Rampant Cobblers thrash 10-man Southend to go fifth

HIT THE FRONT: John-Joe O'Toole puts Cobblers ahead. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
HIT THE FRONT: John-Joe O'Toole puts Cobblers ahead. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
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Three goals in a blistering 14-minute spell at the start of the second-half laid the platform for Cobblers to make an emphatic return to winning ways as they crushed Southend United 4-0 on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Sixfields.

Having struggled for fluency and rhythm in a low-key opening half, the game burst into life within seconds of the restart as Northampton hit the front and seized total control, albeit partly in thanks to their generous visitors who did themselves no favours.

Back to the grind of league football after the razzmatazz of Wednesday, Northampton appeared to be suffering something of a hangover from that occasion in a sluggish first-half that was desperately short on quality.

Southend shaded what entertainment there was, but they were then blown away in a dramatic 14-minute period straight after half-time that completely altered the course of the game.

John-Joe O’Toole got the ball rolling when pouncing on a clanger from United goalkeeper Mark Oxley before Alex Revell’s penalty three minutes later doubled the home side’s lead.

Southend were also reduced to 10 men in the process and that meant only one outcome was now inevitable, with Matty Taylor compounding the away side’s misery by finding the top corner with a sensational free-kick.

That put the game to bed and ensured the Cobblers would bounce straight back after their 31-game unbeaten run ended last weekend, and they weren’t done there as Paul Anderson drove home a fourth.

That put the gloss on a terrific victory, one which takes Cobblers all the way up to fifth in Sky Bet League One.

There were two changes from the team which took on Manchester United in midweek with John-Joe O’Toole and Paul Anderson restored to the starting XI in place of Harry Beautyman and Kenji Gorre.

The swirling wind made for a scrappy start and it was Southend who began the brighter as Town, who were playing into the wind first-half, struggled to deal with several dangerous balls into their penalty box.

But clear-cut chances were a rare commodity in a cagey opening quarter as Ryan Leonard sliced wildly wide from 20 yards for Southend who remained the better side.

They could and maybe should have gone in front too when David Mooney’s pullback gave Stephen McLaughlin time to set himself and go for goal but Gabriel Zakuani flung himself at the shot to save what seemed a certain goal.

Matty Taylor forced Mark Oxley into a smart low save at the other end but that largely came against the balance of play, which remained in United’s favour with Jermaine McGlashan shooting too weakly at Adam Smith after cutting inside.

It seemed to be a combination of feeling the aftereffects of Wednesday and playing into a deceptively strong wind that restricted Northampton in a dour opening 45 minutes.

The teams duly went into half-time locked at 0-0 but only after a flurry of activity in first-half stoppage time when O’Toole forced Oxley to parry clear his shot-cross before Zander Diamond produced a timely interception to prevent a dangerous Southend breakaway.

There was a sense that Town needed something, anything, to burst into life and there was nothing better than a goal, which arrived within 90 seconds of the restart.

A needless handball gifted Cobblers a free-kick right on the edge of the area and though Taylor’s shot hit the wall, the rebound fell to Jak McCourt who curled an effort goalwards and Oxley could only weakly parry straight into the path of O’Toole, who swept home.

And that was just the tonic Town needed to get themselves going.

With the crowd now up and confidence restored, it wasn’t long - less than four minutes in fact - until the home side had a second.

Again Southend were the architects of their own downfall as Jason Demetriou needlessly brought down Anderson inside the penalty box and as the last defender, he was shown a straight red card by referee Ross Joyce.

For the third time in four games, Revell took responsibility and emphatically converted the subsequent spot-kick, sending Oxley the wrong way for his sixth goal of the season.

With Southend now down two goals and a man, Northampton were in cruise control and things got even better barely eight minutes later.

The visitors once again did themselves no favours, this time giving away another unnecessary free-kick in a dangerous spot and they were made to pay, Taylor brilliantly finding the top corner with a fabulous strike.

That effectively ended the game as a contest and the remaining 30 minutes were all about whether or not Northampton could extend their lead, something which they did 12 minutes from time.

Hoskins was the instigator, his excellent pass down the line finding O’Toole who in turn squared for Beautyman and the substitute showed terrific to vision to pick out the unmarked Anderson on the left and he made no mistake, taking a touch and sending a low drive past Oxley.

That proved to be the final act of a rampant second-half from Northampton, although Adam Smith did pull off a terrific late save to preserve his clean sheet, as Page’s men turned their solid start to life in League One into a terrific one.

Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan (c), Anderson, O’Toole, McCourt (Beautyman 62), Taylor, Hoskins (Hooper 81), Revell (Richards 79)

Subs not used: Cornell, Nyatanga, Byrom, Gorre

Southend: Oxley, White, Thompson, Barrett (c) (Inniss 70), Coker, McGlashan, Demetriou, Leonard, Atkinson, McLaughlin (Wordsworth 52), Mooney (Cox 70)

Subs not used: Smith, O’Neill, King, Ferdinand

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 6,138

Southend fans: 770