Chukwuemeka bags the winner as Cobblers beat Birmingham in entertaining pre-season friendly

Northampton Town 3 Birmingham City 2

Saturday, 24th July 2021, 4:47 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th July 2021, 4:48 pm
Cobblers striker Nicke Kabamba was presented with a simple tap-in after a mistake by Birmingham goalkeeper Matija Sarkic. Picture: Pete Norton.

Caleb Chukwuemeka scored the winning goal as Cobblers chalked up an impressive 3-2 victory over Championship outfit Birmingham City in Saturday's richly-entertaining pre-season friendly at Sixfields.

Mitch Pinnock and Nicke Kabamba were on target in the first period but Birmingham struck at either end of the half to level things up after a very enjoyable opening 45 minutes.

City were largely dominant in the second-half and created plenty of chances, but Chukwuemeka's breakaway goal, admittedly with the help of a big deflection, proved the difference.

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There was lots to like about Town's play and whilst there are things to work on, particularly defensively, manager Jon Brady will feel his side are in a good place with two weeks to go until their Sky Bet League Two opener against Port Vale.

Friday's newest recruit Ali Koiki started at left-back and Brady also had Scott Pollock and Joseph Mills back available, with both on the bench, but Shaun McWilliams, Danny Rose, Sam Hoskins and Jack Sowerby all remained absent.

Blues boss Lee Bowyer picked a strong team and his side hit the front with just five minutes played courtesy of a fine solo goal by Ivan Sanchez as he cut in from the right, drove into the box and smashed a fierce shot past Jonny Maxted.

But Cobblers were back level within six minutes when Nicke Kabamba and Benny Ashley-Seal linked up excellently to play in Pinnock, who kept his cool and confidently fired past Matija Sarkic.

And Town completed the turnaround midway through the half, although they were given a huge helping hand when Blues goalkeeper Matija Sarkic got his attempted Cruyff turn all wrong and was tackled by Kabamba, who then had a simple tap-in.

Lucas Jutkiewicz glanced a header just wide but Birmingham created little else and were fortunate not to fall further behind after Pinnock's well-struck free-kick curled a fraction wide.

However, the visitors did haul themselves back level by half-time as a flying Jutkiewicz thundered home a header from Kristian Pedersen's left-wing cross.

Birmingham upped the intensity in the second-half and only Maxted's sharp reactions prevented a close-range header from finding the back of the net two minutes in.

Mills got his first run-out of pre-season when he was joined by Caleb Chukwuemeka and Michael Harriman off the bench 10 minutes into the second-half as Town switched to three at the back.

That seemed to do the trick and took the sting out of Birmingham, and it was Cobblers who struck next when, midway through the second period, Chukwuemeka embarked on a good run down the right flank before beating Sarkic via a deflection from the edge of the box.

City's set-pieces were a constant problem for the home side and Liam Roberts, on for Maxted, had to be at his best to make a superb close-range stop, with the follow-up header hitting the crossbar and landing on the roof of the net.

Birmingham carved out further chances but could not force the equaliser as Town came away victorious.

Cobblers: Maxted (Roberts 67), McGowan (Nelson 65), Horsfall, Guthrie (c), Koiki (Mills 55), Lewis (Pollock 74), Flores, Pinnock, Connolly (Harriman 55), Kabamba (Chukwuemeka 55), Ashley-Seal (Cross 76)

Subs not used: Dyche, Flanagan

Birmingham: Sarkic, Colin, Pedersen, Friend, Woods, Bela, Dean (c), Leko, Sanchez (Walker 75), Gardner, Jutkiewicz

Subs not used: Simmonds, Hurst, Trueman, Boyd-Munce, Browne

Referee: Andy Woolmer

Attendance: 3,698

Birmingham fans: 1,786