Northampton Town produced a superb attacking display as they came from behind to beat league leaders Wycombe Wanderers 3-2 in an exhilarating and end-to-end League Two encounter at Adams Park this afternoon.
The Cobblers made the worst possible start when they went behind inside 80 seconds as Luke O’Nien headed Wycombe in front, but that sparked a thrilling Northampton fightback as the visitors carved open several opportunities with some free-flowing, attacking football.
Their reward came on 35 minutes through Marc Richards who lashed home a 20-yard free-kick into the top corner.
Northampton remained on top and went ahead seconds after half-time through Lawson D’Ath’s header from Nicky Adams’ cross before Shaun Brisley made it 3-1 five minutes later.
The Cobblers then pushed forward for a fourth but they were unable to find it and Danny Rowe set up a tense final few minutes when he hammered home from four yards.
But Northampton held out five nail-biting minutes of stoppage time to claim a deserved win over the league leaders.
Wycombe had come into this game boasting the best defensive record in the league having conceded just five goals all season, but they had no answer to Northampton’s slick attacking football as Adams pulled the strings in a Cobblers side that repeatedly cut apart the home defence.
The visitors had to survive a late Wycombe onslaught but survive they did to earn three excellent points that take them up to ninth in League Two.
While John-Joe O’Toole kept his place in the starting XI, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Zander Dimaond both dropped to the bench with Sam Hoskins and Ryan Cresswell coming in.
It was a nightmare start for the visitors as the league leaders wasted no time in asserting their authority as they took just 70 seconds to go in front.
Having had a cross headed clear by Brisley, Rowe hooked the ball back into the danger area and an unfortunate slip from Darnell Furlong allowed O’Nien to get free and send a looping header over the stranded Adam Smith.
It was the worst possible start for the visitors, but Northampton responded well and threatened an instant response when Hoskins drove down the right before playing in Adams, whose cross-shot was parried clear by Wycombe keeper Matt Ingram.
Despite the early setback, Northampton were knocking the ball around confidently and looked capable of cutting apart the home defence at will, and they so nearly had a leveller when Richards’ fizzing low cross agonisingly eluded a sliding Adams at the back post.
However, though they continued to impress going forward with Joel Byrom firing wide from 30 yards, Northampton were indebted to Smith on 20 minutes when a Wycombe free-kick caused panic in the visiting penalty box and only a brave block from the Cobblers keeper kept out Gozie Ugwu’s close-range effort.
It was now Wycombe’s turn to apply pressure as a superbly-timed last-ditch challenge from David Buchanan prevented Garry Thompson from getting a shot away when through on goal.
The frenetic nature of the game continued with Northampton next to create a golden chance up the other end as Buchanan slipped through Hoskins but, from a tight angle, the Cobblers striker was unable to beat Ingram.
And immediately the momentum swung back towards Wycombe when Aaron Amadi-Holloway’s precise through ball presented Thompson with a glorious opening to double Wycombe’s lead, but Smith, as he has been all season, was there to thwart the Wycombe striker and tip his effort around the post
Smith was called into action again moments later, getting finger-tips to deny Amadi-Holloway, before Northampton sprung a counter-attack.
It culminated in Richards finding himself with space and time in the penalty area and though he could only fire tamely at Ingram, that signalled the start of a sustained period of Northampton pressure.
Much of the first half had been end-to-end, but it was the Cobblers who were now firmly in the ascendency and they were fractions away from levelling when a corner caused chaos and it looked certain to be 1-1 when Cresswell headed towards goal from three yards out but Joe Jacobson somehow cleared off the line.
Given the frantic nature of the game, another goal seemed just a matter of time and so it proved on 35 minutes when Northampton drew level.
It came when a slick one-two between Adams and Richards drew a foul on the edge of the area, and from the resulting free-kick, Richards arrowed a superb strike into the top corner.
He almost repeated that trick within minutes as Northampton won another free-kick in a similar position, but this time Richards’ effort cannoned off the wall with the following shot blasted over.
Though they were unable to find a second goal in the first half, Northampton picked up from where they left off in the opening stages of the second half and it resulted in the visitors going ahead.
Adams whipped in a cross from the left and D’Ath rose high to plant a looping header out of the reach of Ingram before it nestled into the bottom corner.
Instead of sitting back on their lead, Northampton immediately went in search of a third and they rammed home their superiority just five minutes later when Brisley, in similar fashion to D’Ath, sent a high header in off the far post.
The Cobblers kept coming forward, now seeking a fourth, as Adams continued to torment the home defence, however they were unable to find another goal and Wycombe gradually came back into the game.
John-Joe O’Toole, who must have covered every blade of grass in a tireless midfield performance, had to clear off his own goal line after Ugwu headed towards goal.
Wycombe caused a few nervy moments, and Rowe set up a nail-biting finale when he slammed home after a corner had caused chaos in the penalty area.
Substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin immediately had a chance to put the game to bed when he got through one-on-one with Ingram but the Wycombe keeper saved with his legs.
That miss ramped up the tension but, aside from a low cross that flashed across the face of goal, Wycombe struggled to conjure up a single opportunity to level in five minutes of stoppage time as Northampton held out for a memorable win.
Wycombe: Ingram, Jombati, Jacobson (c), Rowe, Pierre, Bean, McGinn (Wood 60), O’Nien (Kretzschmar 81), Thompson, Ugwu, Amadi-Holloway (Bloomfield 60)
Subs not used: Lynch, Sellers, Banton
Cobblers: Smith, Furlong, Brisley, Cresswell, Buchanan, Adams (Diamond 90), O’Toole, Byrom, D’Ath (Watson 77), Hoskins (Calvert-Lewin 70), Richards (c)
Subs not used: Clarke, Lelan, Hackett, Horwood
Referee: Keith Hill
Cobblers fans: 597