Stuart Gray was without suspended new signing Abdul Osman whilst Giles Coke was missing with an ankle injury. There were, however, debuts for Liam Davis, Luke Guttriudge and Leon Constantine. Adebayo Akinfenwa shook off his injury worries to earn a start up front with Constantine.
On a wet afternoon at Sixfields, the first few minutes of the season were uneventful as both sides looked anxious not to make the first mistake. Adebayo Akinfenwa was forced off the pitch in the opening exhanges to have stitches on a head wound. While he was receiving treatment, Luke Guttridge forced Cheltenham keeper Shane Higgs into a save from his glancing header.
Bayo returned to action ten minutes later before Guttridge had a shot deflected over and Ryan Gilligan tested Higgs with a powerful shot. But it was the visitors that took a surprise lead with ten minutes of the half to go. David Bird found space and fired in a shot that was deflected past Mark Bunn by Gabor Gyepes and the Robins were in front.
But it wasn’t long before the Cobblers were level. Following a corner, Liam Davis did well on the left hand side and he crosed for Gyepes to knock the ball down and Chris Doig fired the ball home from close range.
Leon Constantine shoudl have had us in front before the break as he went through one on one with Higgs but shot straight at the Cheltenham keeper, meaning that the sides went in level at half time.
The second half began with Cheltenham back on the front foot and Danny Jackman had to be alert to clear a header from Bird off the goal line. At the other end, Liam Davis was put through but Higgs did well to spread himself and deny the former Coventry man.
Just after the hour mark, the Cobblers were awarded a penalty as Bird brought down Danny Jackman in the area. Akinfenwa and Mark Hughes argued over who would take the spot kick but Bayo won the battle and stepped up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and give us the lead.
Just a couple of minutes later and the referee was pointing the spot again as Luke Guttridge was tripped by former Cobbler Jerry Gill. Akinfenwa stepped up again and went the other way with his penalty this time and we were suddenly 3-1 ahead.
The Cobblers stormed forward looking for a fourth and Danny Jackman did well to break away and send a low shot in but Higgs did well down to his left.
At the other end, Mark Bunn tipped a Shane Duff header over the bar but from the corner, Cheltenham won a penalty as Duff was adjudged to have been pushed. Michael Townsend stepped up and blasted the ball down the middle of the goal to beat Bunn and make it 3-2.
But the Cobblers were soon back in the ascendancy. A Danny Jackman cross caused problems and Akinfenwa did well to hold the ball up before unselfishly setting up Leon Constantine who had the simplest of tasks to finish the ball for a fourth for the Cobblers.
Akinfenwa was then replaced by Colin Larkin and left the field to a standing ovation while Liam Davis left the field for Andy Holt.
Holt’s first real action was to set up Constantine who volleyed the ball against the cross bar late on before Holt’s cross narrowly avoided Larkin but we’d done enough to secure three early points for the 2008/09 season.
Take a look at the league table tonight as you’ll see us in second place! Yes there’s 45 more games to go but for this week we can say that the only thing separating Northampton Town from the top of League One is alphabetical order!
Gray’s men now travel to Millwall on Tuesday night in the first round of the Carling Cup before heading to Stadium:MK for the first away league game of the campaign against the Dons.