The magic…

FA_Cup_logo_(2014)Northampton Town 3-2 Northwich Victoria

FA Cup Second Round

The magic of the FA Cup is often measured by how big a giant killing is, how obscure a player scoring a winning goal is or how far a minnow can travel through the rounds. But today at Sixfields we saw magic of a different kind. Yes, Northwich Victoria are some ninety league places below the Cobblers but that made what happened in the final few minutes no less enthralling and no less of a cup moment for a Cobblers side for whom everything is falling at the moment.

Northwich will be heartbroken this evening and with every reason. The Evo-Stick Division One league leaders gave every single ounce of themselves in effort, heart and application and go home with nothing but rightful pride in a performance that on most other days would have been making back page headlines.

The visitors soon let Town know that we were in a battle and settled the better of the two sides in the wind at Sixfields. There were no real clear cut chances but Northwich were forcing the issue more than a Cobblers side without the experience of Marc Richards, who was dropped to the bench in favour of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The youngster was struggling to take hold of the game and help the team to control the ball up front as Rico does so well and the first period became more and more disjointed.

Northwich, then, deserved their shock lead which came in sloppy circumstances at the back. Zander Diamond failed to clear properly twice and Jimmy Ball finished well with a controlled effort from the edge of the area. The away fans were dreaming and won’t have seen anything in our play to suggest that it was to be a smash and grab effort. Ryan Cresswell’s header that was well saved was our only moment in front of goal before the opener and the non-league side were deservedly in front at the break.

It was the introduction of Rico at the break and then of Ricky Holmes on the hour mark that started to finally give us some hope with Holmes’ return from injury in particular creating a buzz around the ground. But it was Northwich who struck again to completely stun Sixfields when Brian Summerskill robbed an unusual hesitant David Buchanan and chipped the ball over Adam Smith onto the bar and Richard Bennett tapped in.

As seconds ticked by, all hope of even being in the hat with a draw looked more and more lost. But then the sprinkle of magic was spread and a ten minute period, not to be forgotten for a long, long time I’m sure, began.

First, Nicky Adams’ shot took a lucky deflection off Sam Hoskins and arrowed into the corner of the net. Game on and a much needed platform to build on for the final few frantic minutes of the game for the Cobblers. Then, a free kick from the left hand side just seconds later was met by the head of Jason Taylor and the ball nestled into the other corner for 2-2. The visitors were crestfallen and were cruelly beaten in the next couple of minutes.

Taylor fed Holmes on the right and his right footed cross with the outside of his foot found Calver-Lewin’s head for the most dramatic of winners.

Alex Byrne still had time to bring a fantastic close range save from Smith in the Cobblers goal but we held out for a victory that puts us in the Third Round draw for the first time in ten years. 2006 saw us go out in that Third Round to Crystal Palace but was also the year of a second place finish and promotion to League One.

For Northwich, they earned a lot of respect this afternoon and go out with their heads held high. They’ve lost just once in the league this season and will surely use this momentum to push for a promotion of their own. They looked a side well above their level and have a manager in Jim Gannon who knows exactly what he’s doing. Good luck to them.

The Cobblers go into Monday’s draw as Number 50 and it’s going to edge of the seat stuff with heavyweights like Leicester City thrown into the mix. Being in that hat is nothing short of a miracle after the events that gave us our own piece of FA Cup magic.

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