By Tony Leighton
Seven years ago this weekend Aidy Boothroyd took his Watford team to Brighton and Hove Albion and, after losing the previous away game to Leeds United, won 1-0 on the south coast to start a run that ended with the Hornets comfortably finishing in the Play-Offs and winning the final against Leeds to reach the Premier League.
Fast forward to npower League 2's current campaign and Boothroyd's Northampton Town, eighth in the table but only a point below the Play-Off places, head to Southend United on the back of two away defeats aiming for a victory that could likewise kick-start a run to promotion.
The two scenarios are similar but with one big difference: Watford's away record in 2005/06 was as good as at home, while the Cobblers have struggled to pick up away points despite an excellent home record - and that's why they are outside the Play-Offs instead of sitting comfortably in the automatic promotion places.
As he looked ahead to his team's visit to the south east coast and their attempt to turn the tide of away results, Boothroyd pointed out to football-league.co.uk: "We've got the second best home record in League 2, but we're 22nd in the away stats and that's a monkey we've got to get off our back.
"I've been very pleased with how we've played at home, and there's no reason why we shouldn't perform as well away. At times in away games we've been a bit too much on the front foot and we've also been naive at times, which has been a bit irritating. But we're at a point now where that has to change.
"We're into the business end of the season and if we maintain our home form and pick up a decent amount of away points that will put us in good stead. But if we go on the way we have been then - with eight of our last 15 games away from home - it won't be enough for us to be successful."
Boothroyd's words will be a warning to his players as they step out at promotion rivals Southend, who sit one place and one point below the Cobblers, looking for only their fourth away win of the season. "Southend are a good team with a good manager [Paul Sturrock]," said Boothroyd, "and it's going to be tough.
"They got to the Play-Offs last season and they're obviously aiming to do as well if not better this year. They've also got the second leg of their Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final against Leyton Orient coming up next week, so they're having a successful season and we've got to respect that.
"But at the same time we'll be looking to exploit any weaknesses they might have and to come away with three points. The key element for us in the final third of the season is not to lose against the teams around us, and we've got a number of those games coming up - and we aim to start with a win."
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