Cobblers five points clear as York are swept aside

DEADLOCK BROKEN - John-Joe O'Toole is mobbed by team-mates after scoring the Cobblers' first goal against York City (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
DEADLOCK BROKEN - John-Joe O'Toole is mobbed by team-mates after scoring the Cobblers' first goal against York City (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Cobblers resumed their march towards promotion on a windswept afternoon at Sixfields as they extended their lead at the top of League Two to five points with a comfortable 2-0 victory over 10-man York City.

The blustery conditions caused havoc throughout and could have acted as somewhat of a leveller between leaders Northampton and rock-bottom York, however Cobblers’ superior quality in the final third was the difference as Chris Wilder’s men quashed any fears that a two-week break from action might disrupt their momentum.

Chris Wilder tries to get his message across in the blustery Sixfields conditions

Chris Wilder tries to get his message across in the blustery Sixfields conditions

Instead, Town picked up from where they left off two weeks ago and John-Joe O’Toole got the ball rolling when diverting home Lee Martin’s corner before Marc Richards swept in a second shortly after half-time.

York were by no means outplayed and only a lack of quality in the final third prevented them from perhaps taking something from this game, however once Luke Hendrie was dismissed for a poor challenge on Ricky Holmes moments after Town’s second, their hopes of getting anything from the game were over.

Despite the elements, there were times when Town strung together some wonderful spells of play, Ricky Holmes and Lee Martin in particular linking up well, and the final scoreline could have been more one-sided on another day but two goals would suffice.

While rival teams elsewhere had been frustrated by the weather - Plymouth, Bristol Rovers and Oxford United all seeing their games postponed - the Cobblers were clinching another three points towards promotion with this win their sixth league victory in a row - the first time that has been achieved since 2000.

As well as being five points clear at the top, Northampton are also now an emphatic 14 ahead of fourth place.

There were no debuts for Luke Prosser or Danny Rose as Wilder named an unchanged line-up from the one which beat Morecambe two weeks ago.

York might have come into this game sitting bottom of League Two but it was they who had the game’s first clear-cut chance when the Cobblers were architects of their own downfall.

The visitors pressed hard in the early stages and forced Zander Diamond into a mistake on the edge of his own penalty area with the ball falling to Kenny McEvoy who found himself through on goal but Adam Smith was quick off his line to block before Rod McDonald cleared Luke Summerfield follow up effort off the line in an early let-off for Town.

The wind was causing all kinds of issues early on, especially for Northampton who were facing what felt like a hurricane at times as York’s best opportunities came from miscued Smith clearances.

But when Northampton were able to get the ball down and go forward, they gave York untold problems as James Collins had a shot blocked and Richards headed over in a good spell for the hosts who were gradually adapting to the conditions.

York weren’t afraid of getting forward either, though, and they came close again on 15 minutes when Brendan Moloney was in the right place to clear from under his own crossbar after McEvoy had got away on the right.

There was nothing between the teams in an even first 20 minutes but once the Cobblers were able to get to grips with the conditions, they increasingly threatened an opening goal.

A slick move almost ended in a maiden Northampton strike for David Buchanan, only for his effort to deflect wide, but the breakthrough followed shortly afterwards.

The Cobblers went through the gears and a sustained spell of possession culminated in the breakthrough as O’Toole neatly flicked home Martin’s whipped corner.

York didn’t go away, though, and came back through two Summerfield efforts, the first sailing over Smith’s goal before Moloney blocked his second.

In the main, however, most of the good play came from Northampton with Holmes and Martin exchanging a wonderful passage of play but the former’s fine cross went right across the face of goal and out for a throw.

A scrappy period ensued, not helped by a lengthy delay when a nasty injury was suffered by Diamond who was forced off and replaced by Ryan Cresswell after a clash of heads, but Richards then spurned a fine chance to double the lead when his header from Joel Byrom’s precise ball drifted agonisingly wide.

Another slick Cobblers move, again involving Martin and Holmes, then almost brought an own goal but Scott Flinders was there to collect and Town had to be content with just the one-goal advantage going into half-time.

Despite Northampton now kicking with the wind, the opening stages of the second half were dominated by York and the visitors looked for all the world to have made it 1-1 on two separate occasions.

First, on 50 minutes, Kyle Cameron’s header from a yard out somehow missed the target and that was followed by the defining 30 seconds of the game.

A York corner was swung in and a header appeared to be heading for the net but Cresswell cleared off the line and Northampton went straight up the other end to add a second.

Holmes led the break out, driving across the halfway line and with only two York players back, he played a simple ball through to Richards who cut inside and found the bottom corner with a delightful curled finish.

Things then turned from bad to worse for York when Hendrie was dismissed for a cynical challenge on Holmes and the away side’s bright start to the half seemed a distant memory.

To their credit, York continued to come forward and almost halved the deficit but Michael Coulson’s driving low effort skimmed wide of the post.

But leading 2-0 and with a man advantage, the game was now being dominated by the Cobblers who kept possession and patiently probed for a third, Holmes almost finding it with a fizzing shot following another smart one-two with Martin.

York’s work-rate could never be questioned, the visitors working hard to prevent an even heavier defeat, but the damage had already been done and Northampton were able to comfortably see out a deserved victory.

Match facts

Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond (Cresswell 37), McDonald, Buchanan, Holmes (Taylor 90), O’Toole, Byrom, Martin, Collins, Richards (c) (Adams 69)

Subs not used: Clarke, Prosser, Rose, Hoskins

York: Flinders, Hendrie (Satka 57), Winfield, Cameron, Ilesanmi, Penn, Coulson, Summerfield, McEvoy (Berrett 72), Dixon, Oliver

Subs not used: Carson, Massanka, Ingham, Fewster, Galbraith

Referee: Brendan Malone

Attendance: 5,342

York fans: 349