After a 2-0 victory for Cheltenham Town in the first leg of the Sky Bet League Two playoff Semi-Final, Northampton Town have a mountain to climb if they want a trip to Wembley on June 29th for a chance of promotion to Sky Bet League One, where they would face either Exeter City or Colchester United.
On Thursday night, a goal each from Charlie Raglan and Conor Thomas gave the Robins a priceless lead going into Monday night's clash on home soil. This win extended Cheltenham’s unbeaten run to 7 games, being the most in-form team in the league, so a first-leg win away from home was not a shock.
Both teams had chances, including a first-half penalty for the home side, however exceptional displays from Owen Evans in goal and Charlie Raglan at centre back produced a third clean sheet in a row for Cheltenham Town.
Northampton Town’s aerial bombardment was a major threat, and with 17 shots on goal, manager Keith Curle believes that things just did not fall their way, but he is certain that Monday night will produce more goals.
The Robins finished 4th in the league after points-per-game was calculated, and you could tell that this impressive league position was deserved through their organised and disciplined performance – 103 days since their last competitive game. Prior to Thursday’s game, the Cobblers picked up 6 points from their last 7 matches, placing them 7th in the table. Form-wise, the first leg outcome was expected, and it would be surprising to see Northampton Town turn this 2-0 deficit around.
A hamstring injury to veteran striker Luke Varney in the warm-up on Thursday night means that he is ruled out of the second leg at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, possibly putting an early end to his time at the Gloucestershire side.
For Northampton Town, they are believed to have a fully fit squad heading into the second leg, however, with only a few days rest, there may be a change to the starting line-up or how Keith Curle uses his substitutions.
From Cheltenham’s form leading into the Play-Offs and their mature display in the first leg, I cannot see Northampton reaching the final, however, I think they will put the ball in the back of the net after a frustrating night on Thursday.
Match Preview written by Seb Rowland.