Magnificent Cobblers hit four to leave Burton stunned in superb FA Cup victory
Cobblers romped into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a stunning 4-2 upset of League One Burton Albion on a memorable Sunday afternoon at the Pirelli Stadium.
It's the first time in 16 years Town have reached this stage of the competition and they did so with a sensational away performance that left the dumbfounded Brewers with no answers.
A breathless first-half was fitting of a proper cup tie and Cobblers produced a near-flawless display, from all 11 men, to race into a 3-0 lead over their shell-shocked hosts.
Nicky Adams' nice finish on 10 minutes got the ball rolling, Ryan Watson headed in a second and Charlie Goode put the superb visiting fans in dreamland with a third.
The only blot on Town's copybook came in stoppage-time when Ryan Edwards' well-taken goal left the tie well-poised at half-time, however the away side's resilient, dogged defending in the second-half ensued there was to be no grand comeback.
Instead, Cobblers added to their tally and capped off a truly fabulous afternoon through Sam Hoskins, who finished off a nice move to secure Town's place in the fourth round.
There had been some suggestions that Keith Curle's side were going through a sticky phase in their season prior to beating Stevenage on New Year's Day but this performance was as good as it gets and will only boost their confidence ahead of a return to league matters.
Curle went with the strongest team available to him in Staffordshire as Chris Lines and Andy Williams returned to the starting line-up while David Cornell kept his spot between the posts.
Meanwhile, former Cobblers favourite John-Joe O'Toole only made the bench for Burton on his comeback from a six-game suspension.
The home side were lively in the opening exchanges and Goode twice had to be alert to clear the danger while David Templeton shot straight at Cornell.
But it was the Cobblers who took a surprise lead with their first attack of note on 10 minutes. Vadaine Oliver caused chaos from a long throw and the ball eventually dropped to Adams, who applied a lovely controlled finish into the bottom corner.
Burton, undeterred, continued to play some nice stuff in attack and they were close to a quick response when Templeton shot wide and Colin Caniel's effort deflected just over.
Templeton was providing a real danger to Town's defence and he took aim for a third time on 18 minutes, drawing an excellent low save from Cornell with a first-time effort.
But Cobblers were a constant threat in attack and after Oliver screwed wide, they doubled their advantage with a second goal. It came on 23 minutes when Sam Hoskins delivered a superb cross, whipping the ball in with pace and accuracy and making it a relatively simple headed finish for Watson.
Templeton turned Goode inside out before Scott Wharton's superb sliding tackle cleared the danger and Town almost had a third when Paul Anderson broke clear but shot straight at Kieran O'Hara
An injury to Richard Nartey meant O'Toole was introduced shortly before half-time but it was to get worse for his side as Town, incredibly, notched a third goal through Goode, who headed Adams' corner into the bottom corner.
An extraordinary first-half wasn't done yet though and Burton gave themselves a lifeline in stoppage-time when Edwards burst into the box and lifted over Cornell.
That goal completely switched the momentum and Burton were straight back on the attack in the second-half, almost getting another one back when Liam Boyce deceived Goode with some slick skill before shooting against the crossbar.
Cobblers had to be organised and disciplined in the face of constant Burton pressure, with attacking opportunities few and far between although Watson's attempt was parried by O'Hara.
Having defended so well for so long, Town then took advantage of the one clear chance that came their way in the second-half. With 20 minutes left, Anderson won the ball in midfield, found Oliver and he cut into the box before teeing up Hoskins, who rolled into the bottom corner.
Burton continued to press and patiently work the ball around the edge of the box but it was only in stoppage-time when Scott Fraser found a way through and by that stage the tie was well and truly up, with the final whistle met by a huge cheer from the boisterous travelling fans.
Burton: O'Hara, Brayford (Sarkic 74), Daniel, Edwards, Buxton (c), Quinn, Fraser, Akins, Templeton (Sbarra 70), Nartey (O'Toole 37), Boyce
Subs not used: Garratt, Sharman-Lowe, Hutchinson, Bearsley
Cobblers: Cornell, Goode (c), Turnbull, Wharton, Lines, Watson, Anderson (Pollock 74), Adams, Hoskins, Williams (Harriman 55), Oliver (Warburton 70)
Subs not used: Arnold, Hall-Johnson, Martin, Waters
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Cobblers fans: 1,400