GLOVES ARE OFF AS DUKE BATTLES ON
MATT DUKE has urged his Northampton teammates to continue their promotion form against Portsmouth at Sixfields tomorrow in order to move out of the relegation zone.
The Cobblers remain locked in a battle to stay in the Football League following their draw with fellow strugglers Wycombe at Adams Park, a result which leaves Chris Wilder’s men occupying one of the two relegation places.
Northampton, who are now unbeaten in three games, have been looking over their shoulder since September.
But they could move out of the drop zone for the first time in seven months with victory over Pompey on Monday – if other results go in their favour.
This result didn’t really suit either side, however, with both remaining locked together on 47 points with just three games remaining.
But keeper Duke says whatever happens against the fallen giants from Fratton Park, his side will have to hold their nerve through their run-in to secure survival.
“It’s definitely looking rosier for us at the minute,” said Duke.
“Since the manager came in we have turned it around, the form we have shown has been play-off form. We have got three games to go now and they are three massive games. Fingers crossed we’ll stay up and we’ll do our very best to do so.
“It would be a massive boost for us to get out of the relegation zone, but even so, it is going to be a nervy affair down to the last game.
“We want to get out of the bottom two before that and we want to know we can be safe without relying on other people, that is the ideal situation.”
Neither Wycombe nor Northampton did enough to take all three points from this stalemate in a game that was severely lacking in quality as well as action, with both goals being scored in an eightminute first-half spell. Ricky Ravenhill’s speculative effort from distance for the visitors, combined with an error of epic proportions by home goalkeeper Matt Ingram, saw the Cobblers take the lead with the game just 12 minutes old.
Ravenhill picked up the ball a full 35-yards from goal and launched a curling cross for striker Emile Sinclair to run on to, only to see Ingram attempt to gather the high ball only to drop it in to his own net.
Alan Connell came close to doubling the lead for Chris Wilder’s men four minutes later, but his chest control was followed by a volley which went narrowly over the bar.
But on 18 minutes Wycombe were level. Aaron Pierre headed across goal into the corner of the net from Matt Bloomfield’s free-kick.
The Chairboys had the better of the second-half chances – hitting the bar through Dean Morgan’s header – and Morgan thought he had stolen all three points in injury-time before seeing the assistant raise his flag for offside, a decision that left Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth raging.
“We had a goal disallowed for offside right at the end but it was a goal, it’s legitimate which is why it is hard for us to take,” said Ainsworth, whose side remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
“These officials have got to be better at this level. Looking at the replay there was no offside, it is a totally legitimate goal.
“The linesman has cost us a couple of points that could be huge come the end of the year. Monday is a freebie for me, nobody expects anything out of Fleetwood apart from me.”
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THREE AMIGOS: Aaron Pierre, right, after scoring Wycombe’s equaliser
RULED OUT: Wycombe’s Dean Morgan scores but is then flagged offside
STAR MAN MATT BLOOM