Northampton Town winger Hackett: Form means nothing in play-off cauldron

READY FOR THE BIG ONE - Cobblers winger Chris Hackett
READY FOR THE BIG ONE - Cobblers winger Chris Hackett

Chris Hackett insists Cheltenham’s impressive home record, and the Cobblers’ ropey away one, will mean absolutely nothing when the sides square up in the second-leg of their npower League Two semi-final play-off at Whaddon Road tonight (ko 6.45pm).

Hackett is a veteran of two successful play-off semi-final campaigns with Millwall.

In 2010 the Lions beat Huddersfield over two legs to reach Wembley and clinch promotion to the Championship with a 1-0 final win over Swindon Town, and a year earlier Millwall beat Leeds United in the semi-finals, before losing the final.

And it’s that 2009 semi-final experience that Hackett will be drawing on when the Cobblers head to Cheltenham tonight protecting their 1-0 lead from Thursday’s first leg.

The Robins are unbeaten in the past 20 home league games, and haven’t even conceded a goal at Whaddon Road since March 2, while the Cobblers have struggled on the road, with just four wins from 23 in the league all season.

The Cobblers’ results on the road did pick up towards the end of the season with draws at Wycombe Wanderers and Port Vale, but it still looks a big ask to claim a win in Gloucestershire.

Hackett though, knows from experience that such records mean nothing in the play-offs.

Recalling his play-off experiences, the winger said: “We drew the first leg and then won at Elland Road in the first one, and then at Huddersfield we drew there then won back at home.

“They are tight games, they always are, and the year we went up Leeds had a formidable home record, while our away record wasn’t the greatest, and we went there and won 1-0.

“So the form book is thrown out of the window, it is a one-off game.

“It will be a great atmosphere (at Cheltenham) and you just have to try and enjoy the game as much as you can, give as much as you can, and win the game.

“It is almost like a European game with the way you approach things, and we are happy with how we played on Thursday.

“We now go again on Sunday, and if we can mirror that performance then we should be okay.

“We have a good, level-headed bunch of lads who understand the situation.

“We aren’t going to approach this game any differently to any other, we aren’t hyping it up, we aren’t undervaluing it, it is just the next game in front of us.

“We have to approach it in the right manner, and we will go there and give it our best.”

One word that Hackett won’t be uttering over the next few hours is ‘Wembley’.

Asked if the players had been discussing a possible final appearance at the national stadium, Hackett said: “It is half a job done, and we are not even thinking about it (Wembley).

“We have to respect Cheltenham, we have to approach the game right, and we will see after that.”

It was a massive boost for the Cobblers to have Hackett back in the starting line-up against the Robins on Thursday.

He was the man-of-the-match in the 1-0 win, setting up Roy O’Donovan’s goal and terrorising the Cheltenham defence.

Hackett has been troubled by a knee problem in the last few weeks of the season, but he says he is fit and firing now.

“I have had an injury problem which has plagued me for the last month of the season,” said Hackett.

“I have played quite a lot of games and I think most players at this time of the year are carrying knocks, but the adrenalin will get me through.”

If you aren’t going to Cheltenham, you can keep up all the action from tonight’s game via Twitter by following @chronsport