LOOKING BACK: It's supersub Pat Gavin to the rescue as the Cobblers pull off the greatest escape

Cobblers goal hero Pat Gavin celebrates with two quick-off-the-mark pitch invaders at Gay MeadowCobblers goal hero Pat Gavin celebrates with two quick-off-the-mark pitch invaders at Gay Meadow
Cobblers goal hero Pat Gavin celebrates with two quick-off-the-mark pitch invaders at Gay Meadow
A dip into the archives and memory banks to recall the afternoon in May, 1993, that the Cobblers secured perhaps the most important win in the club's history.

Sports editor JEREMY CASEY has been watching Northampton sport for 45 years now, the first 13 as a fan and for the past 32 years as a journalist. With live sport shut down for the foreseeable future, Jeremy delves into his memory banks and the Chron’s archive to relive and revisit some of the great town sporting moments he has been lucky enough to witness... number four - we go back to May, 1993 and the greatest of escapes by the Cobblers.

First up are Jeremy's recollections of the day, followed by the reaction of the key players and management, as recorded in the Chronicle & Echo at the time.

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THE EVENT - Saturday, May 8, 1993, Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury. Football League Division Three - Shrewsbury Town 2 Northampton Town 3

Sadly, the Cobblers have been no strangers to flirting with relegation from the Football League in fairly recent times.

It was only six years ago that a final-day win over Oxford United at Sixfields saw Chris Wilder’s team avoid the drop into non-League, having been as many as six points adrift of safety with just a matter of weeks of the season remaining.

A run where Town claimed 13 points out of a possible 18 was enough to see them finish three points clear of the bottom two, and relegate Bristol Rovers instead.

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A couple of years before then, Aidy Boothroyd steered Town to safety in 2012, having been bottom of the league in March, while the season prior to that, league safety under Gary Johnson wasn’t secured until the penultimate match of the campaign and a 2-0 home win over Stevenage.

The headline in the Chronicle & Echo the Monday after the game says it all...The headline in the Chronicle & Echo the Monday after the game says it all...
The headline in the Chronicle & Echo the Monday after the game says it all...

They were all great escapes in their own way, particularly the Wilder one, but, for sheer drama and emotion, they can’t quite match the greatest escape of them all.

Oh no, for the sheer roller-coaster ride emotions of dread, despair and unbridled delight, that took place at Gay Meadow, the ramshackle former home of Shrewsbury Town, back on May 8, 1993.

For any Cobblers fan of a certain age, it was one of those ‘I was there’ days... and thankfully, I was.

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So, let’s set the scene for what was one of the most important afternoons in the history of Northampton Town Football Club.

Managerial consultant John Barnwell (left) and physio Denis Casey embrace at the final whistleManagerial consultant John Barnwell (left) and physio Denis Casey embrace at the final whistle
Managerial consultant John Barnwell (left) and physio Denis Casey embrace at the final whistle

Going into the final-day clash with the Shrews, the Cobblers were second bottom in the Football League, two points ahead of rock-bottom Halifax Town, who were at home to fellow strugglers Hereford United, who had guaranteed their safety the week previous.

Phil Chard’s team knew a win at Gay Meadow would make Town safe no matter what Halifax did at The Shay, and a draw would probably be enough as well, but if they lost, then the south Yorkshire club could overhaul them with a win.

Added to the mix was the fact that Shrewsbury needed a win to secure themselves a promotion play-off place at the expense of Bury, who were without a game due to the fact Maidstone had gone bust and withdrawn from the league back in August.

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Finally, the crucial backdrop to the onfield situation, was that the Cobblers, after a tumultuous 12 months or so of financial uncertainty and mismanagement, were still in administration.

Goalkeeper Barry Richardson celebratesGoalkeeper Barry Richardson celebrates
Goalkeeper Barry Richardson celebrates

There was huge uncertainty surrounding the very future of the club, and the real fear was that if Town were relegated from the Football League, they may not survive it.

This was a day when the future of the Cobblers, the existence of the club after 96 years, really was at stake.

This was a rare time for me in that in fell in a 10-month window where I wasn’t directly involved in sports journalism, I was actually working in a Herald & Post central news sub-editing pool in, of all places, Peterborough.

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So I went to the game as a supporter, having managed to get my hands on one of the 2,000 or so tickets for the decaying terrace behind the goal at the Station End of the ground.

Our designated driver was my pal Sean Cowell, and we all piled into his car for the drive to Shropshire.

