Striker Ivan Toney was left sidelined as the Cobblers opened their pre-season campaign with a 1-0 win over Sileby Rangers on Sunday.
Toney has been the centre of speculation regarding a transfer to Premier League giants Newcastle United, and although the teenager was with the squad at Fernie Fields, manager Chris Wilder decided not to play him.
The 19-year-old watched on from the visitors’ dugout as the Cobblers saw off their plucky UCL Premier Division hosts, the only goal being a 26th-minute strike from trialist Sam Hoskins.
Hoskins was one of four trialists to start the game, with Wilder using 21 different players in what was a useful workout for his squad ahead of their week-long training camp in Brighton.
Aside from Toney, the only other players not involved were Ricky Holmes and Evan Horwood, who are not quite ready to play after undergoing minor operations in the summer, on Achilles and groin injuries respectively.
The four trialists started the game at Sileby, with former Yeovil man Hoskins being joined by ex-Reading striker Gozie Ugwu, Sheffield FC’s Joel Purskiss and New signings Josh Lelan (right-back), Dave Buchanan (left-back) and Adam Smith (goalkeeper) also started, with the rest of the team comprising of Zander Diamond, Joel Byrom and transfer-listed pair Chris Hackett and John-Joe O’Toole.
As you would expect, the Cobblers dominated from the start, maintaining possession well and probing for openings.
Those openings did come, but early on they weren’t taken, with Sileby goalkeeper Liam Waddy making good saves from O’Toole, McDonald and Hoskins, with the latter also firing over from 10 yards when it was easier score.
The breakthrough eventually came on 26 minutes, with Hoskins atoning for his earlier miss as he volleyed home smartly with his left foot after a Diamond ball into the box had looped high into the air off a home defender.
From 30 minutes in, Sileby’s part-timers were already starting to tire, but they still managed to keep the Cobblers out despite almost constant pressure and it stayed 1-0 at half-time, with Waddy again shining with a stunning finger-tip save from a McDonald thunderbolt from 25 yards.
Wilder made 10 changes at half-time, with McDonald the sole survivor from the opening 45 minutes.
Ryan Clarke was in goal after the break, and fellow new signings Nicky Adams and Alfie Potter were part of an attacking trio, along with Lawson D’Ath, that were supporting central striker Marc Richards.
Ryan Cresswell joined McDonald in the centre of defence, with Brendan Moloney and Sam Warburton the full-backs and Jason Taylor and Danny Clifton in the centre of midfield.
The Cobblers continued to dominate the game, but their final ball was too often lacking in quality, and when they did get a shot off, it was invariably high and wide.
Waddy did continue to impress in goal for the hosts, but his life was made easier with some wasteful finishing, the worst culprit being Adams, who failed to connect with a Lawson D’Ath cross from six yards out and the goal at his mercy.
Despite the lack of goals, this was a worthwhile run-out for the Cobblers, with the players looking pretty sharp.
They were allowed plenty of space to operate in as the part-timers of Sileby tired, and produced some excellent football, until they got into that danger area.
The Cobblers now go down to Brighton on Monday for their week-long training camp, and Toney is pencilled in to travel.
He is expected to feature in Tuesday night’s friendly at Worthing.