Plymouth Argyle face Northampton Town in League Two on Saturday afternoon, with the Greens looking to improve on their strong start to the season. Ahead of the game, we spoke to It’s All Cobblers To Me to get a Northampton-based perspective on the encounter. You can find their website here, their Twitter here, and a link to the iTunes page of their podcast here.
First of all, how did you get into supporting Northampton?
My Dad took me to my first game. He worked in Northampton town centre and I’d been banging on about going to a football match for ages. Dad eventually gave in and took me to see the Cobblers. I was hooked straight away.
Are there any new signings at Sixfields people should be looking out for?
We’ve signed some 12 players since the end of last season. It’s more or less a brand-new team with just a couple of players keeping their places in the side from last term. Nicky Adams is the stand out name on paper. He is the assist king of League Two and the focal point of our attack. Unfortunately, on the evidence of the first few games of the season, if you can stop Nicky playing, you’ll win.
My other new signing to watch out for is Chris Lines. The man can kick a football with the kind of deftness that David Beckham had. Okay, so he isn’t as good as Becks was, but you get the idea. Another way to stop us winning is to keep the ball out of midfield. Both Walsall and Port Vale did this and it stopped Lines from having any influence on the game.
It looks from the outside that the Cobblers have gotten off to a fairly inconsistent start. What have you made of proceedings so far?
It’s not been pretty. As usual pre-season optimism was high and then we lost at home to Walsall in a fairly lacklustre affair on the first day of the season. All our games so far have been tight, cagey affairs. We lost at home to Macclesfield (2-1) and away at Colchester (1-0), whilst drawing with Port Vale (1-1) in our first away game. Our only win to date has been at Swindon where a suspiciously offside Andy Williams scored the only goal of the game.
For many Cobblers fans the performances haven’t been good enough, let alone the results. We seem to be set up to not be beaten rather than play entertaining, attacking football. This is frustrating for many people and with our recent history of sacking managers easily, the fans are starting to get restless.
Personally, I think that Keith Curle sets the team up to defend as a unit and only play football when the occasion presents itself to do so. Think of how a Test cricket batsman will play his way into the crease, before getting confident enough to start smashing the bowler for boundaries.
The problem is that our opposition have ended up scoring first in every game we haven’t won so far. That then sets us on the back foot, the crowd gets anxious and in turn the pressure on the players increases.
I hate to say it but with so many new faces in the squad, it is taking time for them to gel as a team. Confidence seems low and we aren’t utilising our strengths yet. I’m sure it will turn around at some point but whether Curle will be given the time to do so is another question.
And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the season?
We have to be aiming for promotion. I hate to say it but I think we are an arrogant fanbase and that arrogance comes from what is put out by the club. We expect promotion. We should be a League One club. We’re better than our position yada yada yada.
Now every team starts the season with high expectations, wanting to win promotion. Northampton fans, me included, do it with style. If we aren’t winning after 5 minutes, we’re straight on the players’ backs. Moans and groans go up around the ground and the pressure intensifies.
In the past, our Chairman has been swift to change the manager when the fans have been unimpressed. It hasn’t worked with the last 4 managers so I think Curle will be given more time this time. Not that our expectations will be any more realistic.
I would still expect us to be up around the top of the table come the end of the season but I’m not counting on promotion just yet.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?
We will look to nullify your attack first and foremost. We’ll end up looking like the away team at times, letting Argyle have control of the ball in their own half. We’ll look to get the ball out wide to Nicky Adams and cross the ball into the box for our big striker (Harry Smith or Vadaine Oliver) to get a hold of.
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
We can’t score! So far, we have scored just three times in the League. Add in the two cup games we’ve played so far and that number only increases to five. For a big man, Harry Smith isn’t good enough with his head inside or outside of the box. For me, he doesn’t seem to know how to jump, or thinks he’s too tall to not have to. Either way, he is yet to impress me and was recently dropped by Curle with Vadaine Oliver and Andy Williams being preferred starters.
What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
Green Army! That’s the first thing for sure. Second? Well that’s easy too. January 2016. Plymouth were top of League Two when Chris Wilder’s Cobblers rocked up at Home Park. 90 minutes later, Northampton were the new league leaders thanks to goals from James Collins and Marc Richards. The Cobblers never looked back and were crowned League 2 Champions at the end of the season.
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
I’d take Danny Mayor in a heartbeat. He ripped us apart at Gigg Lane last year in what was to be Bury’s last win in the Football League before this week’s awful news. Mayor is the one player who can definitely, and probably will, terrify our defence.
Do you have any predictions for League Two in general this year?
Before the season began I was predicting a top 3 of Mansfield, Plymouth and ourselves. I still think Mansfield and Argyle will be up there but I’m not so sure about us. I’m expecting Morecambe and Oldham to be propping up the league and battling it out for the 1 remaining relegation place.
If Bolton go the same way as Bury have then I’m not so sure what will happen down the bottom of League 2. The EFL have set a precedent by reducing the amount of relegation places in our league so if Bolton do get expelled that will have to mean no relegation from League 2. That will make the bottom half of the table uncompetitive, surely?
Teams like Oldham, Morecambe, Scunthorpe(?) won’t worry about how well they do as there will be no threat of the National League. It really worries me that this is the beginning of the end of the English Football Leagues.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
It will be a tight game but I can’t see us winning. As I stated on the It’s All Cobblers To Me podcast this week, I’m going for a 2-1 defeat. I think you’ll just be too strong for us. I hope I’m wrong though and if we do end up winning you can expect me to gloat… a lot!