Brilliant Bridge inspires Cobblers to emphatic win over Carlisle United
Jack Bridge produced an outstanding individual display as Cobblers brought Carlisle United's six-game winning run to an abrupt halt with a superb second-half performance on Saturday, romping to an unexpected but fully merited 3-0 victory at the PTS.
Hopes were hardly high among supporters going into this game given Town's wretched run of form - one win in 12 - coupled with the loss of influential midfielder Matt Crooks to Rotherham just 24 hours earlier.
However, Town defied all the gloomy forecasts against in-form Carlisle and Bridge was at the centre of it, scoring twice and setting up another during the home side's dominant showing in the second 45 minutes.
The first-half ended goalless but it was not without chances as Town started with purpose and threatened an opener before Carlisle responded well and forced three saves out of David Cornell.
It was all one-way traffic after half-time though, Bridge netting either side of the hour-mark and then Junior Morias adding a late third to put the gloss on an impressive and much-needed victory against Keith Curle's former club, one which lifts them up a place to 16th in Sky Bet League Two.
The Cobblers team on Saturday included a debut for Brighton loanee George Cox at wing-back and starts for Bridge, Shaun McWilliams and teenager Jay Williams.
Aaron Pierre captained the side for the first time in the absence of regular club skipper David Buchanan, who was on the bench, and also the injured Ash Taylor.
Town were quick off the mark and a chance inside five minutes went begging when Shay Facey's fine pass found Bridge, who picked out Sam Hoskins in the box but in came a superb defensive block to see off the danger.
Carlisle were under early pressure but they played their way back into the game as both sides enjoyed moments on top during an entertaining first-half.
Chances were exchanged short of the half-hour mark as Andy Williams' left-footed shot was tipped wide by Adam Collin before former Cobblers loan man Hallam Hope placed his effort just wide of the far post having got the wrong side of Town's defence.
Jack Sowerby drilled just wide for the visitors and new boy Cox whipped a free-kick over, but United were starting to play some slick stuff with Sowerby again going close when denied by Cornell, who was also down well to keep out Hope.
Cornell was becoming a busy man between the sticks for Town and he produced his best save of the lot towards the end of the half, diving away to his right to parry Jamie Devitt's stinging first-time volley.
The half-time interval came at a good time for the Cobblers and within three minutes of the resumption, they hit the front.
Facey's cross was only half cleared to Bridge on the penalty spot and he lashed home via a deflection.
Town could have had a second 10 minutes later when Hoskins brilliantly spun his man and drove into the penalty box, only for Collin to tip his side-footed effort around the post.
But they didn't have to wait much longer to add a second to their tally and again it was Bridge on target, collecting Sam Foley's lay-off and picking out the far corner with pinpoint accuracy just past the hour-mark.
Carlisle had plenty of possession as they sought a way back into the contest, but the points were as good as settled with 17 minutes to go.
Bridge didn't score this one but he certainly made it, slipping through Morias with a well-judged pass and the substitute, only just introduced, did the rest, drilling a left-footed shot through the legs of Collin.
Not content with three, Town pushed for a fourth and they should have had it when a neat interchange put Daniel Powell through on goal, only for him to skew over the crossbar.
United had a couple of half chances in the final minutes but the game was up by that stage and the full-time whistle confirmed a terrific and important victory for the Cobblers.
Cobblers: Cornell, Pierre (c), Turnbull, J Williams,Facey, Cox (Buchanan 75), McWilliams, Foley, Bridge, Hoskins (Morias 63), A Williams (Powell 63)
Subs not used: Coddington, Odoffin, Bowditch, Roberts
Carlisle: Collin, Grainger (c), Liddle, Gerrard, Parkes, Devitt, Gillesphey (Bennett 73), Sowerby, Atuhu, McCarron (Simpson 63), Hope (Slater 90)
Subs not used: Miller, Kennedy, Jones, Gray
Referee: Lee Swabey
Carlisle fans: 484