A champagne-soaked Chris Wilder hailed his side’s ‘outstanding achievement’ after they clinched their promotion to Sky Bet League One following a 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon.
Cobblers appeared on course to seal a top three spot by virtue of beating the Pirates as Nicky Adams and Sam Hoskins put them 2-0 ahead, but a late rally saw Rovers hit back and snatch a point.
It wouldn’t prevent Northampton from partying, though, as a pitch invasion followed the full-time whistle after Plymouth’s defeat against AFC Wimbledon, where Adebayo Akinfenwa scored the winning goal, confirmed Town’s long-awaited promotion.
It caps off a remarkable, roller-coaster season for a club that has gone from the edge of the abyss back in the autumn to romping away with the League Two title in 2016 – and they will be crowned champions with a win at Exeter next weekend.
“It’s a great day,” said Wilder. “It’s been a strange situation but for the players, for me and most importantly for the fans to get a ‘P’ next to our name as the first club in the country is an outstanding achievement, especially when we all know what’s happened earlier in the season.
“It’s been an unbelievable turnaround. You just get on with it and try to do your job to the best of your ability, whether that’s myself or Alan (Knill) or the staff or the players.
“We’re honest, hard-working people and we’re proud to work for this football club and do our best and that’s what we’ve done.
“That’s all I ask of the players and they’ve done that from the first day they came back.
“The players have had a lot of things go against them this season but the character has been first class and we’ve won games in so many different ways.
“We should have won today and we know that but we dampened that down pretty quickly and we’ll enjoy it because seasons like this don’t across all the time.
“Players like Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard play for England and win things year in year out but this club hasn’t won anything for 30 odd years so we need to go and finish the job off now.
“The boys will be determined to do that but we need to enjoy this achievement.
“It’s been a feast and famine club and it should be a club in the division above but it hasn’t been.
“It’s been up and down and I think everybody has now realised what we’re all about - what the chairman is about and what the players are about - and the club now has a bright future ahead of it.
“I think we can look back right the way through the season and at the start when we got off to a great start, but it’s not about me and it’s not about any of my staff – it’s about the group and about the football club.”
On Saturday’s game itself, which saw Matty Taylor and Ellis Harrison score late goals to deny Northampton a win, Wilder added: “It was a tough game.
“I thought they were better for the first 15 or so minutes but when we scored I felt we were the better team for the next 40 or 50 minutes.
“We took a few wrong options and got a little bit edgy but fair play to them and sometimes you have to give the opposition credit.
“They didn’t lie down. We had a couple of chances to put them to bed but they scored and got their result, we got our result and we all walk away happy.”