Danny Hylton said after Tuesday’s disappointment that we had to dust ourselves down and carry on as we have been doing. Against Morecambe we did just that. The Shrimpers have now taken one point from their last 18, so you might have reasonably expected three points, but as every week, you’ve still got to go out and win them.
The win puts us six points clear and a game in hand on fourth placed Wycombe. Technically, Accrington are our biggest threat being seven points behind and two games in hand. The gap is important, not just because of the buffer but also because of the mindset of those below us. While there are six points between us and fourth, there are just five points between fourth and eleventh. That tells us two things; nobody below the top three can sustain a challenge, but more importantly, the teams involved are in such a dog fight that they will be starting to looking down and around them rather than up.
Think if we were in a similar position to Bristol Rovers or Wycombe, you might still hope for promotion, but in reality the prime objective is to stay in the play-off places. Plus, as the season progresses, they will have less influence over the top three and more over the eight that they’re tussling with for the play-offs.
Looking at our fixtures towards the end of the season, there are many more Morecambes than there are Northamptons, so everything is falling into place. Cool heads is what is needed now. That includes concerns around our first choice goalkeeper. Slocombe had a nightmare against Mansfield, although he also pulled off a world-class save which has been almost forgotten. I’m not convinced that Buchel would have faired much better, he’s not exactly a dominant presence when balls are launched into the box, but the move from Appleton is also a message to the team that a drop in standards won’t be tolerated. With Wembley places to win, that’s a reasonable incentive to keep focussed. Above all, however, we shouldn’t fret about what we haven’t got, we are perfectly well equipped for promotion, let’s focus on that.
Tuesday is an interesting test; we don’t need to win, but obviously if we do it will put us in an even stronger position. It’s Chris Wilder, which still has a bit of edge to it. I think we could be facing them at a perfect time, their run of wins has to be closer to ending than it is beginning (unless you believe they might go 14 straight wins in a row and are therefore the best League 2 team of the last decade). Small fissures of complacency and over-confidence will begin to creep in at some point, bad luck will hit in all the wrong places. It has parallels with with the Swindon game in ’96, let’s hope it has the same result.