Cobblers fly out of the blocks to stun MK and claim first league win of the season
Cobblers clinched their first three points of the season and their first victory under Rob Page with an absorbing, if at times nervy, 3-2 victory over rivals Milton Keynes Dons after an action-packed encounter at Sixfields.
Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, Northampton had raced into a 3-0 lead as Harry Beautyman’s bottom corner finish, Alex Revell’s excellent header and Matty Taylor’s exquisite free-kick put the rampant hosts in cruise control after only 27 minutes.
But although shambolic at the back, Dons posed a constant threat at the other end and set up an intriguing second-half through Dean Bowditch’s header on the stroke of half-time.
Dons proceeded to monopolise the ball in the second 45 minutes but for all their pressure and possession, Adam Smith was hardly tested and only Samir Carruthers’ stoppage time strike gave the scoreline a closer feel when in realty Town were more than worthy winners.
In the end, this was a deserved victory for Northampton who, despite looking out on their feet at times, dug deep and defended resolutely to keep Dons at bay, while always posing a threat at the other end.
The victory will come as a relief to Page who came into this game without a win inside 90 minutes as Cobblers manager, and it also extends the club’s unbeaten run to 30 league games, lifting them up to 11th in League One in the process.
Northampton were missing key duo John-Joe O’Toole and Gabriel Zakuani, but deadline day signing Paul Anderson was handed his debut by Page and Revell also started against his former club.
Set up 4-1-4-1 with Jak McCourt in the holding role, Northampton had to do plenty of chasing in the early moments as MK Dons, known for their patient possession style, saw lots of the ball and were content to build from the back.
But some shambolic defending from the visitors virtually gifted Town a ninth-minute opener.
McCourt was the architect as a crunching tackle on halfway won the ball back and he waltzed through some non-exsistent Dons defending to tee up Beautyman who, despite not connecting cleanly, found the bottom corner, beyond the despairing five of David Martin.
That livened up Sixfield and urged on by the now buoyant home fans, the rampant Cobblers didn’t need long to add to their lead.
Just four minutes later, Taylor whipped in a peach of a cross and there was Revell to find the bottom corner with a brillianty-guided header, and he kept to his word by celebrating despite this coming against his former club.
Only 13 minutes had passed at Sixfields but Northampton were already firmly in the driving seat as a visibly rattled Dons struggled to live with the home side’s hassling and harrying.
Town still had to be wary at the other end, though, against a Dons side who always posed a threat and the visitors should have halved the deficit on 20 minutes but Nicky Maynard shot straight at Smith after Lewin Nyatanga had slipped.
That seemed to be a sign that Dons were growing into the game as the away side enjoyed more possession, but then came the killer blow through a moment of magic from Taylor.
Cobblers won a free-kick right on the edge of the box and Taylor did the rest, curling a wonderfully-executed free-kick over the wall and into the top corner, leaving a statuesque Martin helpless.
That put Northampton in total control and they looked to be cruising to half-time but a lapse in concentration allowed Dons to pull a goal.
With the home side asleep, Dons took a short corner and Carruthers delivered a pinpoint cross which found an unmarked Bowditch who headed beyond Smith.
New boy Anderson came within inches of restoring Town’s lead when he swivelled and volleyed wide from eight yards out within moments, but MK Dons were the team very much on top going into half-time as they looked to pull another goal back.
They didn’t first it in the first-half, but it seemed just a matter of time before the visitors cut the deficit as they pushed and pushed and kept a visibly tiring Northampton team on the back foot.
But Town survived and they then had the perfect opportunity to put the game to bed when Kenji Gorre won a soft penalty under Bowditch’s challenge.
Taylor could not convert, though, as Martin pulled off an excellent save low down to his left and that gave Dons an extra lift as they went back in search of a second goal, with Smith beating away George Baldock’s swerving effort.
The visitors applied all the pressure but the Cobblers withstood the onslaught and again were only denied a fourth goal by Martin who produced a second fine save low down, this time turning Brendan Moloney’s left-footed effort around the post.
The final 10 minutes were almost exclusively played in the Northampton half but try as they might, Dons just couldn’t find a way through the home side’s packed defence and all Smith really had to do was pluck harmless crosses out of the air.
Carruthers did give the full-time scoreline a tighter look to it with an emphatic finish deep into stoppage time but, in truth, Northampton had done more than enough to earn a long overdue first victory of the season.
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan, Anderson (Hoskins 68), McCourt, Taylor, Beautyman, Gorre (Potter 68), Revell (Richards 90)
Subs not used: Cornell, McDonald, Byrom, Hooper
MK Dons: Martin, Baldock, Downing, Walsh, Lewington (c), Potter, Upson (Reeves 59), Carruthers, Bowditch, Colclough (Powell 71), Maynard (Agard 59)
Subs not used: Nicholls, GB Williams, Hendry, Thomas-Asante
Referee: David Webb
Dons fans: 1,269