The emotion on the way to the game was a mixture of excitement, fear, hope and dread, but once we had stopped off at a pub on the outskirts of Shrewsbury and enjoyed a couple of beers, it was definitely confidence that was winning out!

The Cobblers fans packed out the away end at Gay MeadowThe Cobblers fans packed out the away end at Gay Meadow
The Cobblers fans packed out the away end at Gay Meadow

It was a lovely spring afternoon at Gay Meadow, and there were Cobblers fans everywhere you looked.

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The atmosphere had been building, and just before 3pm the away end was absolutely jam-packed as player-boss Chard and his players ran out for what was to be the game of their lives.

The Shrews were attacking the away end in the first half, and it was all pretty edgy stuff until the 23rd minute, when Tommy Lynch drilled a low free-kick past keeper Barry Richardson and into the bottom corner.

And it went from bad to worse just eight minutes later.

Central defender Terry Angus had a moment to forget as he misjudged a hoof upfield and Carl Griffiths, then the hottest property in lower league football, robbed him, took the ball round Richardson, and slotted home his 27th goal of the season to make it 2-0 to the Shrews.

Suddenly, the Cobblers were staring at the very real threat of dropping into the non-League abyss.

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Attention now turned to the Shay and how Halifax were doing, but these were the days before mobile phones, so the fans in the away end were relying on those who had brought pocket radios with them to relay any news from Yorkshire.

At half-time there was still some relief as the Shaymen were drawing 0-0, but the situation was looking desperate, with everyone knowing one goal for Halifax could spell doom for Town.

Now, unusually for me, I was still feeling pretty optimistic at the break that things would work out okay - it must have been those pre-match pints! - and despite the scoreline, the team were given a rousing reception when they came out for the second half.

The fans knew there was no point in getting on the players’ backs.

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This had to be a communal effort if the Cobblers wer going to turn things around.

Pat Gavin, a former Peterborough United striker who the club had signed on a free transfer from Barnet two months earlier, had been summoned from the bench for the second half, with Chard being pushed up front to join him, and Town started the second half well.

Then, on 52 minutes, a lifeline.

Shrews defender Robert Turner made a hash of things and gifted Chard the chance to pull a goal back, and the player-boss latched on to the loose ball and slotted home.

The Cobblers fans went wild, there was hope.

It was definitely game on - but it could so very easily have been game off again in one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments just minutes later.

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Griffiths raced clear through the middle for the Shrews with just Richardson to beat, and he slotted the ball past the Town keeper - and also on to the base of the post!

The ball bounced away from goal and was cleared... Town and their supporters could breathe again.

It was certainly a huge let-off for Town, and how Chard’s men made the most of it.

The Cobblers were now looking the more likely as they surged all over the fading Shrews, and on 72 minutes, it was pandemonium in the away end as Gavin reacted superbly to volley the ball into the top corner after Turner had failed to deal with Kevin Wilkin’s cross into the box.

It was 2-2 and Town were almost there.

They were almost safe.

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Moments later, with the Cobblers fans still celebrating drawing level, the news started to filter through that Hereford had taken the lead at Halifax.

It was incredible moment, and one that still brings out the goosebumps, as the realisation sunk in that the Cobblers were now surely going to stay up.

To deny them, Halifax had to score twice, and the Cobblers had to concede again.

By now, the match itself had almost become something of a sideshow as the Town fans rejoiced.

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Chants of ‘the Town are staying up’ and ‘we are staying up’ went on, and on, and on, and in the main stand a pocket of Bury fans who had made the trip to give their backing to the Cobblers, joined in the fun.

But there was still time for one more twist, and time for a former postman to become part of Cobblers folklore.

With six minutes remaining, Gavin chased down a backpass, which for 99.9 per cent of the time would prove to be a lost cause, but not on this occasion.

Shrews keeper Paul Edwards went to launch the ball downfield, but instead rattled it into the backside of the onrushing Cobblers forward and the ball ricocheted off him and rolled into the empty net, to the sheer ecstasy of the Town fans massed behind that same goal.

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Town were 3-2 up, the Shrews were shot, and there was no way back for Halifax.

The Cobblers were staying up.

The final whistle was met with scenes of pure jubilation and massive relief from the Cobblers supporters, including me, who spilled on to the playing surface to celebrate with the players and management.

Now, I haven't often got involved in pitch invasions over the years, but there was no stopping any of us that day as we piled from the terraces to hail our heroes.

The Gay Meadow pitch was a sea of claret and white as Chard and his players stood in the main stand, looking on as fans, friends and total strangers embraced to celebrate a remarkable victory.

