An emotional Chris Wilder thanked Cobblers fans and staff for his ‘special’ reception on Saturday and admitted winning promotion with Sheffield United was made ‘a bit harder’ by the fact it came at the home of his former club.
For the second time this season the Blades denied Northampton with a late winner when John Fleck’s 88th-minute strike put the seal on their promotion-winning afternoon.
By that stage United’s return to the Championship had virtually been confirmed courtesy of results elsewhere but, even so, Wilder was desperate for victory and his side didn’t disappoint as they fought back from Marc Richards’ first-half screamer.
Earlier, the former Cobblers boss was given a warm welcome on his first return to Sixfields as an opposing manager having enjoyed remarkable success at the club over the past few seasons prior to moving back home.
“I’m delighted with the result and I want to thank the supporters of Northampton for the reception they gave me and Alan (Knill) because it was special,” said Wilder, who cut an emotional figure after leading his boyhood club to promotion.
“I’d like to praise Kelvin (Thomas) and Justin (Edinburgh) and everybody here for the way they’ve handled the last four or five days.
Look at Marc Richards’ reaction (to scoring). That wasn’t to me. I love Marc Richards, he was my captain last year and his reaction showed that they didn’t want us to come here and win.Chris Wilder
“Even today, late on our punters weren’t going to move from the pitch but Kelvin was very accommodating and wanted the players to get out there so yet again it was handled with common sense and class which is what they’re about.”
Not many managers are afforded such a generous reception on their return to a former club but few have earned one as much as Wilder, who denied winning promotion at Sixfields made it any easier.
“It makes a bit harder if anything because there’s obviously the connection,” he added.
“They were playing the league leaders so they might have worked a bit harder and run a bit faster and I always knew it would be a real tough game.
“They wanted to win and there are some good people at Northampton. We wanted a proper game and they gave us one and I’m sure Justin will put his mark on Northampton next year and going forward.
“I’m glad we’ve got our result at the end and I wish Northampton Town all the best.”
The game itself saw Richards thump the Cobblers into a half-time lead but Leon Clarke and then Fleck turned it around, and Wilder felt his side had done enough to deserve the three points.
He continued: “It was a tight game and we were disappointing in the first-half.
“You saw the reaction of Marc Richards when he scored and I thought we were pretty fortunate to be just one down at half-time because they were better than us.
“But the qualities of my side shone through in the second-half. We needed to raise our levels and raise our game and as soon as it went to 1-1 there was only one winner.
“Adam (Smith) made some unbelievable saves to keep the score down but we weren’t to be denied and it’s a great achievement to be one of the first teams promoted out of the Football League.
“The fans have been put through quite a lot in the last six years so seeing the scenes at the end I’m sure people can understand why I feel this way.
“Now we want to win the title and see if we can get to 100 points.”