set the tone, forcing Exeter onto the back-foot as they barely scraped out of the first-half without being 3-0 before the break. There is no reason why his crossing should be any less dangerous in League One, especially when so much of their attacking play relies on it.
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Manager: Keith Curle
Curle had spells at Chester City, Torquay United and Notts County before his most notable at Carlisle United in League Two. Curle’s first season saw them finish 20th but he was able to turn them into a well drilled League Two side as they finished 10th the next season. In his last full season, the Cumbrian side reached the play offs after throwing away a chance at automatic promotion with a late-season implosion, where they exited at the semi-final stage in a last-minute loss to Exeter City.
In October 2018 Curle joined Northampton where he guided them to a 16th place finish in League 2 before making a string of impressive signings over the summer. Even with these additional faces, they started slowly at first, with a very mixed picture of results, until finding more form from October, losing only a third of their remaining games. This saw them challenging for the automatic promotion places but ultimately, they settled for a play-off position where they were the victors, gaining promotion to League One.
Engine: Ryan Watson
Watson is a combative box to box midfielder with a good passing range, and could be fundamental for Northampton in transition, particularly if they stay favouring the 3-4-1-2 formation they used for much of last season. Their midfield will be tested more this season and he will need to stand up to the challenge, else his team might find itself on the back-foot more often than they can handle.
Last season: 6th in League Two
Northampton were a solid team in League Two last season who built their success on being hard to beat. Notably, they got good wins against two of the three automatic promotion teams Argyle and Crewe. When reaching the play-offs they showed their resilience, coming back from a 2-0 first leg deficit against Cheltenham Town before returning the favour 3-0 in the second leg to reach Wembley. In the final with Argyle’s rivals Exeter City they were all too strong for the Grecians, who were dominated physically from the start to the finish and lost 4-0.
Key departure: Charlie Goode
Goode was a crucial part of a more often than not three-man defence alongside Blackburn Rovers loanee Scott Wharton. His performances in Northampton’s back line were impressive, producing a league best 15 clean sheets last term. This raised eyebrows from clubs higher in the English pyramid with Championship promotion hopefuls Brentford eventually winning his signature. To soften the blow, Brentford youngster and defender Luka Racic went the other way on loan.
Target: Top half
One of the four promoted sides from League Two last season, Northampton will hope to take some sort of momentum which usually follows promotion into this new season, but after another big squad turnover this summer and the loss of key men such as Goode, Wharton and Oliver, they might need time for the new squad to gel. They’ve added well though, and Joesph Mills will be looking to show the same sort of creativity down the left as Adams provides from the right.
Under the management of Curle, I can see them looking for a season of consolidation before setting their sights higher up the table.
(provided by Northampton Town podcast It’s All Cobblers to Me)
As playoff winners, we’ll be written off from the start (and have already been!) but we’ll spring a surprise or two if we make the right signings. Joseph Mills adds creativity and goals from wing back and Christopher Missilou looks a great signing from Oldham. Our back three has been completely torn apart but we’ve replaced them well with Cian Bolger, Luka Racic (on loan) and Fraser Horsfall all slotting in well to the way we play. We’ve added striker Benny Ashley-Seal on a permanent deal from Wolves and that should help bolster the attack! Anything above 20th would do us fine but we should surprise one or two along the way.
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