It was well documented how well Northampton did in the 2015/16 season, Champions of League 2 for the first time in 29 years and winning the league by 13 points with only 5 defeats in the process, not to mention manager Chris Wilder winning the Manager of the Year too. However what some people may forget is it could have been a lot different 6 months earlier. On 21st November 2015 I witnessed Cobblers win 2-1 away to Notts County when at this time we had just 9 days left to get new owners in place and to pay back money we owed the local council or else face a points deduction and possible extinction. It was a day manager Chris Wilder did possibly the best interview I’ve seen by any manager, Wilder called out current owner at the time David Cardoza making it clear that he and the players were fed up of not getting paid and were desperate for a deal to be done. Thankfully Kelvin Thomas stepped in just in time to save the Cobblers, managed to pay the required money and clear off the debts. This is when the Cobblers season really took off!
Going into the New Year, Northampton were in the top 3 and Wilder made some impressive January acquisitions to help bolster the team’s promotion chances. A key part of the season was mid-February when town had to face 3 promotion rivals Leyton Orient, Oxford and Wycombe Wanderers all in the space of 7 days. Remarkably, they took 9 points from 9 opening up a 6 point lead at the top of the League 2 table. By the end of the month the team had won a club record 10 games in a row.
By March promotion was looking likely and the one game that all but secured it was away to Stevenage. Town were 2-0 down early on but managed to win the game 3-2 with the last kick of the game through player of the season Ricky Holmes who had a habit of having moments of magic throughout the season and this was certainly his best. He cut inside the box from about 20 yards out and smashed the ball in off the inside of the post. As early on as 9th April promotion was confirmed at home to Bristol Rovers. Despite throwing away a 2-0 lead, results went in Northampton’s favour and they were confirmed a League 1 side for the 2016/17 season. A week later down at Exeter there were more celebrations as the League 2 title was also secured, once again despite drawing other results went in Cobblers favour meaning that they had won their a league title 29 years after their last. The aim for Northampton now was to go the rest of the season unbeaten.
The last game of the season came round on the 7th May away to playoff hopefuls Portsmouth and the unbeaten end to the season was achieved with a 2-1 victory which meant Northampton finished the season as champions with 99 points and they were also 24 games undefeated. Personal awards came around at the end of the season with Goalkeeper Adam Smith and midfielders John Joe O’Toole and Ricky Holmes all making the League 2 team of the year.
Unfortunately Holmes and manager Chris Wilder were to depart in the summer but both will be seen as club legends as will the majority of that squad. Things have changed quite a bit now nearly a year on and it’s safe to say it could well be another 29 years before we see a season like that again at Northampton.