Extra set-piece work pays dividends for Curle as Cobblers 'beat up' Crewe - reaction and highlights
One quick glance at the scoreline would suggest the Cobblers were comfortable and routine winners when beating Crewe Alexandra 4-1 on Saturday but, as manager Keith Curle later admitted, that was not necessarily the case.
The timings of Town's three first-half goals - scored in the 10th, 18th and 24th minutes - would also suggest they had it easy but for anyone in attendance at the PTS Stadium, this was a frenetic, breathless and surprisingly even encounter, at least for the first hour.
Crewe's slick passing and clever movement in the final third caused plenty of problems and the statistics reflect as much - they took 22 shots to Cobblers' 17 - but ultimately they fluffed their lines in front of goal while Northampton, and Scott Wharton in particular, didn't.
Wharton broke his Cobblers duck with two very different finishes before Sam Hoskins squeezed in a spot-kick and though Chris Porter eventually took one of Crewe's numerous opportunities, the fizz disappeared from their play and chances of a comeback dramatically diminished.
Once Andy Williams produced a fabulous lob for a fourth shortly after half-time, the game was up and Cobblers, scoring four goals at home for the first time in over three years, duly clinched their fifth win in six games and a third straight home victory.
"It could have been 3-3 in the first-half because they're a good team playing with confidence," admitted Curle. "But we took our opportunities, we were clinical and I thought we were strong and we were physical."
And the revelation that Curle had done extra work on set-pieces prior to the game didn't come as any surprise to those who watched on as the Cobblers physically overwhelmed their visitors.
"We knew we could cause them problems from set-pieces so we paid an extra bit of attention to that department and to the movement and to the roles the players had.
"When everybody's on the same page, it's very pleasing and that was probably the frustrating thing in the FA Cup last week because the different elements in some of our set-plays weren't right.
"The timing has to be right, the starting positions have to be right and the movements have to be right but last week the timing wasn't right, the delivery wasn't right and the starting positions weren't right.
"But on Saturday we were all on the same page and the rewards were there for us."
Wharton, whose second goal would have made a Premier League striker proud let alone a League Two centre-back, also spoke of the effective gameplan devised by Curle and his coaching team.
He said: "We had a gameplan going into the match because we knew Crewe are good on the ball and they like to have possession and they're a team that want to get the ball down and play.
"So we had a gameplan to deal with that and we stuck to it and we knew with Willo and Vadaine up top we could physically try and beat them up.
"I thought we did that, especially in the first-half. I thought we looked really strong and it was a great win."