Carlisle believes Bayo can still hold key to Cobblers play-off glory

KEY MEN - Clarke Carlisle (left) and Adebayo Akinfenwa
KEY MEN - Clarke Carlisle (left) and Adebayo Akinfenwa

Clarke Carlisle has revealed Adebayo Akinfenwa told him he was ‘back’ after the win over Barnet last weekend.

And the centre-back feels Town’s talismanic hitman could now hold the key to conquering Cheltenham in the play-off semi-finals, with the first-leg at Sixfields tonight (ko 7.45pm).

Akinfenwa emerged from the bench during the second half of last Saturday’s win over the Bees, going on to put in a fine performance in the 2-0 win.

His hold-up play and lay-off for Luke Guttridge’s goal, the Cobblers’ second of the game, was what the experienced striker has made a living from doing.

And the confident cameo clearly boosted Akinfenwa, as Carlisle said: “He came off the pitch and said ‘I’m back, I’m back!’ and I said ‘it’s about time!’.

“He’s huge for us. Someone who’s got 17 goals this season, of course he’s going to be a big factor. I defy any team not to miss a 17-goal-a-season striker.

“He just adds a different dimension to what we do.”

Akinfenwa was one of a number of key men left out of the starting line-up for the clash with Barnet.

Chris Hackett, Joe Widdowson, Clive Platt and Kelvin Langmead were among the others not to be risked from the off.

And Carlisle believes having those players back - fitness permitting - will be a big boost ahead of this week’s Thursday-Sunday double-header.

He said: “Having Platty come back adds a different dimension. Having Ishmel Demontagnac adds a different dimension. Joe Widdowson, all these guys, who we have missed.

“I sincerely hope the skipper (Langmead) makes it in time for Thursday. These guys just add layer upon layer of strength to what we already have and it’s a really promising time.”

Despite not being part of the matchday squad in recent weeks, players like Platt and Langmead have still made themselves heard in the Cobblers camp.

They are part of an experienced group of players who inspire the team from within, and Carlisle couldn’t be happier with the squad Aidy Boothroyd has assembled.

“One thing about this place is that even though some guys have been injured, we’ve still been together, 24-seven,” said the 33-year-old.

“There’s no separation or isolation so their character, their input and their charisma and enthusiasm is still around the team room and the environment.

“It’s vital both for us as a team, who are still playing, and for them to still feel included and like they’ve not been cast away from everything they’ve put in to succeed.

“It’s good, it’s a tight unit and I’m excited.”

Carlisle couldn’t be in a more confident frame of mind going into the crunch play-off clashes and he believes the Cobblers will take some stopping if they play to their potential.

“We’ve got a good set of lads and we’re going to go out there and play well,” he said. “If we go out there and play well for 180 minutes we will progress and that’s the end of it.”