Cobblers produced their most fluent and accomplished performance of pre-season to date when they eased to a 3-0 victory over Barnet at the PTS Academy Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The first-half yielded plenty of positives for manager Dean Austin who would have been particularly encouraged by some of the slick football on display from his side as Andy Williams and Sam Hoskins applied deft finishes to well-worked moves to hand Town a 2-0 half-time lead.
Shaun McWIlliams, who was typically tenacious in midfield, and Williams were the outstanding individual performances and though the Cobblers were less dominant in the second period, a sensational late volley from substitute Billy Waters was a stylish way for them to put the gloss on the victory.
There were some notable absentees from the team sheet, including the likes of Kevin van Veen, John-Joe O'Toole and Shay Facey, but it was all part of the plan as Austin used the visit of National League side Barnet to hand several players their first full 90 minutes for the first time in pre-season.
Those players included Ash Taylor, Aaron Pierre and David Buchanan, and it was a strong opening from Town who appeared certain to take an early lead just a few minutes in when Andy Williams tricked his way into the box and took aim but goalkeeper Mark Cousins stuck out a right paw at the last minute to tip his effort onto the post.
Cousins recovered well to make up for his poor clearance and keep out Hoskins' audacious lob, but there was little he could do about the home side's opener when Hoskins' pinpoint cross found Williams and he couldn't miss, steering his free header into the bottom corner from inside the six-yard box.
Young Sean Whaler, who started on the right-flank had the crowd applauding when his silky touch and driving run brought a decent save from Cousins before Northampton doubled their advantage with an excellent second goal.
Hoskins applied the finishing touch, neatly poking beyond Cousins and into the bottom corner from eight yards out, but he owed much of the credit to the vision and quality of Matt Crooks whose terrific threaded through ball took out the entire Barnet defence.
A dipping 20-yard volley from Williams crashed against the crossbar as the Cobblers threatened to add a third before half-time, and there was no let-up in their play in the early stages of the second-half when Whaler shot too close to Cousins and Crooks clipped the crossbar with a cheeky chip.
Cobblers missed numerous chances on the break to put the game to bed, including a four-on-one opportunity, but their two-goal cushion rarely came under threat as the back four, solid throughout, mopped up what little pressure Barnet exerted.
The game appeared to be fizzling out in the vein of many previous pre-season friendlies but Waters added a late dose of outrageous quality when sending a venomous volley into the net, via both crossbar and post, having brilliantly brought down Taylor's long ball.
Cobblers: Cornell, Odoffin (Waters 66), Taylor (c), Pierre, Buchanan, Bridge, S McWilliams, Crooks, Whaler (C McWilliams 71), Hoskins, A Williams
Subs not used: Goff, J Williams, Roberts
Barnet: Cousins, Tutonda (Payne 76), Johnson, Adams (Barham 89), Coulthirst, Sparkes (Mason-Clark 45), Boucaud, Fonguck, Trialist (Kyei 84), Walker (Tarpey 45), Sweeney (c)
Subs not used: Taylor, Azaze
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Barnet fans: 46