The tie is delicately poised. Can the Cobblers make it a memorable night at Sixfields and turn it around to reach Wembley?
At half-time on Saturday, this semi-final looked like it was on its way to being over. Mansfield had taken a two goal lead and looked in complete control against a Cobblers side who were struggling to cope with key injuries. The Stags then seemed to settle for the two goals and Town smelt blood.
Yet again, we sat and underestimated this Cobblers side. How wrong we were. Town stormed back and gave Jefe the moment she’d been waiting for – an Ali Koiki goal! The deficit was suddenly halved and the momentum was now with Jon Brady’s team. John-Joe O’Toole could have put the ball into his own net, Joseph Mills headed over when given a free header on a plate and we could easily have had a penalty for grappling in the box.
It’s all set, then, for what could be a memorable second leg under the lights at a sold out Sixfields on Wednesday night. The first goal on the night will be absolutely crucial to this well poised semi-final.
COME ON, COBBLERS!
When Mansfield beat the Cobblers at Field Mill back in early April, it looked to all the world like they were on such a charge that they would comfortably overtake us come the end of the season. With three points taken from us, the Stags were then level on points with us with two games in hand.
It may be a slight disappointment, then, that the season ended with them still needing a point to confirm their place in the top seven but that also speaks to some strong finishes from those above them. Mansfield themselves followed the Cobblers result up with three defeats in their next four games including reverses at home to Sutton United and away at Carlisle United.
Nigel Clough’s men bounced back enough to seal that final place in the top seven, though, with a draw against Forest Green at home enough to claim this tasty tie with the Cobblers.
Last time out
Mansfield edged the first leg of this one at Field Mill on Saturday night. Rhys Oates raced through to power in the first before Jordan Bowery added the second. But Ali Koiki’s goal on the hour gave us hope of turning the tie around.
One to watch
Rhys Oates was the danger man in the first leg with his runs in behind the Cobblers defence. We simply have to contain him if we’re to have any hope of reaching Wembley.
The Cobblers should welcome back first choice goalkeeper Liam Roberts after he served his one match ban in the first leg. Jon Brady will, though, have to check on the fitness of Louis Appere and Josh Eppiah ahead of this one. Appere limped off at Field Mill and Eppiah was only fit enough to play for the final half hour so both are doubts for Wednesday. Aaron McGowan is also a doubt again with the right back still struggling with the knock from the game against Exeter a couple of weeks ago.
Mansfield could also be forced into some changes after picking up “a few knocks” in the first leg according to manager Nigel Clough. Stephen Quinn is a doubt after coming off in the first leg with a hip injury that’s been bothering him while Matty Longstaff also came off and will be checked on.
Line-up Prediction – Powered by FanHub
Bobby Madley had originally been put in charge but that’s now reportedly been changed to Ben Toner. Toner last took charge of the Cobblers back in October in our 2-1 defeat at Hartlepool and was last in the middle for a Mansfield game for their 2-1 win at Oldham in March.
Charles: Cobblers 1-0 Mansfield AET (Cobblers win on penalties)
Danny: Cobblers 2-0 Mansfield
Neil: Cobblers 9-0 Mansfield
Jefé: Cobblers 3-1 Mansfield
Charles and Danny looked ahead to the big game on this week’s main podcast in the company of Craig Priest from the Mansfield Matters podcast:
A Cobblers fan all his life, Danny is the most down to earth football supporter from Northampton.
While at university in Southampton, Danny kept up to date with all things NTFC from afar, sharing his thoughts on his ‘A Load Of Cobblers’ online blog.