Late strikes seal sweet success at Swindon as Cobblers go fourth in league one
Two goals in the final 14 minutes saw Cobblers clinch their first away league victory of the season and move up to fourth in the process as they showed all their battling qualities in a hard-fought 3-1 win over Swindon Town at the County Ground on Tuesday.
For much of this game Northampton were on the back foot and had to resist long spells of Swindon pressure, but the home side's lack of cutting edge proved their downfall.
The same could not be said of the Cobblers whose attacks were less frequent but more penetrating, and it all started on just seven minutes when the twinkle toes of Paul Anderson teed up Harry Beautyman for a simple tap-in.
Swindon replied with wave after after of attack and finally Northampton's resistance crumbled when Sean Murray drilled home a leveller midway through the second-half.
Most would have expected Swindon to go on and claim all three points, but in fact it was Northampton who upped their game and, aided by a couple of shrewd Rob Page substitutions, took victory.
John-Joe O'Toole headed home a corner to restore their advantage and the three points were sealed by Kenji Gorre.
Northampton lived on the edge at times and had to dig deep against a decent Swindon outfit but, as so often has been the case over the past 12 months, they came through to claim another impressive victory, one which maintains their superb start to the season.
Page had made just one change to the team that beat Southend on Saturday as Jak McCourt failed to recover from a knock in time to start, which meant Beautyman came into midfield.
An open, lively first few moments gave encouragement to both sides, and it was the visitors who made the dream start with a seventh-minute breakthrough.
Beautyman was the scorer but all the credit went to the dazzling footwork of Anderson as he produced a brilliant piece of skill to get away from his man on the left before driving to the touchline where he cut the ball back for Beautyman to slide into an empty net.
Swindon had edged possession prior to that and they responded to the goal by enjoying more of the ball as their patient build-up play culminated in Nathan Thomas sending a fizzing 30-yard drive a fraction over Adam Smith's crossbar.
Northampton were containing their hosts well whilst always looking capable of scoring on the counter-attack, however they were let off the hook midway through the first-half when John-Joe O'Toole sloppily gave the ball away and Conor Thomas slipped through Jon Obika who shot straight at Smith.
The home side were pressing for an equaliser and they looked set to find it just short of the half-hour mark, only to be denied some remarkable last-ditch defending coupled with Smith's brilliance in goal.
Johnny Goddard had the first chance but Smith anticipated superbly to race out and block at his feet, and the Cobblers keeper then thwarted Thomas' follow-up attempt before Obika and Goddard again both had efforts scrambled clear by frantic defending that was the very definition of last-ditch.
Somehow Northampton came through that flurry unscathed, although they were now having to withstand some heavy and persistent Swindon pressure with the home side not allowing their visitors to get out.
The hosts were getting plenty of joy down Northampton's left side but it was on the other flank where another chance arrived for Obika, who this time lifted over, and that allowed the visitors to somehow keep their lead intact at half-time.
But the break didn't do much to disrupt the flow of the match and still Swindon went forward in search of the equaliser, and still it remained elusive as Yaser Kasim volleyed wide from a corner.
Another wave of pressure ended with Norris heading straight at Smith, while a rare foray into Swindon territory almost brought Town a second goal as Matty Taylor's deflected effort wrong-footed Lawrence Vigouroux but dribbled an inch the wrong side of the post.
And that agonising miss looked to be a key moment when Swindon almost immediately levelled.
Midway through the half, Northampton failed to deal with an over-hit cross and the ball fell into the path of Murray who drilled a low effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards.
Swindon immediately went back on the attack as Darnell Furlong almost scored a screamer against his former club before a sweeping move ended with a shot looping narrowly over the bar.
At that point there only seemed one winner, that was until O'Toole had his say with 14 minutes remaining.
Northampton won a corner on the right and Taylor delivered one his trademark crosses that was just begging to be finished off - and that's exactly what O'Toole did, powering a header beyond the helpless Vigouroux.
That put Cobblers ahead for the second time and again their lead came under immediate threat when Swindon won a free-kick 25 yards from goal but Kasim's fine effort curled the wrong side of the post.
It seemed the final 10 minutes would all be about holding off sustained Swindon attacks, but Northampton got what just they needed on 82 minutes when a fine breakaway goal gave them breathing space.
Substitute JJ Hooper broke clear on the right, sent in a teasing low cross and a clever dummy from Alex Revell allowed Gorre all the time in the world at the back post to slot beyond Vigouroux and double the away side's advantage.
Swindon huffed and puffed some more in the remaining minutes but Northampton never once looked like throwing away a two-goal lead and they comfortably held on.
Swindon: Vigouroux, Furlong, Branco, Thompson, Jones (Murray 45), Ormonde-Ottewill, Kasim, Thomas, Goddard, Obika, Norris (Delfouneso 86)
Subs not used: Henry, Smith, Iandolo, Rodgers, Hylton
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan, Hoskins (Nyatanga 90), O'Toole, Beautyman (Hooper 74), Taylor, Anderson (Gorre 71), Revell
Subs not used: Cornell, Byrom, Sonupe, Richards
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Cobblers fans: 433