Northampton Town blow two-goal lead as Cheltenham take points

FLYING START - Adebayo Akinfenwa is all smiles after putting the Cobblers ahead after just 64 seconds (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
FLYING START - Adebayo Akinfenwa is all smiles after putting the Cobblers ahead after just 64 seconds (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Adebayo Akinfenwa scored his customary goal against Cheltenham but ended on the losing side as the Cobblers threw away a two-goal lead to sustain a third successive defeat.

The striker notched his 14th of the campaign and made it eight against the Robins after only 62 seconds of the game, tapping home from 10 yards after Emyr Huws had cut the ball back into the danger zone from the left-hand byline.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

They increased their lead to two with an own goal but third-placed Cheltenham wiped that out with a quickfire double and settled the contest with a well-executed Darryl Duffy goal on the break 10 minutes from time.

Akinfenwa’s goal was the perfect start for Town, lining up in an ambitious 4-3-3 formation with the ebullient Chris Hackett and the unpredictable Ishmel Demontagnac either side of the big striker.

They continued to play with pace and purpose but Lee Nicholls was required to make an excellent one-handed save to deny Keith Lowe with a flicked header that looked to have the goalkeeper beaten.

But shortly after, Town had their second, and from one of their trademark ‘bombs’, as described by Robins boss Mark Yates in the build-up to the game.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

Tozer launched a throw that Akinfenwa almost got on the end of but Alan Bennett did, skimming an unfortunate header that rebounded against left-back Billy Jones and trickled into the net.

Northampton tails were well and truly up at that point, typified by 17-year-old Lewis Hornby attempting to drive a chip over keeper Scott Brown from just inside the visitors’ half. It was saved - just about.

The tide started to turn, though, with Cheltenham’s goal on 25 minutes, which came after a neat piece of build-up play down the left resulting in a tap-in on the slide for central midfielder Darren Carter.

No more than 120 seconds later, they were on level terms, Chris Zebroski heading Jones’ free-kick with such power and accuracy that Nicholls stood no chance of keeping it out.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

After that, both sides struggled to impose anything like an authority on the game, with Cheltenham arguably playing the sharper, more uptempo football.

In Zebroski they had a player who used his wasp-like persistence and subtle movement to pull the home defence around, and his performance throughout the game was one to be admired.

Akinfenwa, who appeared to pick up a groin strain early in the second half, stuck to his task and saw a header smuggled off the goalline from Chris Hackett’s deep cross.

Then, from no more than six yards, he rattled the bar with an instinctive shot after a Tozer throw when he should have done better.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

Cobblers V Cheltenham Town.

The home side were in the ascendancy at that point, and looked to enhance their position by putting on Jake Robinson and Clive Platt to form a more central front trio.

Platt’s first touch was a good one, diverting a looped Hackett cross into the path of Harding, who took a touch but steered his shot awkwardly wide of the target.

With a quarter of an hour to go, Akinfenwa showed his taste for the acrobatic with a scissor kick that didn’t get the cleanest of connections but still required Brown to make a low save.

Cheltenham were playing almost exclusively on the break by that point and their decisive goal was scored in the blink of an eye.

Jake Taylor, who had enjoyed a strong game on the left of midfield, sliced a pass through the home defence and Duffy planted a shot inside Nicholls’ right-hand post with adroit skill.

Aidy Boothroyd’ frustration at conceding the goal manifested itself in a swipe that sent a water bottle flying into the west stand.

What looked like being a good afternoon for the supporters seated there turned out to literally be a damp squib.

Northampton: Nicholls, Tozer, Langmead, Carlisle, Widdowson, Huws, Harding, Hornby, Demontagnac, Akinfenwa, Hackett

Subs: Robinson (for Demontagnac 63), Platt (for Hornby 63), East (for Widdowson 81)

Not used: Charles, Snedker, Mukendi, Moult

Cheltenham: Brown, Lowe, Bennett, Elliott, Jones, Jombati, Penn, Carter, Taylor, Harrad, Zebroski

Subs: Mohamed (for Zebroski 73), Duffy (for Harrad 73), Pack (for Taylor 90)

Not used: Deering, McGlashan, Roberts, D’Ath

Attendance: 4625

Away fans: 264