Curle: Cobblers 'emptied the tank' to pull off FA Cup upset - verdict, reaction and highlights

Even if there is some truth in the theory that Cobblers produce their best against superior opposition, surely no-one could have foreseen this stunning display and entirely merited 4-2 victory as a shell-shocked Burton Albion were sent spiralling out of the FA Cup.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 9:52 am
Updated Monday, 6th January 2020, 11:06 am
A chuffed Keith Curle!

After an excellent run of form in October and November, one or two doubts had just started to creep back in during a sticky Christmas period when Town needed late goals to beat Stevenage and draw with Mansfield, either side of their poor defeat at Crawley.

But if there were any doubts, they were emphatically quashed by this memorable day out in Staffordshire. Both on the pitch and in the stands, it was as good as it gets.

Town have claimed some impressive victims this season but none rank as high as the League One Brewers who, currently mid-table in the division above, are a fine team and had the added advantage of playing on home turf.

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But once again Keith Curle devised a gameplan to take down supposedly superior opposition and his players did everything asked of them in response. They tackled, they defended, they were organised, they were clinical in attack and, most importantly, they worked their socks off.

"You could see when the lads came off the pitch they had emptied the tank and that's the minimum the travelling supporters deserved," said Curle afterwards.

"It was always going to be a difficult game so we knew we had to make sure we gave it absolutely everything and didn't leave anything in the changing room."

This was easily Northampton's best display of the season and perhaps their best since Chris Wilder was manager.

It's hard to believe that seven of the players who started against Burton on Sunday also started the 4-0 defeat at Crawley Town just two weeks ago.

The Cobblers were unrecognisable from that rabble of a performance. Every player - and fan - played their part on a memorable afternoon for the club.

People have questioned the style of play under Curle, particularly in recent weeks, but they had subtlety to match their physicality at the Pirelli Stadium, scoring some nice goals to complement their usual set-piece threat.

The bulk of the damage was done prior to half-time when Cobblers, remarkably, found themselves three goals to the good before the 45-minute mark.

Nicky Adams applied a controlled finish after Vadaine Oliver caused chaos from a throw-in, Sam Hoskins delivered a superb cross that was headed in by the excellent Ryan Watson and then Adams turned provider as captain Charlie Goode nodded home from a corner.

Even when Ryan Edwards pulled one back in first-half stoppage-time, the visitors didn't panic. They reassessed at the break, survived an early scare when Liam Boyce hit the bar and then defended superbly to limit Burton to very little.

And then came the crucial moment. Just as the hosts looked to turn the screw, the tireless Paul Anderson broke from midfield, picked out the equally tireless Oliver and in turn he teed up Hoskins who slotted into the bottom corner.

That allowed the previously nervous - but always noisy - 1,400 away fans a chance to enjoy and savour the final 20 minutes. They could even enjoy Scott Fraser's stoppage-time strike that was no more than a consolation for the beaten hosts.

"Burton started well but Nicky's goal came just at the right for us and then the second goal was vitally important," added Curle.

"The third one was the icing on the cake in the first-half and the only disappointing thing was them scoring in the 45th minute which gave them belief and a foothold in the game.

"You're always wary and the next goal in the second-half is vital because if they get it back to 3-2 they have a head of steam and it can turn into a difficult evening for you.

"They had the lion's share of possession but we got the fourth goal and then it's a case of believing and understanding in our shape out of possession and trying to get more goals in the counter-attack.

"The whole club can be very proud."