Northampton’s subdued exit from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday evening was in keeping with the much-maligned competition itself as it was Millwall who provided an injection of long overdue quality to eventually win this low-key affair.
It was no surprise that this game had more of a friendly feel to it with almost 18,000 empty seats inside a 20,000 capacity stadium, and that made for an eerie atmosphere which reflected a laboured encounter.
In a game that never really got out of first gear, it was the Cobblers who at times looked like the home side playing from a level above as they confidently knocked the ball around and kept possession well without really threatening.
The final scoreline was a harsh reflection on the visitors who had frustrated the home side, as well as their fans, for long periods.
Such was the ease at which Northampton pinged the ball out at times, Millwall barely resembled a side who were playing Championship football last season with the home supporters venting their growing frustrations at their side’s inability to keep possession as the game wore on.
Northampton failed to capitalise, however, as they lacked the killer instinct to punish their hosts with long-range efforts from Lawson D’Ath and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and John-Joe O’Toole’s late header the closest the visitors came to scoring.
Eventually, the home side upped the tempo and won through to the next round thanks to two quickfire goals from Aiden O’Brien and Lee Gregory.
The defeat now leaves the Cobblers with just two competitions to focus on this season, with attentions already turning back to League Two and the visit of Hartlepool this weekend.
How they rated...
Ryan Clarke - Made the most of a rare start with some excellent stops, mainly from former Cobblers striker Steve Morison... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
Darnell Furlong - Competent as ever at right-back, though may be a little disappointed he didn’t do more to prevent O’Brien from cutting in and firing home the opener... 6
Shaun Brisley - Little bit fortunate not to concede an early penalty with a wild challenge in the area. Towering in the air... 6
Ryan Cresswell - Defence always seem more at ease with him in the side... 7
David Buchanan - Captain for the night and remains unflappable. Made a couple of perfectly-timed challenges at crucial times... 7
Jason Taylor - Back from a four-game suspension. Saw a lot more of the ball than he’d have expected but kept possession well... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Northampton’s best outfield player. He’s playing with such confidence at present; making tackles, driving forward, pinging passes... 7.5
Ryan Watson - Kept things ticking over nicely but passing lacked the penetration and conviction required to unlock the home side’s defence... 6
Chris Hackett - Just his third start and looked low on confidence, understandably. Seems unwilling to go past his man... 6
Lawson D’Ath - Came closest in the first half with a long-range effort straight at Archer. Also hit the post late on. Northampton’s most lively attacking outlet... 6.5
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Off target with a couple of long-range efforts on an otherwise quiet night... 6
Nicky Adams - 6
Sam Hoskins - 6