Such is the unpredictability of this current Cobblers team, you’re never quite sure what to expect, and few could have foreseen this mightily impressive win at high-flying Wycombe Wanderers.
It’s less than a month since Northampton lost to a Dagenham & Redbridge side who now sit second from bottom in League Two and whose only win this season came at Sixfields.
The Cobblers then displayed their resilient side to grind out three points against Oxford United despite being a man down for almost an hour before easing past Morecombe, and that was followed by two more hard-fought performances in slightly fortuitous draws with Leyton Orient and AFC Wimbledon.
So with those games in mind, the never-ending injury problems and the ongoing off-field issues, very few could have predicted yesterday’s thoroughly deserved victory against table-toppers Wycombe at Adams Park.
It all seemed to click into place – in an attacking sense anyway – in what was a polished and entertaining performance full of attacking flair and creative fluency.
Wanderers had come into this game boasting the best defensive record in the league having conceded just five goals all season but the Cobblers made a mockery of that statistic as they threatened to run riot by repeatedly slicing open the Chairboys’ defence, especially in the opening hour.
Their passing was crisp and fluent and Nicky Adams pulled the strings in midfield while Marc Richards led the line superbly and the two central midfielders – John-Joe O’Toole and Joel Byrom – worked tirelessly to lay the foundations for the attacking quartet to work their magic.
The decisive period of this game came in the five minutes after half-time when Lawson D’Ath and Shaun Brisley both sent looping headers into the bottom corner to hand Northampton what proved an unassailable 3-1 lead – despite Danny Rowe’s late strike.
The first half was a thrilling spectacle, swaying from one end to the other and instead of the 1-1 scoreline at half-time, it could easily have been 3-3 after Adam Smith was twice called into action to sharply deny Garry Thompson and Gozie Ugwu, while Marc Richards, Sam Hoskins and Nicky Adams all came close for the Cobblers.
However, though Northampton had to ride their luck at times, not least in five nail-biting minutes of stoppage time, they were full value for this win as they created the clearer chances and played the better football.
The victory makes it five games unbeaten with three wins in that time, and it now begs an obvious question: just how far can this Northampton team go?
It’s a question which is virtually impossible to answer, especially with increasingly frustrating off-field issues that continue to mar any progress made on the pitch.
That aside, the key, as ever, is consistency.
As well as having character and resilience, which Northampton have shown plenty of in recent weeks, successful sides generally require a blend of two things.
They have an effective overall style of play – whether that’s attractive passing football or more a direct, physical style – allied with two or three stand out individual attackers who are proven match-winners.
And on their day, Northampton have both. Wilder’s system has proven to be effective when carried out correctly, while players like Nicky Adams and Marc Richards are both game-changers.
It just all comes back to performing on a consistent basis. If they do that, promotion is very much a realistic ambition.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Not as busy as he has been recently but pulled off a couple of crucial saves with Northampton trailing 1-0 in the first half. Will be disappointed with Wycombe’s second goal having flapped at a corner... 7
Darnell Furlong - Unfortunate slip led to Wycombe’s opener but otherwise reliable as ever at right-back. Has energy to burn... 7
Shaun Brisley - A man mountain alongside Cresswell. Dealt with the late aerial bombardment brilliantly and also bagged his first Cobblers goal to boot... 8
Ryan Cresswell - Welcome return to the side and his influence was evident with a commanding and authoritative defensive performance... 7.5
David Buchanan - Another player who never stopped running all day as he repeatedly got up and down the left flank. Helped deal with the late pressure by making some timely interventions... 7
John-Joe O’Toole - Absolutely everywhere. Must have covered every blade of grass in a boundless and complete midfield performance. Looks like he’s playing with a point to prove and he may well have just proved it... 8
Joel Byrom - Arguably his best game of the season, Much more influential when in possession, kept the ball well and put in a couple of crunching tackles. Capped it off by swinging in a pinpoint free-kick for Brisley’s goal... 8
Nicky Adams - Ran the show in the first half, causing Wycombe’s defence all kinds of problems with his movement and incisive passing. Had a hand in all three goals... 8
Lawson D’Ath - Played his part in the Cobblers’ excellent attacking performance by linking up well with Adams and Hoskins. Took his goal brilliantly with an expertly-judged looping header... 8
Sam Hoskins - His movement across the front caused Wycombe headaches all day, as did his pace when he ran in behind. Will be frustrated not to have taken a couple of presentable chances... 7
Marc Richards - Led the line superbly. Won headers, held the ball up, linked up play and capped off a tireless performance with a superb free-kick... 8.5 CHRON STAR MAN
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6
Ryan Watson - 6
Zander Diamond - 6