Cheltenham Town take on Northampton Town this weekend as they look to end their eight game winless streak and although the Cobblers are going steady in League Two this season, it could be an entertaining game. Hardly renowned for our goal scoring prowess, Cheltenham over the years have often reserved their best form in front of goal for the Cobblers.
Now we all know what happened in the play-off matches in 2013, but these games should be taken in isolation. Generally speaking such high tension games are often tight affairs and the low tally of two goals in those two games is a consequence of that.
If we ignore those two disappointing games, then the number of goals scored in Robins games v Northampton has been pretty sensational. 26 league meetings between the sides have produced an amazing 76 goals – 38 each.
In the more recent memory for most supporters will be the pair of 3-2 wins we achieved at Sixfields in 2011 and 2012, but for me, whenever I think of Northampton I think back to a cold September evening 11 years ago.
It was a strange time to be a Cheltenham fan. It was our first season back in the old Division Three having just tasted the old Division Two for the first and last time. Bobby Gould was the manager and our first five league games of the season had seen a whopping 23 goals. That figure was soon to become 30.
A rare Friday evening game at the start of September 2003 saw a bumper crowd of 5002 (surely a record crowd for a Friday night fixture?) witness one of the most incredible games I have ever seen at Whaddon Road.
Our current gaffer Mark Yates was in the side that night alongside old favourites Jamie Victory, Shane Duff, Shane Higgs and Martin Devaney, as well as young striker Kayode Odejayi and old timer Bob Taylor. Amusingly, full back Kevin Amankwaah had been ruled out of the game with a pre-match Achilles injury that Bobby Gould later revealed had been sustained by Amankwaah getting up off his sofa!
After Northampton took a 2-0 lead, it looked as if we were heading for a relatively straight forward defeat. But then Bob Taylor executed a magical volley on the turn on the edge of the area, shooting towards the Prestbury Road end. I remember the terrace going mad but it wasn’t long before we were 3-1 down.
Entering the final ten minutes nobody could have predicted the high drama which was to unravel. First Cheltenham won a penalty. With Grant McCann out injured up stepped substitute Richard Forsyth to slot it home with his first touch and give the Robins a lifeline heading into the final minutes.
Then on what seemed like full time Cheltenham won another penalty. Whaddon Road fell still. The Robins were on course for an unlikely point. Forsyth scored the penalty and Whaddon Road erupted, but something was wrong. The referee – this is my first recollection of Trevor Kettle - had ordered a retake. Having already put the penalty in the same place twice already – and scored – Forsyth was now stepping up for the third time.
Talk about pressure. But as cool as you like Forsyth tucked it in exactly the same place for the third time and for the third time he scored. What unbelievable nerve and focus under pressure to do that in the final minutes of the game with the match on the line. I always remember the image of him running over to the home crowd holding three fingers aloft!
Whaddon Road was rocking now and what happened next was a blur to me. Still jubilant from the relief and excitement of the equaliser, I barely noticed as Martin Devaney raced clear three minutes into stoppage time.
What followed was sheer mayhem as the terrace behind the goal exploded as Devaney slammed home the winner to make it 4-3 and complete a comeback only bettered by the incredible 6-5 at Burton a few years later.
I vaguely remember the stand bouncing up and down and catching a glimpse of a player taking his shirt off, I didn’t even know who scored, I didn’t care. This was before the days of iPhones and social media and I remember having an argument with my mate on the way home – I thought it was Paul Brayson that had scored!
(all stats taken from www.statto.com)