Just the tonic!

O' Donovan...second of the season

O’ Donovan…second of the season

Northampton Town 3-1 Newport County

League Two

Saturday, August 10th 2013

That’ll do nicely! Though there are one or two cracks that still need a bit of TLC in the Cobblers ranks we are off the mark with a good home win that mustered the spirit of last season’s huge run of victories at Sixfields. The Cobblers didn’t have it all their own way by a long shot and Newport can come away with credit after threatening to continue a momentous first week back in the league but the main thing is those three points that get us up and running.

Today’s visitors were clearly in the mood to kick on and the hearty supporters that kept up the noise in the away end throughout the game were clearly still in celebratory mood no matter what the outcome. In truth they could have been taking home a lot more from this game had Matt Duke not been in inspired form once again.

Indeed the first twenty minutes belonged to the visitors with Duke called into action numerous times, first tipping Lee Collins’ wayward clearance over the bar and then touching Chris Zebroski’s header onto the woodwork. Max Porter blasted high and wide as the Exiles settled much better than a Cobblers side still trying to figure out their opponents’ wing back system.

It didn’t help that the defence had been shifted at the last minute thanks to Matt Heath picking up an injury in the warm up, meaning that Ben Tozer moved to centre back and Kevin Amankwaah slotted back in at right back. But gradually Town weathered the early storm and forged a way into the game.

Jacob Blyth had been putting himself a lot in the early going on his Cobblers debut and provided a new outlet that was desperately needed. His work in the air and in the simple touches gave the ever hard working Roy O’ Donovan a new lease of life to work from. Those two would give us the platform to completely reshape the game as the first half wore on.

First, a pin point cross from Ian Morris, captaining the side once again, was headed in powerfully by the leaping Blyth and the early nerves were suddenly wiped away. O’ Donovan then got on the end of another Morris pass to finish well from an angle and it was 2-0, sending the visitors into shock after they had found it so difficult to get past Duke at the other end.

The former Bradford keeper did well to save again from Zebroski as the half ended with the Cobblers’ two goal cushion intact.

The next goal was always going to be crucial and again Newport came out fighting and making the first moves. But once again the Cobblers grew into the game more and regained a sense of control that from then on in they never looked like surrendering. And the game was won with five minutes to play as Gary Deegan was found by substitute Ivan Toney and slotted in from distance for his first goal in Town colours.

There was to be a late consolation for the plucky County as Conor Washington raced past Ben Tozer on the Cobblers right and finished into the roof of the net but it was too late to put any real fear into even the most negative of home fans.

So it was that we collected our first three points of the season and that in itself is a massive boost ahead of the tough trip to Southend next weekend.

Tozer...centre back role

Tozer…centre back role

Some key points I took from my first viewing of Town this season:

Matt Duke was outstanding and will be the difference more than once during this campaign. He makes every wonder save look like it’s routine for him and is becoming a hero once again after his first spell at Sixfields went just as well.

Kevin Amankwaah is also becoming a cult figure after just a couple of outings. He’s strong in the tackle, technically sound and you just don’t know what he’s going to do next. We’re going to be entertained by his tenure at right back if nothing else. Nowhere near Pedj Bojic standard just yet but you can tell he’s going to be one to watch!

BEN TOZER IS A CENTRE BACK! He proved again today that if you put him in his preferred position then he’ll be solid. Putting him in the middle of the park or at right back usually puts him on the first bus to scapegoat city but at centre back he looks more than a long throw machine. I even clapped some of the things he did, though the organisation and occasional holes in there need sorting before we come up against more punishing front lines.

The midfield looks more cohesive. Darren Carter and Gary Deegan look a better fit than the Harding/Guttridge partnership of last season and both bring different genuine qualities to the table. Deegan took his goal well whilst Carter had a decent game alongside him.

Ian Morris as captain? Yes, it does actually work. I wasn’t easily convinced before the game but that was unfair of me before seeing him in action. Morris doesn’t have the great presence of a skipper but his hard work and communication was good. The fact that he was voted into the position by his peers says a lot.

Jacob Blyth looks a good loan signing and definitely an improvement on some of the temporary gap plugging forwards we’ve had in the last couple of years. He’s got a real presence about him and rose above everyone to power in his headed goal. Big potential there and a step up on other options at this time.

Roy O’Donovan is reminding me more and more of Scott McGleish and that can only be a good thing. The Irishman shone, especially given that he had a big man to work off again rather than having to lead the line alone. He’s going to be crucial to this season and could turn out to be this season’s Alex Nicholls, though hopefully without the leg break!

All in all, a good day’s work and we have to try and take this on to Southend where Aidy Boothroyd will likely revert back to 4-5-1. Today’s performance, in attack particularly, may yet change his mind, though.

 

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