Dramatic Taylor winner sends Bury down and keeps Cobblers' slim hopes alive
Ash Taylor scored a late, late winner as Cobblers ended their two-month wait for a win by beating Bury 3-2 at Gigg Lane on Saturday, a result which keeps alive their slim hopes of avoiding relegation.
As time ticked away, it seemed Northampton would be left to rue lapses of concentration in defence after twice surrendering a one-goal lead but captain Taylor came to the rescue, prodding home at the back post with three minutes remaining for his second goal of the day, sparking wild scenes among the 437 away fans who finally have some hope to cling to.
The defeat confirmed relegation for the rock-bottom Shakers but Town will be desperate to avoid the same fate, though wins for Rochdale and AFC Wimbledon elsewhere on Saturday, plus a draw for Oldham, leaves them possibly needing to win their final three games to remain a League One team.
In the bottom-of-the-table clash at Gigg Lane, Northampton undid a dream start when they allowed Peter Clarke to cancel out Taylor's sixth-minute opener but Sam Hoskins scored with his first touch of the game to hand the visitors a slender advantage going into half-time.
Danny Mayor brought Bury level for a second time but there was to be a sting in the tail thanks to Taylor, who ghosted in at the back post to turn home a floated cross and clinch Northampton's first victory since February 10 - some 11 games ago - and lift them above MK Dons to 22nd in the process.
Cobblers made four changes from their midweek defeat to Blackpool as Taylor returned from suspension, Daniel Powell started on the wing and Shaun McWilliams came into midfield while Jack Bridge made his full debut for the club.
Interestingly, Taylor captained the team despite the presence of usual club skipper David Buchanan at left-back as John-Joe O'Toole partnered Kevin van Veen in attack with Matt Crooks fit enough to make the bench.
The visitors made a positive start to this bottom-of-the-table clash and almost had the lead inside two minutes when Powell drove into the box and forced a low save from Joe Murphy, with the rebound narrowly eluding O'Toole.
Northampton were ahead with just six minutes on the clock with a goal that all started thanks to the tenacity of McWilliams. He won back possession in his own half, drove forward and started an attack that eventually led to a corner from which Taylor got the faintest of touches to direct Matt Grimes' delivery into the far corner, bamboozling the stranded Murphy.
It was just the start Town required but they were architects of their own downfall within five minutes when they gifted a goal back. Goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell flapped at a corner and his weak punch fell straight at the feet of Clarke, who had the easiest of tasks to tap into an empty net from under the crossbar.
Having barely had a kick up until that point, the equaliser got Bury going and they were sensing a swift second with George Miller out-muscling Leon Barnett and forcing O'Donnell into a decent save before Buchanan almost turned Danny Mayor's low cross into his own net.
With his side struggling, Austin made a surprising switch when he introduced Hoskins for van Veen on the half-hour mark but that decision was justified within 90 seconds courtesy of the substitute's very first touch.
Grimes was again the provider, picking the ball up front deep and marauding from one box to the other before slicing Bury's defence apart with an perfectly-weighted through pass that fell into the path of Hoskins, who found the bottom corner first-time.
O'Toole could have increased Town's advantage with two headed chances either side of half-time but he failed to convert either, nodding Buchanan's cross onto the base of the post and then flashing wide from Grimes' corner.
A flurry of chances fell Northampton's way around the hour-mark as Shay Facey and then Hoskins were close with vicious long-range attempts, both just off target, before Powell cut inside and saw his curling effort deflected over the crossbar.
The Cobblers looked to be comfortable with Bury not posing much of a threat but for the second time of the day, they presented their hosts with a gift of a goal. It came with 15 minutes remaining and Taylor was the man at fault, a poor pass in a dangerous area allowing Mayor to pick up possession, beat two defenders and then fire into the top corner.
A draw was simply not enough so Northampton had to go for all three points and they so nearly grabbed a third goal with five minutes remaining when Murphy beat away Matt Crooks' effort before Hoskins blazed the rebound over.
Just as it looked two points had been frittered away, Taylor redeemed himself three minutes from time in dramatic fashion. Powell did superbly to get to the byline and stand up a cross that sailed over everyone's head and landed at the feet of an unmarked Taylor, who kept his cool to turn home and clinch a thrilling and an absolutely vital victory.
Bury: Murphy, Thompson (Adams 72), Mayor, Edwards, Miller, Styles, Cooney, Danns (c), Clarke, Ismail (Dai 45), Hanson (Bunn 45)
Subs not used: Ripley, Tutte, Ince, Shotton
Cobblers: O'Donnell, Facey, Taylor (c), Barnett, Buchanan, Powell, McWilliams (Long 81), Grimes, Bridge (Crooks 67), O'Toole, van Veen (Hoskins 30)
Subs not used: Cornell, Turnbull, Whaler, Hoskins, Foley
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Cobblers fans: 437