Dons downed and O'Toole stars as Cobblers boost survival hopes with crucial win

TOP CORNER: Matt Grimes fired the Cobblers into a seventh-minute lead with this well-taken penalty. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
TOP CORNER: Matt Grimes fired the Cobblers into a seventh-minute lead with this well-taken penalty. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

John-Joe O'Toole grabbed three assists as Cobblers produced a terrific second-half performance to bounce back to winning ways with an excellent and crucial 3-1 victory at relegation rivals AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.

It wasn't always vintage, and there were times when Town had to dig in, but in the end they were also full value for all three points after a fine second-half performance as they registered their fourth win in six league games to move up to 18th and three points above the drop zone.

Cobblers celebrate their opener

Cobblers celebrate their opener

The first-half, played in drizzly, damp conditions, was hardly one for the purist with attacks constantly breaking down as both teams struggled to find their passing radars, but Northampton held sway at the interval through Matt Grimes' well-taken penalty on seven minutes.

Deji Oshilaja headed Dons level straight after the restart but that was as good as it for the home side who had no answer to the Cobblers thereafter as the visitors went through the gears. Matt Crooks swept home a well-worked second and Daniel Powell capped an even better move to score a third, putting on the gloss on a rare away win.

Scores elsewhere mean Town aren't out of immediate danger but with MK Dons losing and Wallsall drawing at Blackpool, they have increased reason for optimism that they will remain a League One outfit next season, especially if they play like they did at Kingsmeadow in a regular basis.

The headline team news saw a first Cobblers start for striker Kevin van Veen as manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink stuck to his word and freshened things up following last week's disappointing home defeat to Rochdale.

John-Joe O'Toole won Town's penalty

John-Joe O'Toole won Town's penalty

Making four changes in all, Powell and Sam Hoskins also came in and started on the flanks while Brendan Moloney replaced the injured Shay Facey at right-back.

Kicking intro a strong wind in the first-half, the Cobblers were fortunate not to be behind inside two minutes when Liam Trotter's knockdown fell at the feet of Joe Pigott who, with no visiting defender anywhere near him, horribly skewed high and wide from six yards.

Piggott was made to pay for that miss just five minutes later when Town opened the scoring in controversial fashion. After Hoskins tried and failed to turn Powell's wayward shot into the net, O'Toole pounced on the loose ball and attempted to get a shot off but he was dragged to floor in the process with referee Carl Boyeson immediately pointing to the spot.

There was a long delay between the awarding and taking of the spot-kick as the home side's players and fans argued with the decision but it did not put off Grimes who made no mistake from 12 yards, emphatically smashing into the top corner to leave goalkeeper George Long with no chance.

Despite being behind on the scoreboard, Dons enjoyed the better of the play and had more possession in the first-half but Piggott's chance remained their only clear sight of goal, with Town a constant threat on the counter-attack.

Several times they almost got in but John-Joe O'Toole, Joe Bunney and Matt Crooks all wasted promising positions while Hoskins might have squared for van Veen instead of shooting from an acute angle, with Long turning behind for a corner.

Dons barely had an attempt of note throughout the first-half but they needed only two minutes of the second to get back on level terms. On the front foot from the restart, they won a succession of corners and Town didn't deal with the last of those as Lyle Taylor's wicked delivery was nodded in at the back post by Oshilaja.

But seeing their lead wiped out only encouraged Northampton on and they stepped it up up a notch to enjoy their best spell of the game. While chances remained at a premium, they were a consistent threat every time they crossed halfway and that was underlined just pass the hour-park.

This time, the Cobblers capitalised on one of their many forays forward when Hoskins and O'Toole linked up on the right flank before the latter squared to the arriving Crooks, who swept a crisp finish into the bottom corner.

With their lead restored, Northampton set about doubling it against a Dons side who appeared to have lost their way and, with 18 minutes remaining, they got the crucial third goal. It was the best of the lot too as Crooks, who had been outstanding for much of the game, led a break from inside his own half and it was taken on by O'Toole who in turn found Powell. Cutting inside from the left, Powell then placed a delicate low shot in off the far post to give Town breathing space.

Wimbledon hadn't totally given it up and a series of late crosses and corners caused problems for Town as Richard O'Donnell produced two sharp saves, first from Taylor's long-range attempt and then Trotter's close-range effort while another set-piece had the visitors scrambling a shot off the line.

But Northampton weathered that storm and then comfortably saw out five minutes of added time to register three priceless points.

Wimbledon: Long, Fuller (c), Francomb, Oshilaja, Charles, Forrester (Kaja 76), Trotter, Soares (Abdou 76), Pigott, Taylor, Barcham

Subs not used: McDonnell, Meades, Robinson, McDonald, Parrett

Cobblers: O'Donnell, Moloney, Taylor (c), Turnbull, Bunney, Grimes, Crooks (Foley 84), O'Toole, Powell (Pereira 89), Hoskins, van Veen (Long 78)

Subs not used: Cornell, Barnett, McWilliams, Ariyibi

Referee: Carl Boyeson

Attendance: 4,485

Cobblers fans: 741