John Marquis bagged a goal on his first appearance since rejoining Cobblers as Chris Wilder’s side stretched their extraordinary winning run to 10 games by beating beleaguered York City 2-1 at Bootham Crescent on Tuesday evening.
Initially there was not much between the sides but once Northampton hit the front through James Collins’ header, they shifted through the gears and ran out comfortable winners.
The Cobblers had the clearer sights of goal despite not being at their very best during a first half lacking in goalmouth action and they deservedly went in front shortly before half-time when Collins headed home Brendan Moloney inviting right-wing cross.
More was to follow after the break and Marquis, who joined Cobblers on loan from Millwall earlier this week, swiftly added a second after being set up by Collins.
Town could have had further goals but instead York bagged themselves a late consolation through Russell Penn’s sublime 30-yard volley in the final minute of stoppage time.
Although it ruined what would have been a fifth consecutive clean sheet, that late strike ultimately proved irrelevant as Cobblers clung on and clinched a 10th straight win in all and an eighth successive victory on the road.
They also extended their lead at the top of Sky Bet League Two to 12 points after Plymouth Argyle were held to a goalless draw at Yeovil.
This win over York was made all the more impressive given that it was achieved without the influential John-Joe O’Toole, who was ruled out of his first league game since September with a knock picked up in the win over Wycombe, while Ricky Holmes and Lee Martin started on the bench as boss Wilder freshened things up.
Marquis made his debut up front in one of three changes from Saturday, with Lawson D’Ath and Jason Taylor also returning to the team.
Taylor and D’Ath were immediately involved in the game’s first moment of note when the former’s long-range first-time shot was gathered by Scott Flinders on just 35 seconds after D’Ath’s cross had been cleared.
York came into this game on the back of three straight home wins and they too started confidently with Jake Hyde finding himself in space in the penalty area but he took too long over the shot and David Buchanan recovered well.
York were content to sit deep and play on the break but it was a Cobblers counter-attack which yielded the first clear-cut chance when, on 17 minutes, Marquis showed impressive pace to power through the home defence, but a heavy touch allowed Flinders to rush off his line and smother the striker’s shot.
That chance remained one of very few in a 35 minutes short on drama, however although not at their fluent best, Cobblers always carried the greater threat as they dominated possession.
A crucial intervention from Luke Hendrie prevented Marquis’ cross reaching an unmarked Collins and that was the start of a good spell for the visitors which would result in the opening goal shortly before half-time.
It came rather out of the blue as Moloney picked up the ball in space on the right and his wonderful cross gave Collins the simple task of heading into the bottom corner.
It was a deserved lead and could have been doubled before half-time but Zander Diamond somehow managed to miss from all of two yards after Nicky Adams’ corner had caused problems.
As it turned out, that miss would have little effect as the Cobblers required just five minutes of the second half to double their advantage.
Marquis had looked lively all evening but though he applied the finishing touch, he owed much to the hard work of Collins who got away down the right and put in an inch perfect cross which left the debutant with a simple tap-in.
A now rampant Cobblers immediately went on the hunt for more goals as Adams’ cross-shot almost drifted in before D’Ath had two chances in as many minutes, first scuffing a volley and then heading over.
A triple substitution from York boss Jackie McNamara gave the hosts some much-needed impetus but Northampton, led by the once again impressive Diamond and Rod McDonald at the heart of defence, were equal to anything that came their way as Adam Smith had another quiet evening in goal.
The Cobblers goalkeeper was called into action on 71 minutes, though, when he had to react quickly to keep out Michael Coulson’s low drive, and that was followed by Hendrie’s cross almost finding its way into the net.
The result was never really in doubt, however, and Northampton could have won by more had Collins managed to beat Flinders after being set through on goal by Holmes.
A tense final few seconds was in store thanks to Penn’s stunning 30-yard volley but that came far too late as Cobblers saw out the final 30 seconds to clinch another three points.
York: Flinders, Hendrie, Winfield (c), Satka, Cameron, Coulson (McEvoy 59), Dixon (Oliver, 59), Summerfield, Carson, Hyde (Penn 59), Fewster
Subs not used: Riordan, Swan, Thompson, Ingham
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan (c), Adams (Holmes 78), Taylor, Rose, D’Ath (Byrom, 87), Marquis (Hoskins 62), Collins
Subs not used: Clarke, Prosser, Cresswell, Martin
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Cobblers fans: 434