FEATURE: Same again, please! O’Toole would love a 2016 repeat at Stevenage

The Cobblers players and supporters celebrate Ricky Holmes' last-gasp winner at Stevenage in 2016
The Cobblers players and supporters celebrate Ricky Holmes' last-gasp winner at Stevenage in 2016

The Cobblers’ most recent trip to take on Stevenage at Broadhall Way was one of those ‘special days’...

It was March 19, 2016, and Chris Wilder’s powerful team were edging ever closer to sealing promotion from Sky Bet League Two.

But after 41 minutes of the clash against Stevenage, the team’s long unbeaten run, which stretched back to late December, looked under serious threat as they trailed 2-0 thanks to Luke Wilkinson’s double.

There was to prove to be a glorious sting in the tail though.

Loan striker James Collins got the Cobblers back into it with a goal before the break, and John-Joe O’Toole then levelled just six minutes into the second half.

That sent the 2,000 travelling fans into raptures, but it was to be nothing compared to the reaction to Ricky Holmes’ stunning last-minute strike that secured a memorable 3-2 victory, the winger’s long-range left-footed effort flying in off the post to secure the most dramatic of wins.

John-Joe O'Toole celebrates his equalsier at Stevenage in 2016

John-Joe O'Toole celebrates his equalsier at Stevenage in 2016

It was a match and performance that summed up everything about the 2016 title winners, who mixed hard graft and a never-say-die attitude with many, many moments of pure brilliance.

O’Toole will be one of only three survivors from that day to make the trip to Hertfordshire to take on Stevenage this Saturday - David Buchanan and Sam Hoskins the others - and he admits he would love a repeat performance!

“Yeah, that was a good day and a memorable match, so no pressure!,” said the Town midfielder.

“Anything like that again would be nice, but I will take a boring 1-0 win to be honest!”

It is frustrating, because there was a lot of effort put into that season, and it was great how the club came together. We have had quite a few managers coming and going since then which has been sort of unsettling, but we just have to get on with it

Cobblers midfielder John-Joe O’Toole

Sadly, there is no title chase for the Cobblers this year.

Following that title success, Town spent two seasons in league one before being relegated, and their first season back in the basement division has been a struggle, as they sit 16th, 10 points above the relegation zone and 13 points below the play-offs.

Those glory days under Wilder seem a long, long time ago, so how does O’Toole feel about how things have panned out for him and the club in the past three years?

“It is frustrating, because there was a lot of effort put into that season, and it was great how the club came together,” said the 30-year-old.

“We have had quite a few managers coming and going since then which has been sort of unsettling, but we just have to get on with it.

“Things aren’t always that rosy in football, and you have to deal with things the best way you can, but it can be frustrating at times.”

Keith Curle is the latest manager to charged with recapturing that ‘Wilder magic’, and O’Toole believes there are reasons for Town fans to be optimistic.

But he is also well aware that seasons like 2015/16 don’t come around very often.

Asked if the Cobblers could mount a serious title charge again, O’Toole said: “There is definitely youngsters coming through here, and I don’t see why we

can’t, but that season was something special.

“It just seemed as if everything fitted into place, and sort of surprisingly as it was against the odds.

“It was just one of those seasons that can’t be replicated too easily I would imagine.

“It was definitely the first one I had been involved in, as I am sure it was for a lot of those players, and probably a lot of the fans as well.

“So they don’t come around too often, but I don’t see why we can’t have a go for it.”

The Cobblers are unbeaten in three-matches, but travel to Stevenage off the back of last weeekend’s disappointing 0-0 home draw with Crawley.

O’Toole is expecting another tricky afternoon, and said: “Stevenage have some good players, with some I know personally that I have played with, and others I know from playing against them for years.

“They will be a good side and will be no mugs by any stretch, and their ground is a tough, tough place to go and play.

“But I am sure if we can do a bit more than we did last Saturday then we can get a positive result when we go there this weekend.”