Hoskins the goal hero as Cobblers claim crucial win over Oxford United
Sam Hoskins scored the only goal of the game as Cobblers moved back out of the relegation zone with a vital and well-deserved 1-0 victory over Oxford United at the PTS on Tuesday.
Town improved out of sight from their performance against Crewe on Saturday and clinched three crucial points thanks to Hoskins' first goal since December, a well-taken strike into the bottom corner shortly after half-time.
The first-half was infinitely more enjoyable than anything that had been served up at the weekend, and Cobblers were a good match for their play-off chasing visitors, arguably creating the better chances.
It was goalless at the break but did not stay that way for long as Hoskins latched onto Danny Rose's header and brilliantly stroked the ball into the bottom corner.
Oxford struggled to respond and Town defended extremely doggedly to keep another clean sheet - their eighth of 2021 - to dent United's play-off hopes and move themselves two points above the bottom four, injecting new life into their survival bid.
Mickel Miller missed out with the hamstring injury that forced him off against Crewe at the weekend so Rose came in to lead the line and Hoskins moved out wide.
But Oxford made a fast start and were convinced they had taken a fourth-minute lead when Rob Atkinson's header looked very close to crossing the line before being smothered to safety by a combination of Ryan Watson and Jonathan Mitchell.
Set-pieces were causing all the early problems for Northampton and Atkinson swung his boot at another one with Lloyd Jones in the right place to make a vital block.
But Northampton grew into the game and were the better team for the final 25 minutes of the first-half with only the final ball lacking having worked themselves into some promising attacking positions.
The one time they did get it right, they were agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock as Hoskins' teasing low cross was only cleared as far as Mark Marshall who struck the post before Watson put the rebound into the side-netting.
Mitchell produced an excellent stop from Daniel Agyei at the other end before another enticing ball into the box by Hoskins was toed away by a defender just in the nick of time as Watson waited for a tap-in.
The second-half was slow to get going but Cobblers struck out of the blue 10 minutes in. Rose flicked on a long throw and Hoskins burst into the box before finding the bottom corner with a precise finish.
Oxford responded by making a triple change but it was Town who went close to a second goal when Watson was inches away from diverting in Fraser Horsfall's knockdown.
The visitors applied some late pressure but only managed a couple of half chances, both missed by Cameron Brannagan and Elliott Moore, and Cobblers dug deep to preserve another clean sheet and keep out of three valuable points.
Cobblers: Mitchell, Kioso, Horsfall, L Jones, Mills (c), McWilliams, Morris, Watson, Marshall (Korboa 85), Hoskins, Rose (Ashley-Seal 88)
Subs not used: Berry, Harriman, Bolger, A Jones, Edmondson
Oxford: Stevens, Ruffels, Moore (c), Gorrin (Sykes 65), Brannagan, Winnall (Barker 66), Forde, Agyei, Atkinson, Grayson (Hanson 65), Shodipo (Taylor 78)
Subs not used: Eastwood, Hall, Kelly
Referee: Christopher Pollard