The first week of matches has finished, as follows: Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 0 Dortmund 2 Paris 1 Atalanta 4 Valencia 1 Spurs 0 Leipzig 1
For those that follow these things, not necessarily a bad result for Liverpool in Madrid, nor Paris's one goal deficit at Dortmund (given they've also got an away goal). Definitely a bad night for Valencia, getting hammered 4-1 at Atalanta, and although not by the same scoreline, a terrible night for Spurs losing 0-1 at home to Leipzig.
I've tweaked the presentation of results, thanks to some top tips from mfb, and the MoY series learning curve I'm on. Predictions in bold are first to predict, predictions underlined are second, and no format third. Score highlighted in yellow are permitted exact matches.
Group A Noah does brilliantly to score 5pts, with the Atletico result spot-on, and the Dortmund and Leipzig victories as outcomes. However, mfb_cufc is right on his tail, also with the Atletico result spot-on, and Atalanta's home win as an outcome. Remarkably, just one point behind mfb, BFG predicts the Dortmund 2-1 home win spot-on, to keep this group very close.
Group B Sector4 and sevebalo go toe to toe, both getting the Dortmund result spot-on, and the Atalanta home win as an outcome, to be level on 4pts at the top of the group. Lewis keeps in touch, also with the Atalanta home win, and there's plenty of time to improve on that.
Group C Thrillseeker gets Atletico's 1-0 victory over Liverpool spot-on, to go top on 3pts. Daniel keeps in touch with the Atalanta home win for 1pt, but blueeagle is yet to get off the mark.
Group D In Group D, basher takes a solid lead, picking the Dortmund result spot-on, with the Atalanta home win as an outcome. Blue4U2 stays in contention with the Dortmund home win, but concordman is yet to score.
Relatively narrow home wins for Atletico Madrid (1-0) and Dortmund (2-1) tonight. I'll do a full update after tomorrow's matches, but suffice to say quite a few points, including seven spot-on predictions, already scored by the U'sual Champions League competitors.
Hi Daniel - you have some exact matches to fix I'm afraid:
Dortmund 1 Paris 2 matches with both thrillseeker and blueeagle, but that's okay as your one permitted allowance with both of your competitors.
Unfortunately Spurs 2 Leipzig 1, Napoli 0 Barcelona 2 and Real Madrid 1 Man City 2 also match with thrillseeker and will have to be amended. Bear in mind that you can't change those to 1-0, 1-1 or 1-1 respectively, as that would also clash with blueeagle's predictions.
If you don't spot this message in time, you're okay for tomorrow, but will need to change the Spurs v Leipzig prediction ahead of Wednesday's 8pm kick-off. The other two you have until next week's kick-offs to alter.
So, after a disappointing result at Port Vale, our mission is clear, and has three simple objectives:
Objective #1 - stay in the Play-Offs Pretty straightforward really, with goal difference on our side, we just have to do as well as the best performing team below us. Currently, and realistically, that means Northampton and Bradford City, with Forest Green 6pts adrift at the moment. We've still to play away at both of those two, which makes those games absolutely massive. If it proves necessary, we also have the luxury of FGR at home for the last game of the season.
If we manage that...
Objective #2 - finish 4th or 5th Much trickier - Plymouth and Cheltenham both have two games in hand, and Plymouth might be too far ahead to be caught already. However, we still have Cheltenham at home to come, win that and we'll be right on their heels. The Play-Offs are a complete lottery, but if I had the choice, I'd rather go into the second leg of a semi-final, knowing what we had to do, at home.
If we manage that...
Objective #3 - pinch 3rd place Dreamland, obviously - it would need us to win almost all of our remaining fixtures. I thought 80pts might be enough, Durham thought 82pts, and I reckon it'll be somewhere around that mark - certainly not less than 80pts. If we accept that our games at Bradford and Northampton are must-win because of Objective #1, and we win all of our remaining home matches, that's eight victories. Notwithstanding what teams around us do to each other, that leaves us needing a couple of good results at Salford, Carlisle, Newport or Walsall.
Stranger things have happened - I'll be there at Salford to see how the run-in starts.
I'm always optimistic, after 50 years following the U's, I have to be. Mathematically, of course we can still get in the top three, but 9pts adrift, and probably 12pts once the game in hand is factored in, it isn't very likely now. If 80pts is going to be enough, we have to win nine and draw at least one of the last 12 - not impossible mind you...
Be interesting to see if any of these fall foul of the weather, but here goes...
SOUTHAMPTON v BURNLEY (12.30) 2-1 WEST BROMWICH ALBION v NOTTINGHAM FOREST (12.30) 2-0 CARDIFF CITY v WIGAN ATHLETIC 3-0 MIDDLESBROUGH v LUTON TOWN 1-0 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY v READING 2-1 BRISTOL ROVERS v BLACKPOOL 1-1 IPSWICH TOWN v BURTON ALBION 2-0 OXFORD UNITED v SUNDERLAND 1-1 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE v CREWE ALEXANDRA 3-1 STEVENAGE v SALFORD CITY 0-2
You're right, tomorrow will be difficult, regardless of the weather, so fingers-crossed the proper U's turn up and perform. I would also say that the players have to take their share of the responsibility for the poorer performances - as you rightly say, if they can self-motivate for the big games, why don't they for the other games? It can't just be down to McGreal's changing room team talks surely? I would be interested to know how our first half performances compared to our second half performances, but on paper we've won 13 and lost 7, so that would suggest McGreal's inspirational team talks must have been working 2/3rds of the time? Like the mathematician with constipation, I could try and work it out with a pencil, but certainly not tonight...
Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…
Northampton Town v Colchester United Saturday 24th April 1999 Nationwide Football League Division 2 (Tier 3) Attendance 6,146
Match #44 of the series, and we go way back to 1998/99, and at the tail end of what was our first season back in Nationwide League Division 2 (that’s Division 3 in old money). Steve Wignall had left in January, with Mick Wadsworth taking over, and despite a fairly ropey time in March and early/mid-April we were doing just enough to avoid getting sucked into the relegation dogfight. Northampton Town weren’t quite as fortunate, sitting in the fourth and final relegation slot. They weren’t by any means adrift, and had been on a fairly decent run through April, but desperately needed points from their last four games if they were to escape.
Always a pleasant surprise when I find these things, as this is another match that I discovered I still had my ticket stub for - £10.50, nice! Mind you, I needed one, as the match (certainly for the U’s supporters) was an all-ticket affair – the U’s had been allocated 800 tickets, and over 500 had been sold by the middle of the week before, with most of the rest expected to go by close of sales at 5pm on the Friday.
I travelled over to this match on the train, meeting up in Northampton with my brother-in-law Steve, his parents Joyce and Dennis, and my nephew and niece (Steve had bought my ticket for me). I’m not 100% certain, but I think we met at the Sixfields Pub – I know they don’t normally allow away fans in, but I know I’ve been there once, and pretty sure this was the occasion. Given the significance of the game for both clubs, there was a very decent crowd that day, with the allocated 800 places more or less filled by the noisy faithful from Essex, and all in excellent voice. I know Joyce and Dennis were very rare travellers for away games, so that gives a measure of the level of support for the U’s that day.
Northampton Town were at the time managed by our very own Ian Atkins, who had spent a season at the U’s as player-manager failing to get us out of the Conference at the first attempt. His career thereafter was a largely unsuccessful mismatch of player-manager, player-coach and assistant manager appointments at various clubs, including Birmingham City, Cambridge United and Doncaster Rovers. He eventually arrived at Northampton Town in 1994 – where he finally hung up his playing boots – and had already managed the Cobblers to two Wembley appearances (winning one) and promotion to this league.
That Mick Wadsworth was developing a penchant for Frenchmen is nought but a scurrilous rumour, but having already signed Stephane Pounewatchy, Fabrice Richard and Steve Germain, he had added a young 17-year old Thomas Pinault (from AS Cannes – same club as Steve Germain) to the squad during the week leading up to this game. Pinault had gone straight into a reserves game at Oxford United on the evening of the day he signed, though didn’t make the matchday team for this game. Also not on the team sheet was talismanic and mercurial Lua Lua, who thanks to a moment of madness at Burnley on Easter Monday, was starting a three match ban for the straight red card he’d earned. With points vital to ensure survival, that was not a smart move…
Before we get to the match itself, we encountered a very sorry ‘health and safety gone mad’ moment, whilst queuing to get into the ground. Steve’s elderly and quite frail parents (sadly no longer with us) had a small bottle of water each to take into the ground. Regrettably, the stewards were having none of it, and insisted that they had to be either drunk there and then or tipped out on the floor. All very unnecessary, and quite distressing for Steve’s parents to be honest, but that’s jackboot stewarding for you.
And so to the match. Whilst there was much about the day and matters leading up to the game that I remember very well, there’s hardly a thing about the actual match itself I can recall. If anyone else has any recollections of the game, I’d be delighted to hear them – might even flush out things I’d thought I’d forgotten.
What I do know from the stats is that Paul Buckle got us off to the perfect start, scoring in just the third minute, with Dave Savage equalising in the 18th minute. Then came the Tale of Two Penalties – Carlo Corazzin converted from the spot just before halftime to put the Cobblers 2-1 up in their quest to avoid relegation. Not to be outdone, Warren Aspinall returned the compliment from the spot straight after halftime (in front of the travelling faithful), to bring the U’s back level – and great merriment in the away end.
With an hour gone, Wadsworth was the first to mix things up, making a double substitution – David Gregory for his brother Neil, and Doogie replacing Abrahams. Not sure if that really worked at the time, as Northampton restored their lead a few minutes later when Lee Howey scored their third. However, something must have eventually clicked, because substitute Doogie again levelled the scores in the 71st minute.
It was then Atkins’ turn to try to change things to their favour, making his own double substitution in the 80th minute, bringing Ally Gibb and Duncan Spedding on. However, the U’s held firm, and after sacrificing Jason Dozzell for the young Steve Germain in the 87th minute, we held on for a 3-3 draw – almost there for the U’s, a point really not enough for the Cobblers.
Northampton Town 3 (Dave Savage 18’, Carlo Corrazin 41’p, Lee Howey 63’) Colchester United 3 (Paul Buckle 3’, Warren Aspinall 47’p, Karl Duguid 71’)
This game marked a number of milestones for Colchester United – it was both Paul Abrahams' and Neil Gregory’s last appearances for the U’s, and as it turns out Paul Buckle’s last goal for us as well. The vital point gained left us one point short of the magical 50-point mark. Not quite mathematically safe at the time, that would come the following Tuesday night at home to promotion chasing Bournemouth.
Remarkably, although Northampton Town went unbeaten for all of April and May ’99 – nine matches in a row – there were only three victories in that lot, and they couldn’t garner enough points to avoid relegation. Ian Atkins carried on in charge into the following season, but after a poor start finally left in October 1999.
Wadsworth, after decimating the club (and the team spirit) over the summer, thankfully resigned in August 1999. After a reasonably positive start to his managerial career at Carlisle United and then Scarborough, his time at the U’s would probably be considered by neutrals broadly as a success – certainly compared to the dismal litany of failure that followed. Just goes to show that stats aren’t everything…