Luton Town 3 Northampton Town 4 – match review, player ratings and highlights

Ricky Holmes is mobbed by team-mates after his sensational winner (pictures by Liam Smith)

Ricky Holmes is mobbed by team-mates after his sensational winner (pictures by Liam Smith)

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Seven straight wins, unbeaten in two months and now top of the table, and all while playing some exhilarating attacking football, this is rapidly becoming a season which no Northampton Town fan will ever forget.

And the latest chapter in this remarkable Cobblers campaign came at Kenilworth Road where Northampton chalked up another three points in yet another enthralling, end-to-end contest that you just couldn’t take your eyes off with enough twists and turns to keep you engrossed for the entire 94 minutes.

One thing is for certain, Cobblers fans are getting full value for money this season.

It’s not just the results, it’s the manner in which Northampton are winning games – with fluent attacking football that combines pace and movement with incisive passing and tireless work-rate, and teams simply have no answer for it.

Following last week’s dramatic comeback win against Northwich Victoria, this game was equally compelling but even more topsy-turvy and unpredictable.

Once again Cobblers’ resolve was put the test following the early setback of Paul Benson’s ninth-minute opener, and once again they responded in the best possible way.

It was perhaps a surprise that Luton initially started the stronger given the two sides’ respective form coming into this game, and they got their reward through Benson’s well-taken goal.

But Northampton soon discovered their mojo and once level thanks to a beautifully worked and wonderfully executed free-kick routine, they never looked back.

Wilder’s men have become known for their ingenious, innovative set-piece routines and this was the best yet.

Twenty-five yards out and lining up for a short, Nicky Adams instead opted to fizz a pass into Alfie Potter, who then found John-Joe O’Toole, who then found the bottom corner, all in one swift movement.

That goal acted as a springboard for a rampant Cobblers performance in the remaining 25 minutes of the half.

Potter, who had arguably his best game for the club since signing in May, was also instrumental in the next two goals – a perfectly-weighted chested pass setting Lawson D’Ath away before he headed back across goal to give March Richards a simple tap-in – but he also squandered a gilt-edged to put Northampton even further ahead as the visitors threatened to run riot during a dominant performance in which they looked like scoring at will, albeit aided by some statuesque Luton defending.

The boos that greeted the home players and manager at half-time were quite something, but those jeers quickly turned to roars of delight as Luton, inevitably, came back.

Some hesitant defending allowed Benson to stab in his second before Danny Green converted a penalty after Brendan Moloney was harshly penalised for an apparent trip on Craig Mackail-Smith.

“It’s now seven straight wins, one defeat in 15 league matches and two months unbeaten with their last League Two defeat coming way back on October 17 at Cambridge.”

James Heneghan

At this point, having just scored two fortuitous goals in 10 minutes to get back to 3-3 and with a now raucous crowd urging them forward, you would have expected Luton to seize the moment and go hunting for the winner.

But quite the opposite happened as, virtually straight from kick-off, the Cobblers regained the initiative and chances came and went for O’Toole and D’Ath before a certain Ricky Holmes was introduced 21 minutes from full-time.

Thirty seconds later and with his very first touch, Holmes created space himself with a slick turn, drove forward and unleashed a blistering 30-yard effort which rattled the back of the net, leaving Luton keeper Mark Tyler rooted to the spot.

It was a pretty emphatic way to make his mark and rather than be content with their lead, Town now went in search of another.

The fifth goal ultimately proved elusive, though, and instead Northampton had to be satisfied with the four and withstand any late pressure the home side might conjure up.

But the Luton onslaught never came and Northampton comfortably held on for their first victory at Kenilworth Road in 15 years.

Even the most bias and hardened of Luton fans would admit the final scoreline flattered them.

In truth, Northampton could have won this game by four our five such was their dominance and their ability to attack at will, but two self-inflicted goals made for a final scoreline, and indeed shot count, which suggested a much tighter game.

It’s now seven straight wins, one defeat in 15 league matches and two months unbeaten with their last League Two defeat coming way back on October 17 at Cambridge.

Goals galore, unpredictability, exciting football and now top of the table. What a season. And it’s not even Christmas!

How they rated...

Adam Smith - Decent game despite conceding three goals, though might be frustrated with the second of those three... 7

Brendan Moloney - Could have done more to prevent the second goal but was harshly penalised for the penalty having been pushed into Mackail-Smith by Luton’s Scott Griffiths... 7

Ryan Cresswell - Gave away the free-kick which led to the first Luton goal, which seemed soft, but his aerial presence was more than handy against the home side’s long ball tactic... 6.5

Zander Diamond - Shaky on Luton’s second but mostly excellent, particularly last 20 minutes as he helped Northampton withstand anything Luton could produce... 7

David Buchanan - Did well when up against two players at times, especially the dangerous Green, but might be disappointed to have left Benson free at the back post for his and Luton’s second... 7

John-Joe O’Toole - Bar one sloppy pass which led to Luton’s penalty, he was key to getting control of the game for his side; kept hold of possession well and used the ball effectively with some incisive forward passing.... 8

Joel Byrom - Played second fiddle to his midfield partner but helped laid the platform to allow Cobblers’ attacking quartet wreak havoc... 7

Lawson D’Ath - Pace and link-up play always a problem for the home defence and took his goal very well from an acute angle... 8

Alfie Potter - Central to a fabulous counter-attacking display, illustrated by three assists in the first half, one of which was a superbly-worked free-kick routine. Only blot on his copybook was his failure to convert from three yards out... 9 CHRON STAR MAN

Nicky Adams - Instigated two of the three first half goals. Luton’s hesitant defending had no answer to his and Northampton’s pace and movement throughout... 7

Marc Richards - Held the ball up immaculately which brought the likes of Potter and D’Ath into play. As for his goal, won’t score many easier this season... 8

Substitutes

Ricky Holmes - A second successive match-winning cameo. Unplayable when he came on, exemplified by his stupendous goal. He’s quite some impact player... 8

Jason Taylor - 7

Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6