For the second time already this season, Northampton Town upset a team from the league above with a polished and excellent team performance at Sixfields.
Following the Cobblers’ 3-0 win over Blackpool in the Capital One Cup three weeks ago, Colchester United this time succumbed to the Cobblers’ cup curse as Town knocked out a higher division side for the ninth time in five years.
A bright start from the hosts was rewarded when young Sheffield United loanee Dominic Calvert-Lewin converted a Sam Hoskins cross before Colchester wrestled back control and levelled through the lively Macauley Bonne.
The teams remained all square at half-time, a fair reflection of an even first 45 minutes, but again Northampton came out the stronger of the two sides in the second half with another loanee, this time Ryan Watson, scoring a superb solo goal to put Northampton ahead.
The 22-year-old had already caught the eye with his driving runs forward but this time he took it one step further, picking the ball up in his own half before surging beyond several helpless defenders and unleashing a powerful low effort beyond Elliot Parish in the away goal.
It would have been a fitting way to secure the Cobblers’ spot in the next round but, after a spell of Colchester pressure, Bonne netted his and United’s second to level things up once more.
With penalties looming, Northampton refused to buckle and showed impressive character to come storming back as a neatly-worked move ended with Marc Richards diverting Hoskins’ shot into the net to once and for all secure Town’s place in the second round.
There were many positives for Chris Wilder and his side, not least the fact the win will restore some much-needed confidence and momentum following their brief wobble.
Three defeats in four games and no wins had sapped much of the early season optimism that’d been built up thanks to three wins from their opening three games, but this victory helps gets the Cobblers back on track and will hopefully signal the start of a more consistent run of performances, starting with this Saturday’s league game against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Hoskins was again excellent, as he was against Accrington Stanley at the weekend, and he may well have played himself into Saturday’s starting line-up, with not only his infectious energy and high work-rate catching the eye, but his quality in the final third also evident, claiming two assists.
The game also saw a new midfield pairing for Northampton in the form of Leicester loanee Ryan Watson and summer signing Paul Corry, and the two seemed to complement each other well as they laid the foundation for a potentially promising midfield partnership moving forward.
The ease at which teams have opened Northampton up at times this season remains a concern, however, as Colchester again highlighted on Tuesday, especially for the second goal when the Cobblers were sliced open, and this will surely be something Wilder will look to rectify for the upcoming fixtures.
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy may not be the most glamorous of competitions but, for many clubs, it represents the best chance to reach Wembley, and that’s not something to be sniffed at. One round down, five to go.
How they rated...
Ryan Clarke - Nothing spectacular but made a couple of decent saves. Had little chance with either goal... 7
Adam Yates - Could have done better to cut out the cross that led to the first goal. Withdrawn at half-time with a tight thigh... 6
Ryan Cresswell - Commanding performance from the centre-back. Was virtually unbeatable in the air, though could perhaps have done better about the second goal... 7
Rod McDonald - Beaten in the air for the first goal but otherwise solid... 6.5
David Buchanan - Back on form after a couple of below-par performances. Defensively excellent and also offered a threat going forward as highlighted by the winning goal... 7.5
Ryan Watson - Made some driving runs forward from midfield in the first half and took that one step further in the second with a superb solo goal. Also put in a couple of crunching tackles. Very promising display after his shaky debut... 8
Paul Corry - Neat and tidy on the ball. Makings of a good midfield partnership with Watson... 7
Lawson D’Ath - Mixed night for the winger. Gave the ball away sloppily at times but also carried a threat and initiated the move that led to the winning goal with a smart backheel... 7
Sam Hoskins - Excellent in the first half. Set up the opening goal with good work down the left and also had the ball in the net but was deemed narrowly offside. Worked hard as ever and won the ball back for his side several times. Set up the winner too... 8.5 CHRON STAR MAN
Alfie Potter - Arguably his best game in a Cobblers shirt. More involved than he has been in recent games. Couple of bright moments but still lacking that killer final ball... 7
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Showed glimpses of his potential. Couple of nice turns and flicks and took his goal nicely... 7.5
Josh Lelan - Did well having come on as a half-time substitute, but caught out for the second goal when leaving too much space for Bonne... 6
Jason Taylor - Come on in a midfield three and helped soak up the Colchester pressure... 6.5
Marc Richards - Only touched the ball about three times but got the all-important third goal, once again showing his poaching ability. That’s four for the season now... 7