Brilliant Cobblers keep survival hopes alive with impressive win over Plymouth
Cobblers produced their best performance of the season by a million miles to stun promotion-chasing Plymouth Argyle and revive their survival hopes at a boisterous Sixfields on Saturday afternoon.
The final 2-0 scoreline goes no way to accurately reflecting just how dominant and how brilliant Town played, as they utterly bossed this game from the first whistle to the last, with Plymouth goalkeeper Remi Matthews arguably man of the match having pulled off a raft of spectacular saves.
The opening 45 minutes were up there with one of the best and most impressive halves of football the Cobblers have produced all season long as they dominated their seventh-placed, play-off chasing visitors.
Creating the three clearest chances, they eventually took one to lead at half-time when John-Joe O'Toole poked in Daniel Powell's drilled cross on the cusp of the break.
It was more of the same in the second period and an own goal from Zak Vyner was the least Town warranted for their superior play after Argyle had been run ragged all game, with the visitors only forcing home goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell into his first real save in stoppage-time.
It was a spectacular display and a tremendous atmosphere to go with it, and with Walsall, Rochdale, MK Dons and Oldham all failing to win elsewhere, all of a sudden the Cobblers have a hope again.
They are two points from safety and two wins from their final two - against relegation rivals Walsall and Oldham - will more than likely be enough to keep them in Sky Bet League One, something which looked almost impossible just a week ago.
Dean Austin made two changes to the team which beat Bury, as Sam Hoskins was given another go up front after his goal at Gigg Lane and fit-again Matt Crooks started on the right side of midfield, with Kevin van Veen and Jack Bridge dropping to the bench.
The game took a while to get going in terms of goalmouth action, but the Cobblers made a positive, purposeful start as they harried and hassled their visitors who were on the back foot.
The only chance of the opening half-hour fell the home side's way when Hoskins, instead of passing to one of his unmarked team-mates, dragged a shot well wide from 20 yards.
Plymouth offered little threat going forward and though chances did not arrive by the bucketload, the game was being run by Town who continued to press high and tactic should have paid dividends.
Pilgrims skipper Gary Sawyer, under pressure, gifted possession straight to Hoskins but the striker, clean through on goal, hesitated and shot straight at Remi Matthews.
Matt Grimes' subsequent corner almost snuck in at the back post before Ash Taylor pulled off a crucial block at the other end as they game spluttered into life.
The atmosphere was a world away from previous home games at Sixfields with fans getting right behind their team, and they were given plenty of encouragement in return, none more so than three minutes before the break.
Hoskins squandered his third good chance of the half when again thwarted by Matthews from close-range but it was all forgotten seconds later.
Powell picked up the loose ball, drilled in a low cross and O'Toole was on hand to poke into the bottom corner.
O'Donnell, a virtual spectator in the first-half, was called into action early in the second when blocking with his feet as Plymouth came out with more impetus and urgency.
But Cobblers continued to carry the greater threat, carving out two opportunities themselves with Grimes scuffing wide form the edge of the box and Matthews using his legs to keep out Hoskins from an acute angle.
The Pilgrims goalkeeper was once again Town's nemesis when he produced his best save of the lot from Crooks shortly before the hour-mark.
Having been teed up by fine work by Hoskins, Crooks looked to have done everything right only for Matthews to react brilliantly and palm his shot away.
The subsequent corner also created problems in the visiting defence before the Cobblers finally had the second goal their play so richly deserved.
Powell was again the provider and there was little Matthews could do about this one when his low cross was turned into his own net by defender Vyner.
The Cobblers weren't done there, and but for another fine intervention from Matthews they would have had a third through the excellent Powell, whose brilliant first touch from O'Toole's pass took him away from the visiting defence and into the box before firing in a low shot.
Hoskins headed fractionally wide from the following corner while Plymouth's first shot on target came on 73 minutes when Oscar Threkeld saw his shot turned behind by O'Donnell.
O'Donnell also held Ruben Lameiras' well-hit long-range attempt but Matthews remained the busier of the two goalkeepers and he added another impressive save to his collection when beating out O'Toole's header from point-blank range.
Plymouth tried everything to get back into the game, but the Cobblers refused to buckle and with O'Donnell making a terrific save in stoppage-time, the hosts held on for three priceless points, the full-time whistle generating the loudest roar heard at Sixfields all season.
Cobblers: O'Donnell, Facey, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan, Crooks (Foley 78), McWilliams, Grimes, Powell, O'Toole, Hoskins (Long 85)
Subs not used: Cornell, Moloney, Turnbull, Bridge, van Veen
Plymouth: Matthews, Sawyer (c), Ness, Bradley, Threlkeld, Vyner, Lameiras, Fox (Ainsworth 77), Paton (Sarcevic 52), Carey, Grant (Fletcher 84)
Subs not used: Miller, Songo'o, Taylor-Sinclair, Letheren
Referee: Lee Collins
Plymouth fans: 1,452