Once the dust settles and the disappointment fades, there is a lot Northampton can take from their first season back in League One. Indeed, as Alex Revell suggests, if they can learn from their mistakes and improve in key areas, they’ll most certainly be better for it next time around.
Despite losing 3-0 to Bury, the Cobblers sealed their spot in next year’s League One on Saturday thanks to Port Vale’s 2-0 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
It was hardly the most satisfactory way to confirm survival but it was rather in keeping with the season as a whole because their journey to safety has certainly not been plain sailing.
The latest disappointment came at Gigg Lane when James Vaughan’s brace and George Miller’s close-range finish condemned the Cobblers to a 21st defeat of the campaign.
Thankfully, the ineptitude of others has spared them an immediate return to League Two but if the Cobblers are to make the most of a second chance at this level, there is much learning to be done.
“We conceded an early goal and it’s an uphill struggle and they’re the things we have to learn,” said Revell afterwards.
There’s no point looking at it and thinking ‘what could have been’. We’ll learn from this and we’ll be in a brilliant league next year and that, at the end of the day, was what everybody at the club would have wanted.
“We have to learn for next year that you do’t concede and you always need to be in the game. We have a big learning curve this summer and we’ve got to be ready for next year.
“At the start of the season I was looking and thinking ‘we’re going to do well here’ because maybe things were going for us and we were putting in some great performances.
“But since then we went on the run and lost to Peterborough and lost to Millwall at home and then we kind of picked ourselves up again.
“I remember beating Shrewsbury away and we went on a little run but the problem has been that we’ve probably not been in enough games.
“We were in the game on Saturday, we were on the front foot and then all of a sudden it’s 2-0 and it’s a sucker-punch and that’s something we have to learn.
“If you learn that and if you’re hard to beat and if you’re horrible to play against, sometimes the quality might not always be there but as long as you’re always in the game and you only get beat by a bit of brilliance.
“You don’t lose like we did on Saturday. We believed we should be beating them but we conceded goals we shouldn’t concede at this level.
“We just have to learn, that’s the only way you can move on.
“There’s no point looking at it and thinking ‘what could have been’. We’ll learn from this and we’ll be in a brilliant league next year and that, at the end of the day, was what everybody at the club would have wanted.”
Despite the season failing to live up to early promise, there have been signs that Northampton can compete with the best this division has to offer.
Twice they pushed runaway champions Sheffield United all the way before succumbing to late goals, and second-placed Bolton also didn’t have things all their own way in both meetings, only just scraping to 1-0 and 2-1 vicotries.
Equally, though, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Having collected a meagre 14 points from 24 games against the current top half – the worst return in the division – Northampton cannot afford to standstill this summer.
“We’ve proved at times we can massively compete – we should have got results in both games against Sheffield United and Bolton,” added Revell.
“I think it’s the games against teams in and around us and mid-table where we have to improve.
“If we go 1-0 up we have to go two or three and that’s the difference.
“I’ve missed the majority of it since the manager’s come in and it’s been hard to watch but he’s installed an intensity that we have to perform at.
“I think that next year, whoever he brings in, if you’re not performing at that intensity you won’t be in the team and that’s probably what we need to think about now.”