In their final game of the 2022-23 season, Tranmere Rovers take on Northampton Town at Prenton Park on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Rovers’ last outing brought a one-all away draw at AFC Wimbledon, academy graduate Sam Taylor netted the equaliser as Jordan Turnbull and Josh Hawkes were heavily mentioned when supporters named their man of the matches.
It has been an uninspiring season, to say the least. However, with players such as Taylor now coming on to the scene as Harvey Saunders has found his goal scoring boots there are some that are positively looking forward to a new, fresh campaign.
In the past few days though, the hope has decreased as criticism has risen with the managerial appointment of Ian Dawes. Dawes has been at the club since 2020, under two different sacked managers and only won two of his past eight in his most recent interim role. Neill Danns will be his assistant.
The game against Northampton Town brings a challenge, as they all do, with The Cobblers needing to win to secure automatic promotion into League One. This is something that interim boss Ian Dawes likes the idea of, facing an opponent who has something to fight for.
The fixture will be televised on Sky Sports, Rovers fans hoping that their side puts in a performance that reflects those of their last two home games as they beat Swindon and Grimsby Town, keeping clean sheets in the process.
Ahead of the match, I spoke to the Northampton Town podcast ‘It’s all cobblers to me’.
Hi ‘It’s all cobblers to me’, could we start off the last ‘meeting the opposition’ feature of the season by telling me how long you have all followed Northampton?
The four of us have a range of time scales between us but the majority of us have been following the Cobblers since the mid 90s!
What are some of the greatest and worst experiences you’ve had watching The Cobblers?
The greatest are the Wembley 97 Playoff Final win, the promotions of 2000 and 2006, the League Two title winning season of 2016, the win over Liverpool at Anfield in 2010 in the League Cup and the lockdown playoff final win in 2020.
The worst are any relegation season and thinking we might have been going out of business completely in 2015 before Kelvin Thomas stepped in. Going out of the FA Cup to teams like Canvey Island and Oxford City weren’t very enjoyable either!
Could you also give me a random fact about Northampton? The place or the club.
Comedian Alan Carr is the son of former Cobblers player and manager Graham Carr.
Last season Northampton finished fourth in League Two and are now placed third. If The Cobblers win at Prenton Park they will get promoted on the day but if they fail to do so and Stockport win their game at Edgeley Park, Northampton will be in the Play-offs. How would you describe the way that this campaign has gone? What needed to be improved from last year?
It’s by no means a guarantee now that Stockport go into the final game at home to Hartlepool and we go to Tranmere probably needing to win. Also nothing is taken for granted after last season! The season picked up where last season left off, though, and we’ve built a much better all round squad, which is lucky because we’ve been in double figures for injuries for the last couple of months. Players have been played out of position, young players are stepping in, some are playing through the pain barrier and everyone is really putting in an incredible effort to try and win promotion.
With promotion in sight and the club unbeaten in their last four, what will the mindset of the players going into the game against Tranmere be like?
Win to get promoted – it’s as simple as that for us now.
In the January transfer window, players such as Goalkeeper Tom King from Salford and striker Tete Yengi from Ipswich Town were recruited. How much of a good window was it?
It was OK in terms of bumping up the numbers. King was a fantastic replacement for Lee Burge when he was injured for a few weeks. Yengi, along with fellow loanee D’Margio Wright Phillips, haven’t been used as much. Will Hondermarck, signed on an undisclosed fee, has been outstanding.
Are you excited to see the way they progress as we look ahead to next season? Former Brackley Town boss Jon Brady has been at Northampton since 2021. What is his playing style like as well as his relationship with the fans?
He’s been great since moving up from the youth teams two and a half years ago and he’s really brought the squad and fans closer together with the club now really in it together. His playing style, crafted with assistant manager Colin Calderwood, is one of picking and choosing the moments to attack and using pacy, powerful players to keep us up the pitch.
Northampton’s chairman is Kelvin Thomas. What are the current plans around the club and how do fans view the way the club is being run?
The fan base is a little split but we think he’s doing a very good job under difficult circumstances around the rebuilding of the East Stand and all the difficulties that’s entailed.
One man to watch out for on Saturday afternoon is Sam Hoskins as he has 21 goals in all competitions this season. How would you describe his playing style and his importance to the team?
Hoskins has had his best ever season for the club and his goals tally has taken him to the EFL Player of the Year award last week. He’s all action and can play in a lot of different positions and seems to have found his scoring boots this time around!
I was just wondering what Sean Dyche’s son Max is like? He’s a centre back and rose through the academy at Northampton. Is the future bright for him?
He’s still a bit raw but he’s learning all the time and scored his first goal at the weekend against Bradford. He’s dominant in the air and just needs to work on his positioning now.
Where will the key battles be played out at Prenton Park?
Probably in the midfield areas where we need to take control of a game. If Hondermarck, Sean McWilliams and Marc Leonard can set the tone then we can hopefully make a strong start.
What is your score prediction?
I have to be optimistic and I’ll go for a 2-1 Cobblers win.
The last time the two clubs met was in early December as a goalless draw was played out at The Sixfields Stadium. What are your thoughts on The Whites? It has been a greatly uninspiring season as promotion hopes were dashed far earlier than expected.
It’s seemed like a frustrating season for you but you also seem to be able to pull out a result at any given moment so you should be tricky opponents for us.
Tranmere Rovers return to Prenton Park this Bank Holiday Monday following a one-all draw at AFC Wimbledon. The Rovers’ last three home games against Northampton Town have resulted in two defeats and a win, getting beat 2-0 in late October 2021 as Kion Etete and Sam Hoskins netted.