Cobblers up and running after Crooks and Waters end Colchester's unbeaten start
Cobblers registered their first win of the season when second-half goals from Matt Crooks and Billy Waters ended Colchester United's unbeaten start to the campaign with a 2-1 victory at the JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday.
The win was deserved as it was important as Crooks fizzed home the opener on 48 minutes before Waters' stoppage-time tap-in wrapped up all three hugely precious points, despite Aaron Pierre's own goal creating some unwelcome late tension.
The first-half was a marked improvement on the dismal efforts at Morecambe in midweek but, despite being the superior team for much of it, Town again left their shooting boots at home with United thankful to get into the break on level terms.
Eventually, though, the visitors found a way past Dillon Barnes in the home goal courtesy of Crooks' fine low finish before Waters bagged his first goal for the club late on as Cobblers restricted their free-scoring hosts to impressively few chances throughout the game.
The win comes as some long overdue relief and cheer for Town's long-suffering fans, and what will further please manager Dean Austin is that it came at the expense of an in-form Colchester side who were tipped by many to challenge for promotion this season.
After hinting in the week that he'd shake things up on the back of Tuesday's defeat at Morecambe, Austin settled on three changes for the trip to Essex with Junior Morias and Jack Bridge handed their first league starts of the season and Aaron Pierre coming back in alongside captain Ash Taylor at the heart of defence.
Colchester named the same side that put six past Crewe in midweek but they were under immediate pressure and it took barely 30 seconds for Morias to get involved as he picked up possession 30 yards from goal and slipped in Kevin van Veen, who fired just over the angle of post and bar.
Town, despite their indifferent form so far this season, started positively and another opportunity came their way on nine minutes when Crooks led a counter-attack and played a one-two with van Veen before squaring to Bridge whose shot was gathered at the second attempt by Barnes.
Brennan Dickensen got his attempt all wrong when unmarked on the penalty spot in United's first and only chance of the first-half, but Town continued to press as Sam Hoskins turned his marker one way and then the other to make room for a shot which he dragged wide of the far post.
Colchester ever so slowly took a grip of possession and came more into the game, but Town posed a threat every time they ventured forward and more good play presented a decent opening for Sam Foley, who took down Bridge's pinpoint cross and volleyed off target.
That was the last notable action of the opening period but Town did not have to stew on their missed chances for long as they struck within three minutes of the resumption.
The goal was all about the class and quality of Crooks as he chested the ball down on the halfway line, drove at a back-peddling United defence and then lashed a laser-like shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Van Veen almost scored a fine individual goal of his own after dancing past the home defence and into the box but he couldn't get the shot away in time, and then Crooks almost scored from the exact same spot as earlier, Barnes pushing his fierce effort around the post.
Having registered only one shot of note up to this point, United made a couple of changes just past the hour-mark and they would have paid dividends within moments if not for David Cornell who was at full length to superbly tip Harry Pell's header wide.
Pell curled a free-kick just the wrong side of the post and Cobblers were living more and more dangerously with only the crossbar - and possibly Cornell's finger-tips - preventing substitute Luke Norris from making an instant impact.
Space was opening up on the break and van Veen was denied by Luke Prosser's goal-line clearance having been slipped through by replacement Andy Williams before John-Joe O'Toole, also just on as a sub, was nudged to the ground as he attempted to steer home Crooks' cross, though no penalty was forthcoming.
On this occasion, however, Town would not be made to regret what could have been as a well-worked move ended with Williams' cross-cum-shot being turned in at the back post by Waters to wrap up three oh-so precious points, even if Pierre's own goal deep into stoppage-time made for an anxious final few seconds.
Colchester: Barnes, Jackson, Kent, Prosser (c), Vincent-Young (Eastman 63), Lapslie, Pell, Senior (Mandron 63), Szmodics, Dickenson, Nouble (Norris 78)
Subs not used: Ross, Comley, Wright, Collins
Cobblers: Cornell, Facey, Taylor (c), Pierre, Buchanan, Foley, Crooks, Bridge (Waters 73), Hoskins, Morias (Williams 73), van Veen (O'Toole 82)
Subs not used: Ward, Odoffin, Barnett, Bowditch
Referee: Alan Young
Cobblers fans: 480