Cobblers winger Hackett: It’s all about fine lines

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No player in the current Cobblers squad has a better understanding of the ability of the play-off final to deliver agony or ecstasy than Chris Hackett.

And the 30-year-old winger experienced those two extreme emotions on the Wembley turf just 12 months apart, in his time as a wide attacker of great repute with Millwall.

In 2009, the Lions lost a winning position to Scunthorpe in the league one final, Martyn Woolford scoring five minutes from time to break Bermondsey hearts under the arch.

It was a different story a year later.

Paul Robinson scored the only goal of a game against Swindon that took Millwall to the championship under Kenny Jackett.

The matches generated highs and lows for Hackett that remain powerfully vivid to this day, and their uniting feature was one of very small margins.

“It’s fine lines,” said Hackett, who may next week find a handful of grey hairs have joined the few he has developed during his first campaign in claret and white.

“In the first game we were 2-1 up and Gary Alexander had a header six yards out that was a bread-and-butter finish for him.

“He’d had a great season and that would have been his hat-trick goal in the final but he missed.

“They went down the other end and scored. It’s ruthless and it’s about whoever seizes the moment on the day.

“The following year, we were 1-0 up and Charlie Austin, who had scored 35 goals that season, went clean through one-on-one with the keeper – he’d probably put 20 of those away that season – but the ball bobbled up and he missed it.

“That was in the last five minutes and we won. Anything can happen, it’s cup final football, it creates drama and that’s why people love watching games like this.”

For the men who play in them, it is less straightforward. The thrill of running out at the national stadium is one they have to combine with an enormous pressure to get a positive result.

But what a feeling when it all goes right.

“Getting promoted at Wembley, when we beat Swindon Town, was definitely a high point of my career,” said Hackett.

“I played the full season, just like I have here this season, and to finish it with a promotion in a play-off final was a fantastic feeling.

“It was a massive moment and to do it at Wembley made it even more special.

“The season before we’d lost in a play-off final and it was a massive low.

“You work hard all year and it is a great achievement to get that far but you just need that little bit extra to tick off your season.”

That ‘little bit extra’ could, Hackett feels, come in the form of the return to fitness of experienced pros like Kelvin Langmead and Clive Platt.

“Everyone is working hard to be involved in the last game now,” he said.

“There are lads who have played big parts this season who are really pushing themselves to be fit to play at Wembley. Having those players back will give us a boost and that will give the manager plenty of selection options.

“We’ve got big characters and if they come back it will help the squad.

“Perhaps them being back in will give us the extra five or 10 per cent we need to push ourselves over the line.”