Jefferson Lake’s Oxford preview: Early Cobblers goal will bring on the boos

KEY MAN - Adebayo Akinfenwa
KEY MAN - Adebayo Akinfenwa

Five o’clock on Thursday afternoon might just turn out to be one of the crucial points in the Cobblers’ season.

As the window to loan players between Football League clubs closed, everyone with the club’s best interests at heart will have breathed a sigh of relief.

Because while there are not many assets at Sixfields that can accurately be described as saleable, there are several key players on the books whose departure would have greatly hindered the chances of success this season.

The leading goalscorer, Adebayo Akinfenwa, attacking midfield maestro Chris Hackett, solid-as-a-rock skipper Kelvin Langmead and emerging prospect Lewis Hornby will all have had their suitors and it was very important to keep hold of all them.

This is a delicate point in the plot line of the current campaign - the team is bang in form and need to maintain as much consistency as possible.

An absence of that commodity has been the team’s Achilles heel for a number of years and now it has finally established some semblance of cohesion, in both team selection and on-field performance, it would be damaging to risk destroying it.

Tomorrow’s opponents Oxford know all about the danger of inconsistency - their squad has been ravaged by injuries that have forced manager Chris Wilder to shuffle his pack more times than a Las Vegas croupier.

Wilder has flitted from one formation to the next, constantly altering his line-up, in a bid to get results, and the policy has largely failed in recent weeks.

It has got to the point at Oxford where the crowd are almost ready to turn on the team, and if the away side can get an early goal at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday that discontent will manifest itself in audible form.

The boos would then be like music to the ears of the travelling contingent.

A win would be huge because it could potentially elevate the Cobblers to the top three of the division and put them in a position of strength for a long time as the league takes a two-week break for FA Cup action.

A draw would be a totally acceptable return.

Especially as, just by keeping all their big hitters, the club has already achieved one substantial victory this week.