Northampton Town upset all the odds once again as they produced another performance full of resilience and determination to shock League One side Coventry City and progress into the second round of the FA Cup.
All three goals came in a breathless opening quarter which saw Northampton go 2-1 ahead and it was a lead that they would never relinquish as the Cobblers showed tremendous character in a hard-working performance that limited City to very few clear-cut openings.
Coventry had come into this game sitting fourth in Sky Bet League One and on a seven-match unbeaten run, but it was the Cobblers who came out firing in an electric opening quarter which brought three goals.
Nicky Adams struck first on five minutes, his free-kick going straight in, and though Coventry rallied and levelled through Jacob Murphy, the Cobblers had a second soon afterwards when Marc Richards headed in Lawson D’Ath’s pinpoint cross.
That ultimately proved to be the winner as the Cobblers did not disappoint the superb 2,500 boisterous away fans who were in fine voice throughout.
Given all the worry and uncertainty off the field, it remains remarkable that the players are able to produce performances like this one, and it was an ultimately deserved victory as Coventry, for all their possession and late pressure, struggled to properly test Adam Smith in the away goal.
With QPR loanee Darnell Furlong unable to play, Brendan Moloney came in for his first start of the season at right-back while D’Ath and Alfie Potter started out wide with Nicky Adams playing in a free role behind Marc Richards.
Fast starts have become something of a trademark under Chris Wilder this season and it was no different at the Ricoh Arena as Northampton required just five minutes to break the deadlock.
The goal came after good work by Richards and Adams as the duo combined to win a free-kick on the left, from which the latter delivered one of his signature deadly crosses that appeared to evade everyone and somehow find its way into the back of the net.
It was a dream start for the visitors and the goal was greeted by a deafening roar by the noisy away fans, however those celebrations were short-lived as, after having a strong penalty shout turned down, Coventry drew level on 10 minutes.
Having picked up the ball inside Northampton’s half, Murphy was afforded too much space and time to pick his spot and fire a 20-yard effort into the bottom corner.
The equaliser allowed Coventry to settle and they proceeded to enjoy the better of the moments immediately after the goal with Murphy and then John Fleck both testing Adam Smith with long-range efforts.
But Town remained undeterred and always posed a threat on the break and they duly restored their lead with a well-worked goal on 19 minutes.
Jason Taylor began the move by playing in D’Ath on the right and the winger produced a magnificent cross which teed up Richards, whose close-range header gave Lee Burge no chance.
Though Coventry had their moments in a fairly even contest, the Cobblers attacked in numbers and played with the same verve and vigour they have all season.
The visitors strung together some well-worked team moves, one of which almost resulted in a third goal but a last-ditch Sam Ricketts block turned D’Ath’s close-range shot behind for a corner following a superb flick from Adams.
Coventry ended the half on top but Northampton defended well and stood firm with Moloney particularly impressive on his first Cobblers appearance for seven months as he kept danger man and goalscorer Murphy quiet.
That stout defending restricted City to few openings in the remainder of the half and Northampton maintained their advantage through to half-time.
The second period began as the first had ended, with Coventry seeking a swift equaliser for the second time but again speculative long-range efforts were the best the league one side could muster as they struggled to break down a well-organised and hard-working Northampton outfit.
And Northampton continued to threaten every time they came forward as they broke in numbers and with pace, though their final ball was lacking.
The same applied to Coventry, though, who dominated possession throughout a second half that was severely short on goalmouth action with both goalkeepers largely untroubled.
But that all changed and despite Coventry cranking up the pressure, it was Northampton who were presented with a golden opportunity to make it 3-1 when John-Joe O’Toole controlled and turned in the penalty area but his shot from five yards out was turned over by Burge.
Inevitably, as time ticked away, Coventry came pouring forward in desperate search of an equaliser but yet more tenacious, stubborn Northampton defending limited the home side to few real chances, though Murphy did test Smith with another effort from distance.
That was to be the final throw of the dice as Northampton deservedly booked their spot in the second round with an outstanding display.
Coventry: Burge, Phillips (Haynes 45), Martin, Ricketts (c), Stokes, Thomas (Sambou 58), Fleck, Lameiras, Murphy, O’Brien, Fortune (Elford-Alliyu 71)
Subs not used: Harries, Di-Kelly-Evans, Stevenson
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, McDonald, Buchanan, Potter, O’Toole, Taylor, D’Ath (Watson 68), Adams (Hoskins 84), Richards (c) (Calvert-Lewin 63)
Subs not used: Clarke, Horwood, Lelan, Hackett
Referee: Darren Handley
Cobblers fans: 2,509