Cobblers suffer Sixfields defeat as high-flying Portsmouth cruise to victory
The groundstaff had done an sterling job to get the game on following freezing overnight temperatures but Jon Brady must have wished they never bothered as his side were out-of-sorts and slumped to their first league defeat since October.
Cobblers were off the pace pretty much from the word go and Portsmouth had the quality to make them pay with goals from Sean Raggett and Paddy Lane easing the title-chasing visitors into a 2-0 lead at the break.
Brady’s men were lacking their usual energy and intensity, perhaps a result of their exertions in midweek, and Lane’s second straight after half-time put the result beyond doubt and the visitors then coasted through the rest of the game with complete ease.
It's still been a good week for the Cobblers after wins against Cambridge and Blackpool but Brady will be keen to ensure this performance and result is nothing more than an aberration ahead of an important game against Fleetwood next weekend.
Patrick Brough returned for the suspended Akin Odimayo at left-back in the only change from Tuesday’s win against Blackpool, and Cobblers were the first to take a shot at goal with Mitch Pinnock’s long-ranger gathered by Will Norris on two minutes.
Norris also held Sam Hoskins’ rasping effort from the corner of the penalty box, but Cobblers found themselves trailing after 12 minutes when Portsmouth won a contentious corner and Raggett had too much room at the back post to head in Sparkes’ delivery.
Cobblers were causing problems in attack as Hoskins and Kieron Bowie threatened with half chances, but they looked vulnerable at the back and Portsmouth should have doubled their lead when Jordan Willis lost possession, however Kusini Yengi could only hit the crossbar after rounding Max Thompson.
Town just weren’t at the races and Pompey had too much quality not to take advantage, with Lane duly doubling their lead by latching onto Christian Saydee’s through ball on 26 minutes and lifting over the onrushing Thompson, who should have stayed on his line.
Portsmouth were threatening to run riot and Aaron McGowan blocked from Saydee after more slack defending before Northampton’s best chance of the first half was headed wide by Bowie.
Brady introduced Louis Appéré and returning skipper Jon Guthrie for Willis and Pinnock at the break, but his side conceded another poor goal just three minutes into the second half when Jack Sowerby’s ill-advised dummy set up a counter-attack and Lane was unmarked at the back post to score his second.
As well as struggling defensively, Cobblers weren’t able to anything with their occasional opportunities at the other end and another tame shot from Hoskins was straightforward for Norris.
Portsmouth were now in cruise control and Lane had a chance to complete his hat-trick but shot straight at Thompson, and from then on the game petered out and the visitors cruised to a routine away victory.
Cobblers: Thompson, McGowan ©, Willis (Guthrie 45), Sherring, Brough, Sowerby (Hondermarck 77), McWilliams, Leonard, Pinnock (Appéré 45), Hoskins, Bowie Subs not used: Dadge, Monthé, Haynes, Simpson
Portsmouth: Norris, Rafferty, Raggett, Shaughnessy, Sparkes, Robertson (Stevenson 84), Pack ©, Kamara (Whyte 89), Saydee (Devlin 72), Lane (Martin 83), Yengi. Subs not used: Schofield, Swanson, Towler
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Portsmouth fans: 1,454