FEATURE: Cobblers '˜building confidence every week' with six wins the target for survival
With 20 points from their remaining 16 games likely to be enough for survival this season, midfielder Matt Grimes says the Cobblers are growing in confidence by the week and that Saturday's 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers has given them added belief.
Recent history suggests six wins and a couple of draws should be sufficient in keeping Northampton, currently on 33 points from 30 games, out of the bottom four and in Sky Bet League One for another 12 months at least.
Fifty points has been enough to guarantee survival in five of the last 10 seasons while no team has gone down with 52 points during that period, with 49 the average tally required for survival over recent times.
If that was the case this time around Northampton would only need 16 points from 16 games, however it is unlikely that would keep them up in what continues to be a competitive, unpredictable League One season.
Northampton are one of a number of teams near the bottom who have picked up of late with AFC Wimbledon, 4-0 winners at Bradford on Saturday, Plymouth and Gillingham (now 10th!) among those in good form while most of Town’s rivals also have at least one game in hand, up to four in the case of Rochdale and three for Walsall.
But the Cobblers are four unbeaten themselves and were given an extra boost on Saturday when they held title-chasing Blackburn to a 1-1 draw for the second time in six weeks.
“I thought it was a perfect away performance,” said midfielder Grimes afterwards. “We sat back and absorbed pressure using our shape which we work on a lot.
“It was a bit of a kick in the teeth that they equalised so late on and maybe we felt a little disappointed with the manner in which we conceded but it’s a fantastic point and a massive result for us.”
Currently three points above the bottom four, albeit having played two games more than MK Dons, Town face a favourable run of fixtures against teams around them in the coming weeks, starting with Rochdale at home this weekend.
“Football is all about confidence and we’re building that every week,” added Grimes. “Coming off the back of three wins, we knew we could go to Blackburn and put in a decent performance and get a good result.
“We limited them to very few chances. They were running out of ideas at the end but obviously they have some great players in their team and they’ll create chances here and there, but it’s about how you deal with it and I think we did that very well.
“All of the new players have come in and settled in well and they’re really making an impact. It’s a really good group here and with the wins we’re picking up confidence so the vibe in the camp is getting better and better each week.”
Saturday’s draw at Ewood Park continued a trend this season that has seen the Cobblers give most of the top teams a run for their money.
In addition to a pair of 1-1 draws against Blackburn, they also won at fifth-placed Bradford City recently and were only narrowly beaten 1-0 home and away by league leaders Wigan Athletic.
Grimes continued: “I think it’s important (to match teams at the top). It’s a massive point and it shows we can mix it with the best. We were only narrowly defeated by Wigan at home and away so against the teams who are up there we’ve fared fairly well.
“We can definitely draw belief from that and Saturday was another big point for us and now we just want to keep it going.
“Every game at the moment, with the confidence we have, is an opportunity for three points. We’ll be positive for the next game and with the home form we’ve shown in the last couple of weeks it’ll be a game we’ll definitely be hoping to get three points from.”
Grimes, who’s struck up a promising partnership with Matt Crooks in central midfield, has been one of the key reasons behind Town’s improvement.
“I really enjoy playing alongside Matt,” he added. “He’s a class player and we also have John-Joe in the hole and it’s a trio that I like playing in at the moment.
“What I wanted this season was to play every week and I’m getting that so happy days. We’re winning games and we’re picking up points so what more can you ask for?”