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It took a while, but once all that was over, it was back in the car (via a stop at the local supermarket to pick up a few refreshments!) and back to Northampton to celebrate in ‘traditional’ style.

We headed for the County Tavern right beside the home of the Cobblers on Abington Avenue, and as we pulled up outside the pub, the team bus arrived at the same time.

Some of the players were still in their kit and clearly in good spirits as they headed into the ground to start their own celebrations in earnest.

And it was definitely a day to celebrate!

Nobody can of course say for sure what would have happened if things had gone the other away at Gay Meadow, and the Cobblers had lost and gone on to suffer relegation.

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But my own belief is that the club, due to the precarious position it was in off the field, may never have recovered.

So winning that match on that beautiful spring day was so, so important.

Yes, Halifax lost anyway, but the spirit and determination the players, and supporters showed, to drag the club back from the brink of being 2-0 down at half-time was inspiring.

It was unforgettable.

It ranks up there as one of my favourite days following the Cobblers, if not THE favourite day.

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And Gavin’s winner off his backside - well, goals simply don’t get any better...

You can keep your 30-yard screamers, spectacular volleys and overhead kicks - there is no better sight than a ball rebounding into the net of your striker's rear end!!


Football League Division Three, May 8, 1993.

Gay Meadow, Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury Town 2 Northampton Town 3


Shrewsbury: Edwards, Clark, Lynch, Taylor, Brown, Blake, McKenzie, Summerfield (Worsley, 27m), Turner, Griffiths, Smith. Sub: Spink

Cobblers: Richardson; Parsons, Colkin, Harmon, Angus, Terry, Beavon, Wilkin; Aldridge, Gavin, 46m), Chard, Bell. Sub: Burnham

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Goals: Shrewsbury: 24 mins: Lynch; 29 mins: Griffiths. Cobblers: 51 min - Chard; 72 mins - Gavin; 84 mins - Gavin

Booked: Shrews: None; Cobblers: 23 mins - Chard; 59 mins - Terry

Attendance: 6,612

Cobblers fans: 2,000


Cobblers player-boss PHIL CHARD

“THE relief is enormous and we are delighted we have been able to do it.

“We came here in a positive frame of mind, and that’s the way we had looked at the match all week.

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“We were not worried about what Halifax would do, we came here to win and did so.

“There were no tactics in it. We were 2-0 down and we had decided during the week what we would do if things went against us.

“We came here with a plan. It didn’t work in the first half, but in the second it went exceptionally well.”

Managerial consultant JOHN BARNWELL

“I HAVE nothing but admiration for the players, especially Phil Chard after all the trauma the club has been through.

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“At the start of the game we had a mountain to climb - being 2-0 down at half-time that mountain became Everest and the tension was immense.

“To have a Football League club in your town is vital, you can’t put a price on it. Today was just so important for Northampton as a town.”


“I AM extremely relieved. If you look back to Christmas we would never have come back from 2-0 down, but we showed determination throughout.

“It was unbelievable tension out there, I have never known anything like it. I couldn’t run, and I never want to be in this position again.

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“No footballer wants to go back to the ranks of an ordinary worker, but that is what we were possibly looking at if we went out of the League.”


“I HAVE never known tension like this before - and I don’t think I have ever gone through the full range of emotions in one game before.

“The fans were elated, and it means a hell of a lot to this town - the support over the past 12 months has been fantastic.”


“IT is an unbelievable feeling to have stayed up, and I have never known tension like that before.

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“Our careers were on the line today, and for the past three or four weeks I have not thought about anything else.

“The crowd were superb - the town would not be the same without a Football League club.”

Midfielder STEVE BROWN (Missed the game through suspension - watched on from the stands)

“I AM overwhelmed and chuffed to bits. As a local lad this means the world to me.

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“Some of the fans out there I went to school with and know from around town - this is for all of them.

“When we were 2-0 down I thought we were dead and buried, but the lads showed great character.”


“OF course I am relieved. We got a good result and we are still in the Football League.

“Hopefully, next year we will show the same spirit and we will be in the top six.”

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Note: the Cobblers actually finished bottom the following season, but weren’t relegated as Conference champions Kidderminster’s ground wasn’t up to scratch!

Club president DAVE BOWEN

“LEAGUE status is so important. we have first class rugby and cricket teams, but this is still a football town.

“No other sport produces the emotions we have seen today. It is super we have survived, but the club has had a big fright, and we can’t let this happen again.

"Lessons have to be learned, and I think they will be.”

Two-goal supersub PAT GAVIN

“THEY are the two most important goals I have ever scored...”

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