Jefferson Lake’s Wycombe v Northampton Town preview: Cobblers must stop the rot

DEJECTION - Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls shows his disappointment following the defeat to York on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
DEJECTION - Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls shows his disappointment following the defeat to York on Saturday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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In some ways, the pressure is off the Cobblers for their game at Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night.

The fixture is the team’s game in hand and a win from it could take Town back to fourth, and they would move within two points of Burton Albion in the final automatic promotion place.

The final two matches provide the opportunity for a grandstand finish but it is surely highly unlikely that Northampton will now finish in the division’s top three.

Nobody at the club will concede defeat on achieving such a feat at this stage, of course, but the reality is automatic promotion is probably gone now for this year’s squad.

If you want to be promoted you just can’t afford to lose three games in a row, especially in April.

The team got away with the loss at Cheltenham and then dodged another bullet by losing at Bradford City on a day when everyone else decided to lose too.

But they ran out of lives on Saturday and have picked the worst possible time to hit a run of poor form.

They lost three in a row in December too, but one of those was in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and so the overall damage was minimal.

Now they need to find some momentum for the play-offs. If they go into them and perform like they have in the past few league games they will be comfortably beaten.

History dictates they will need to have some positive results under their belt if they want to stand a chance of reaching Wembley for the first time in 15 years.

When the club was in those two Wembley finals they made it there with some dramatically different form.

The 1997 team won five of their final seven games, then both play-off semi-finals and of course the final itself (although only just).

A year later, though it was a different story - Ian Atkins’ side were in poor shape going into the two legs against Bristol Rovers, having won just two of their eight final league games.

They even lost at Rovers in the first play-off game but a partisan Sixfields crowd powered them to an aggregate victory and a Wembley final, which was lost.

But while that would suggest they can afford to go into a play-off situation ‘cold’, the two experiences in the following decade paint a very different picture.

The 2004 side was red-hot in the final stages of the campaign, winning six out of nine, and in 2005 they won five of eight.

Both sides failed in the semis, albeit in very different circumstances but they both had momentum when the regular season finished.

That is what the current team need more than anything. They need to rediscover their fire and start getting the kind of wins that will make teams fear them in the play-offs.

Because at the moment, they would be anyone in the top seven’s preferred choice of opponent.