Northampton Town 3-0 Exeter City
Three win, seven goals, none conceded, six points, cup progress and a big name clash with Newcastle United drawn out of the hat. For the Cobblers in recent years, this represents nothing less than a dream start to the season. After years of false starts, new signings needing ‘time to gel’ and playing catch up with the rest of the division, we’ve finally begun with a flourish and it comes at, ironically, a time when everything off the field is at one of the most uncertain levels.
After a hard fought win at Bristol Rovers and easing past Blackpool this was another stern test and one in which the score line didn’t tell the whole story. Exeter have a fair bit about them this season and will no doubt be amongst the front runners in the playoff race so any time we can take three points and three goals from a side like this is fantastic. What’s so positive this season is that goals are coming from different places already and we’ve got even more energy going forwards than the decent side that finished the last campaign.
What the Cobblers finally seem to have (and I recognise the kiss of death potential here) is stability in a system, players who are making the it work and enough competition to really challenge each position whilst keeping a sense that we’re not overloaded with short term solutions. We’re playing without shackles, particularly at home, and there’s seems to be a real hunger around the squad.
For this one, Exeter will feel unlucky to lose as heavily as they did but the ruthless finishing that we’ve lacked in the past is now there with another three very different goals getting us over the line for a place in the very early leading pack in League Two.
The first was an absolute belter from Jason Taylor. Usually found breaking up attacks, providing the meat in the midfield sandwich and out muscling opposition, Taylor scored his first Cobblers goal, and what a beauty it was. The ball broke to the former Cheltenham man around twenty five yards out and the volley that he produced was heading into the top corner from the moment it left his boot.
That set the tide and soon it was two with Ryan Cresswell popping up with a trademark header before half time to put Town in control. There were some concerns at the break when Zander Diamond was taken off to be replaced by Rod McDonald but after the match it was confirmed that it was as a precaution with so many games coming up and McDonald would go on to play his part in a third straight clean sheet for the Cobblers.
After Alfie Potter missed a sitter following up from Lawson D’Ath’ s shot, Will Hoskins came close to halving the deficit for City but Adam Smith, returning in goal after being rested on Tuesday night, made a top drawer save. Had that gone in, the end result may well have looked different but it was the Cobblers who sealed the points in the final knockings.
Marc Richards, who had seen a couple of good chances go begging at Bristol and in this game, must be hugely relieved to be off the mark as he looks to top his goal scoring efforts from last season. It was a breakaway goal that closed the game out with Ricky Holmes racing down the right and crossing for Richards to calmly slot home.
It meant that the perfect week was completed in style and sends us to Barnet with spirit levels rocketing.
The Cobblers are in the groove.
Travelling to Barnet on Tuesday night provides its own challenge with the Bees having lost both of their opening league games. They’ll be chomping at the bit to get off the mark and Martin Allen will have them hungry to get it right at the third attempt. It’s a shame we can’t bask in the glory of being fourth for a whole week…dare we dream of it getting even better?!
Wycombe, Leyton Orient, Portsmouth and Hartlepool join the Cobblers on six points with League Two boasting more teams with 100% records than the Championship and League One put together. All will be put to the test on Tuesday night with a full set of fixtures scheduled. Wycombe go to Morecambe, Orient are at home to Stevenage, Portsmouth are at Crawley and Hartlepool host Newport County.