Walsall brushed aside as unbeaten Cobblers ease to three more points

Northampton players celebrate after Matty Taylor headed them in front. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
Northampton players celebrate after Matty Taylor headed them in front. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

Cobblers made it back-to-back wins in Sky Bet League One on Saturday when they overwhelmed Walsall 2-0 with a confident performance on a miserable, rain-sodden afternoon at Sixfields.

Both sides had early chances in a bright start to the game and it was Northampton who struck the crucial first blow through Matty Taylor’s well-placed header midway through the first-half.

Further opportunities came and went for the Cobblers but the victory was rarely in doubt as Walsall struggled to penetrate some well-organised and resolute home defending.

Town did finally add a deserved second when Jason McCarthy handled inside his own penalty area and Alex Revell confidently tucked away the resulting spot-kick to put the gloss on another polished performance.

Cobblers are now unbeaten in 31 league games and find themselves placed a steady eighth after seven games of the League One season.

Rob Page resisted the urge to recall John-Joe O’Toole and Gabriel Zakuani to the starting line-up as he stuck with the same team that beat Milton Keynes Dons last weekend.

The wet conditions didn’t have a detrimental effect on a bright opening to the game, and Kenji Gorre was presented with an excellent opening inside the first minute but after being teed up by good work from Harry Beautyman and Alex Revell, the youngster’s spooned effort cleared the stand as well as the crossbar.

An unmarked Kieron Kinsella fluffed his shot from a cleverly-worked corner routine at the other end as both teams settled quickly and looked to wrestle the early initiative.

The imposing figure of Amadou Bakayoko was proving a handful for the Town back four and after leaving Brendan Moloney for dead, he was the first to force either goalkeeper into a save when Adam Smith got down quickly to turn his fizzing shot behind.

There was a pleasing ebb and flow to the match in the first-half with both teams willing to attack and both had their moments.

It was on 24 minutes when the deadlock was broken and it came via a moment of real quality when Beautyman, after being slipped in by Gorre, cut back onto his right foot and delivered an exquisite cross which Taylor brilliantly guided into the far corner with the deftest of touches.

Beautyman almost added an immediate second but after strong hold up play by Revell, his fiercely-struck shot whistled one via a deflection as the home side continued to press.

They again went close moments later when another excellent move involving Moloney and Taylor culminated in Beautyman finding space inside the penalty area but on this occasion his shot was weak and too close to Neil Etheridge.

Morris screwed an attempt wide at the other end and whilst the Cobblers continued to do most of the running, Walsall created a wonderful opening to go into half-time level but Scott Laird side-footed a whisker wide having been slipped through by a sumptuous lofted pass from Erhun Oztumer.

The Cobblers resumed in the ascendancy after half-time and were only denied a second goal by a brilliant save from Etheridge, who turned behind Revell’s downward header from Paul Anderson’s floated cross.

Etheridge was in the thick of the action again seconds later, this time tipping wide Taylor’s long-range free-kick, as Town maintained their threat.

Walsall applied more pressure as the second-half wore on but Northampton’s resolute defending restricted them to very few opportunities, with Smith a virtual bystander throughout the second 45 minutes.

By contrast, the Cobblers always posed a threat on the break as Etheridge again came to Walsall’s rescue when producing a flying save to tip over Revell’s spectacular 20-yard piledriver.

But there was nothing the Saddlers goalkeeper could do about Town’s second and killer goal when Jason McCarthy handled inside the penalty box.

Revell immediately grabbed the ball and emphatically dispatched the subsequent spot-kick, sending Etheridge the wrong way.

Walsall pressed for a route back into the game but they never once tested Smith and Northampton easily saw out the remaining 12 minutes to secure three thoroughly deserved points.

Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan (c), Anderson (Hoskins 61), McCourt, Beautyman (O’Toole 72), Taylor, Gorre (Potter 58), Revell

Subs not used: Cornell, Zakuani, Hooper, Richards

Walsall: Etheridge, Edwards, Laird, McCarthy, Chambers (c), Oztumer, Morris (Makris 80), Kinsella (Jackson 66), Bakayoko, Kouhyar (Moussa 57), Toner

Subs not used: MacGillivray, Dobson, Preston, Sangha

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 5,538

Walsall fans: 601