ON THE CASE: Cobblers do themselves proud, Rooney rolls back the years, Furbank deserves second chance, and should England zip it?

So the Cobblers' FA Cup run came to an end at Derby County on Tuesday night, but it was still a night to remember and, hopefully, can be a springboard to rounding off this campaign with a promotion.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:37 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 11:37 am
The Cobblers supporters were fantastic at Pride Park (Picture: Pete Norton)

As a club, Northampton Town FC showed what it is all about at Pride Park, with the players on the pitch giving their all, and the supporters in the stands excelling themselves.

The Rams were quite simply too good as they ran out 4-2 winners.

Manager Phillip Cocu, learning his lessons from what happened in the 0-0 draw between the sides in the first match at the PTS Academy Stadium, fielded a few more of his big guns, and it paid dividends.

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Wayne Rooney enjoyed himself against the Cobblers on Tuesday - and enjoyed his goal from the penalty spot

The inclusion of the excellent Duane Holmes and Wales international Tom Lawrence gave Derby a different attacking dimension.

From being one pace and impotent at the PTS, Derby suddenly had a real cutting edge, and they utilised it to good effect against a spirited, but outclassed Town team.

The pace and movement of Holmes and Lawrence offered valuable attacking support and created more space for the always lively Jack Marriott, and it meant Wayne Rooney also had the space and time to pick out passes to the runners who simply hadn't been there in the previous encounter

Yep, as poor as Rooney was at the PTS, there is no denying he was excellent at Pride Park.

George Furbank endured a tough England debut in Paris

England's and Manchester United's record goalscorer rolled back the years as he really enjoyed himself.

He may well have been up against league two players, but some of his vision and passing was sublime, and his enthusiasm is clearly still there for all to see, just look at the way he celebrated scoring his penalty to make it 4-1 on the night.

Rooney may be 34 and in the twilight of his fantastic career, but he might yet cause his old pals at United a few problems when Derby meet them in the fifth round!

Off the pitch, the 4,442 supporters who made the trip up the M1 can be very proud of themselves.

Lewis Ludlam

It was one of those nights where it was a privilege to be sitting in the press box and look out on a sea of claret and white, and to listen to them belting out their songs and backing their team.

Even after Derby had taken control of the game and it was obvious there was going to be no Cup shock, the Town fans kept on singing, and they were rewarded with those two second half goals from Nicky Adams and Sam Hoskins as the players responded.

For a Sky Bet League Two club to travel with so many fans on a midweek night is exceptional, and is another indication of just what can be achieved if Keith Curle can continue to get things right on the pitch.

And that is exactly what the Cobblers boss will be aiming to do.

The excitement of the FA Cup is gone now, and the team has 16 league two matches remaining to seal that top three spot, something I think is well within their capabilities.

And the next week is going to be crucial if they are to do just that.

Saturday sees Town take on mid-table Port Vale, followed by leaders Swindon Town hitting the PTS next Tuesday.

A couple of wins there and Town will be right in the top three mix, and it would be great to see the fans out in force again for both of those games, which, when it boils down to it, are more important than an FA Cup replay at Derby.

This could still be one of those great seasons at the Cobblers - so let's keep the momentum going on and off the pitch.

So if you were one of those supporters who was among the sell-out crowd for the 0-0 draw with Derby, and made the trip to Pride Park - get yourselves back down the ground this week.

It would be such a boost for the players, and could make all the difference.

I was pleased to see England head coach Eddie Jones keep faith with George Furbank and select the Saints full-back for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Scotland at Murrayfield.

It's fair to say the 23-year-old's England debut didn't quite go to plan in Sunday's 24-17 defeat to France in Paris.

Furbank made a couple of errors early on, although he was in good company on that score, but I thought some of the post-match criticism of his performance were on the harsh side.

Jones could have easily made Furbank one of the scapegoats for the surprise defeat, but to the Australian's credit he has stuck by his man - with senior players such as Furbank's fellow Saint Courtney Lawes and scrum-half Ben Youngs carrying the can instead!

The bottom line is, if Jones thought Furbank was good enough to play full-back for England a week ago, which he did, then he shouldn't change his mind after 80 minutes of rugby.

And, to his credit, he hasn't.

One thing's for sure though, and that is that Furbank is certainly undergoing a baptism of fire, first taking on the fired-up French in a rain-soaked Paris, and then the Scots at what is going to be a wet and windy Murrayfield.

If he can stand up to the test and get through this weekend's match, then things are going to seem like a cakewalk from here on in!

Sticking with the rugby, it was a surprise to read Lewis Ludlam's remarks ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland on Saturday.

This is a fixture that doesn't really need any extra edge, as the sporting rivalry between the two great nations has always been pretty intense.

But Ludlam has, quite unnecessarily, upped the ante by talking of the nations hating each other.

"They hate us and we hate them. There is no difference," said Ludlam, who was irked by the suggestion that the Celtic nations have more passion than the English.

"It's just another place to go. It's a battle. It's going to be a war."

All pretty inflammatory stuff, and words that have put more pressure on Ludlam, and the England team, ahead of what is going to be a difficult afternoon.

They are the sort of comments that will be pinned on the Scotland team's dressing room wall, doing Gregor Townsend's team talk for him.

Of course, if England win then it won't matter a jot, but if they lose, then Ludlam could come in for some criticism for his comments.

England coach Eddie Jones made comments about the 'brutal physicality' England would dish out to France last weekend, and they backfired on him.

These type of comments are great for us journalists, and make for great headlines, but sometimes they can be counter-productive.

Perhaps it's time for England's players and management to zip it, and to stick to doing their talking on the pitch.