The Cobblers rewrote modern club history with their win at Accrington on Saturday in what was their most convincing and impressive victory of the season.
It was a success which was especially satisfying because of the way the team adapted its playing style when shorthanded by the dismissal of Ryan Cresswell, and because they played for more than 50 minutes with only 10 men.
With a full complement of players, the team played their standard pressing and high-tempo game; they made a brisk start to the match and took a deserved lead through Ricky Holmes after only five minutes.
They selected their attacks very carefully after going in front but still played with pace and purpose and it was Holmes who created their second goal, bursting past his marker and going down in the box for a penalty which Marc Richards scored, despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Matt Macey.
Then, everything changed. A pass over the top caught the visiting defence square and the covering Cresswell clipped the heels of Sean Maguire to give Accrington a penalty and a route back into the game.
This should have been their cue to seize some momentum, and although they saw a little more of the ball, they didn’t really threaten Matt Duke’s goal.
Zander Diamond came on for John-Joe O’Toole to restore the back four and leave Richards as the sole forward but two things were noticeable after that point.
The first is that you didn’t even notice Northampton were playing with a man short (although it may have been even more of a massacre if O’Toole had been in the forward line; without him it was still a pretty savage beating).
The second is that the team’s tactics were absolutely spot on. There had been debate prior to the game about how the wide midfielders would be used in an away game and if their styles would be suited to a counter-attacking strategy.
It can be said with some certainty that those players, Holmes and Lawson d’Ath - who is the find of the season - do have the tactical intelligence to be able to play that way, and that bodes very well for a team which has, as a general rule, preferred to play on the break in their away games under Chris Wilder.
There were several historical statistics quoted after this game. It was the Cobblers’ biggest away win since the 4-0 at Maccelsfield in March 2004 (in which Richards incredibly scored all four goals) and it was the first time the club has scored five goals away from home since a 5-0 win at Chester City on the opening day of the 1987-88 season.
It also means the Cobblers are once again the leading goalscorers in Sky Bet League Two, with 45 goals in 28 and only 11 teams in the entire rest of the Football League have managed more than that.
Saturday’s result comes with something of a caveat in that Accrington did not play well at all, and their goalkeeper Macey turned in the kind of performance which will give him nightmares for weeks to come.
At the risk of putting a curse on it, it is hard to see how this Town side will lose a game - they are packed full of goalscoring capabilities and have a defensive resilience which was completely unaffected by the change from Cresswell to Diamond in the heart of the back four.
It will be important the team does not lose any more players to injury or suspension but, all of a sudden, this looks like a team capable of doing something truly remarkable this season.
January awards should be forthcoming to the manager and potentially one of the players. February’s fixtures look even kinder to the Cobblers. The march continues.
Did well to save the penalty and made one excellent save late on to ensure the four-goal margin of victory ...8
Played a much more defence-orientated game and did not look to overlap at all when the team was reduced to 10 men but was still quietly effective ...7
Had been playing superbly well until his sending-off, winning header after header and dominating his man. But the dismissal is a blot on the copybook for which he loses marks ...6
Is playing with a real consistency at the moment and negates the opposition’s attacking threat more through his unseen and off-the-ball work than through anything obvious ...7
Executed an identical individual strategy to Moloney and stayed solid in a rearranged and deeper-lying back four after the Cresswell dismissal ...7
For all of the side’s bright attacking play, the bedrock on which it is built is formed by Taylor, who remains as abrasive as ever off the ball and even claimed an assist for D’Ath’s first goal ...8
Continues to flourish alongside Taylor and although his set-piece delivery was not as accurate as it has been in recent weeks, his completion of the basics and positional play was top notch ...7
The find of the season; scored two well-taken goals here (plus an assist) to make it eight in 17 starts, all of them from midfield. The biggest challenge for Northampton will be keeping hold of him ...9 STAR MAN
Unfortunately sacrificed to maintain the back four but he had played his part to that point, although he was beginning to get a little hot under the collar ...7
Scored an excellent opening goal, won the penalty for the second and then provided an inch-perfect first-time pass with his weaker foot for D’Ath to score the fifth. Outstanding ...9
Took his penalty well and buried the chance which D’Ath created for him to take his tally to 15 for the season. Barring injury, should now easily clear the 20 mark ...8
ZANDER DIAMOND (for O’Toole 39)
Slotted into the back four seamlessly and barely put a foot wrong after being thrust in after Cresswell’s red card ...7
BILLY BODIN (for Holmes 83)
CHRIS HACKETT (for D’Ath 83)
Not used: Snedker, Carter, Tozer, Toney