O'Toole at the double as Cobblers ease past Chesterfield

Cobblers players celebrate John-Joe O'Toole's opening goal (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Cobblers players celebrate John-Joe O'Toole's opening goal (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

John-Joe O'Toole hit a first-half double as Cobblers clinched three vital points on Saturday when they beat fellow strugglers Chesterfield 3-1 on a dreary afternoon at Sixfields.

With the pressure very much on coming into this game, the Cobblers knew nothing short of victory would suffice, particularly given fixtures elsewhere, and a first-half brace from O'Toole was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Justin Edinburgh enjoys watching his team get the better of Chesterfield

Justin Edinburgh enjoys watching his team get the better of Chesterfield

Both of his goals came from close-range, albeit in different circumstances, before Marc Richards added a third shortly after a restart and despite David Faupala's goal rekindling hope for the Spireites, Northampton were able to hold on for a much-needed win.

With Bury, Shrewsbury and Oldham all victorious elsewhere, the Cobblers have only extended the gap back to relegation by one point but that doesn't take anything away from the importance of Saturday's victory, just their second at home since October.

And Town were full value for the spoils, even if there were some nervy second-half moments, and if they can notch another three points at home to lowly Swindon on Tuesday, things will suddenly look a great deal brighter.

With Luke Williams unable to shake off a knee injury picked up at Walsall last weekend, Edinburgh was forced into just the one change for the visit of Chesterfield as loanee Michael Smith came in for his first Cobblers start.

John-Joe O'Toole watches his header hit the back to the Chesterfield net

John-Joe O'Toole watches his header hit the back to the Chesterfield net

Again adopting a diamond formation in midfield, with Keshi Anderson this time at the point, Northampton shaded a cagey opening to the game and were first to get a shot away with good work from Neal Eardley, continued by Anderson, leading, to Marc Richards firing straight at Lloyd Allinson.

Richards almost latched onto a Hiram Boateng through ball moments later before the Cobblers had the lead their bright start had warranted.

After Chesterfield were unable to clear a corner, Boateng picked up possession on the right and delivered a superb cross which was guided into the bottom corner by O'Toole's well-placed glancing header.

Buoyed by the goal and an early lead, Town remained in the ascendancy for the moments immediately after the goal although their grip on the game loosened as the half progressed, with Adam Smith called into action for the first time to deny Dion Donohue.

Chesterfield boss Gary Caldwell shows his frustration

Chesterfield boss Gary Caldwell shows his frustration

O'Toole headed Matty Taylor's cross high and wide but Northampton attacks were becoming more sporadic as first-half wore on, with the visitors encouraged to come forward and control possession without posing much of a goal threat.

Nevertheless, with half-time fast approaching, it was the Cobblers doubled their advantage with a timely second.

It came in scrappy fashion but Town cared not, O'Toole using his thigh to deflect the ball into the net after Anderson's shot had deflected into his path.

That was enough to put Northampton in the driving seat at half-time, however Chesterfield could and perhaps should have slashed the lead within seconds of the kick-off when Liam Grimshaw was put through on goal but Smith did well to push the ball wide and see off the danger.

And from nearly being back in the game at 2-1, the Spireites found themselves 3-0 behind almost instantly. After winning a free-kick on the right, Taylor's whipped in cross was diverted home by Richards' header, which squirmed through Allinson.

But any thoughts that it would now merely be a case of how many Northampton would rack up were quashed just five minutes later when Chesterfield pulled a goal back and ignited hopes of a comeback.

It was created by an excellent bursting run from Donohue who broke through midfield and released Faupala on goal and he clinically blasted beyond Smith.

That gave the visitors renewed hope and they proceeded to have the better of it thereafter against a Northampton side who seemed to have lost their way somewhat since being pegged back.

That said, they did have chances to restore their three-goal cushion with an unmarked Richards just unable to reach Anderson's threaded pass before Smith's low shot from 18 yards whistled wide.

Grimshaw and substitute Ched Evans sent long-range efforts off target for the Spireites before Northampton had a strong case for a penalty turned down despite Allinson seemingly dragging Richards to the floor inside the box.

David Buchanan, of all people, went close to a fourth with a crisply-struck right-footed attempt that had Allinson diving at full-length to tip wide and despite Chesterfield's best efforts, the home side held on to the victory.

Match facts

Cobblers: Smith, Eardley, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan, Taylor, O'Toole, Boateng (P Anderson 87), K Anderson (Wylde 84), Smith, Richards

Subs not used: Cornell, McDonald, Phillips, McCourt, Beautyman

Spireites: Allinson, Jones (Mitchell 45), Evatt (c), Gardner (Martinez 45), Faupala, Nolan, Donohue, Dennis (Evans 62), Anderson, Grimshaw, El Fitouri

Subs not used: Hird, Brown, Duke

Referee: Richard Clark

Attendance: 5,824

Chesterfield fans: 452