Northampton Town 1-0 Oxford United
When the Cobblers signed Adam Smith after his acrimonious departure from Leicester City this summer, many, including myself, expected him to be playing back up fellow Sixfields bound stopper Ryan Clarke. But after impressive showings in pre-season, the rebuilding job he’s doing with his young career has well and truly rocketed off the ground. Smith is making all the early running in the Player of the Year award and after another superb showing on Saturday in a hugely needed 1-0 win over Oxford United you get the feeling that we’ve got a bit of a gem on our hands.
A penalty save with the Cobblers 1-0 up, but down to ten men thanks to Jason Taylor’s red card for an off the ball incident, was the highlight of the game for Smith but there were plenty of commanding moments including rushing out to block at strikers’ feet, quick reflex saves and a confidence that was lacking behind the back four last season.
Town needed a win like this to lift a crowd that was baying for answers to takeover questions and though the planned demonstration inside and outside of the ground had some effect it was peaceful enough that by the time Sam Hoskins grabbed his own big moment – glancing in his first league goal having come in for Alfie Potter – the focus was on unity and getting back on track.
Hoskins has been on the brink of a start and after last weekend’s disjointed team showing against Dagenham and Redbridge his energy and craft was a clever addition. The attacker is another of Wilder’s summer signings that’s been pretty consistent when he’s played and there’s no reason why he can’t be forcing his way into the reckoning on a permanent basis.
At the other end a strong backline was needed and the short term reinforcements of right back Darnell Furlong – seen playing Premier League football a few months ago – and centre back Shaun Brisley from Peterborough gave a more solid look to the defensive line that had to be strong in the face of a 10v11 second half.
That being said, Oxford appeared not to want to take the game to us and would have been disappointed that once Danny Hylton had the spot kick, awarded for Taylor indiscretion, saved beautifully by Smith just before half time they didn’t create enough to merit a point on a ground at which they blew us away last season.
It was a proper grind of a result and performance but the unity shown throughout was of complete contrast to a week ago when all involved trudged off to analyse where we went next.
That’s still the big question this week with the ‘due diligence’ period coming to an end for the takeover and if there’s still no noises coming from Sixfields in the next few days then the off field murmurs will creep back.
The ground work has been done, though, to ensure that the Cobblers are doing just enough to keep in touch with the rest of the division while the biggest saga at the club in years hopefully comes to an end.
We wait with baited breath…