Managerless Sheffield Wednesday too good as Cobblers slump to heavy pre-season defeat
Cobblers suffered their first blip of pre-season when outclassed by an impressive Sheffield Wednesday outfit on Tuesday evening, comfortably beaten 4-0 at the PTS.
The Owls had lost manager Steve Bruce just 36 hours earlier but, having finished 12th in the Championship last term, they were always going to provide Keith Curle's men with their stiffest test of pre-season so far.
And the gulf in quality was evident all evening long as Wednesday's dangerous forward men caused constant problems for the Cobblers, whose a makeshift back three of Jay Williams, Jordan Turnbull and Joe Bunney had no answers.
Adam Reach was afforded too much space to fire the Owls into an early lead before Scotland international Steven Fletcher blasted home from the spot to make it 2-0 at half-time.
It was more of the same in the second-half when the visitors added two more to complete a resounding victory, leaving Curle and Town with work to do ahead of the visit of Premier League Sheffield United this coming Saturday.
Curle named six of his summer signings in the team for Town's first home friendly of pre-season, with Nicky Adams captaining the side at wing-back and Matty Warburton starting behind sole striker Harry Smith.
Curtis Yebli, still on trial, was given another chance to impress, and the bench included a second trialist in the shape of former MK Dons forward Robbie Simpson, though Sam Hoskins, Reece Hall-Johnson, Alan McCormack and Charlie Goode were all absent.
Town lined up 3-4-3 and the teams exchanged chances in the first 10 minutes, Warburton glancing a header over for the Cobblers before Steve Arnold, chosen ahead of David Cornell in goal, was down quickly to keep out Joost Van Aken.
The managerless Owls had the lead on 17 minutes though when Town's defence failed to communicate and Fernando Forestieri threaded through Reach who had all the time in the world to beat Arnold.
The home side's makeshift back three were struggling to cope with the movement and quality of the Championship outfit and another mix-up should have been punished when Fletcher pounced on a misjudged header, only to smack the post.
Arnold pushed wide a low effort from the dangerous Forestieri and an unmarked Tom Lees headed over before Wednesday doubled their lead from the penalty spot, Turnbull fouling Fletcher who stepped up to blast home from 12 yards.
Andy Williams and Vadaine Oliver replaced Smith and Warburton at half-time while Wednesday changed their entire team.
But they remained the superior side and a third goal arrived just short of the hour-mark when Lucas Joao squared to Atdhe Nuhiu and he picked out the bottom corner with a fine finish.
Electric winger Kadeem Harris was a handful on Wednesday's left and his brilliant approach work almost created a fourth, but Jordan Rhodes clipped just wide.
Rhodes did have his name on the scoresheet when finishing off a superb passing move 10 minutes from time as once again Town's backline had no answers to the visitors' slick movement.
Cobblers finished with five teenagers on the pitch, all academy players, but they had been comprehensively second best in their first defeat of pre-season.
Cobblers: Arnold, McWilliams, J Williams, Turnbull, Bunney (Hughes 74), Lines, Yebli (trialist) (Pollock 62), Watson (Newell 79), Adams (c) (Roberts 62), Warburton (A Williams 45), Smith (Oliver 45). Subs not used: Cornell, Simpson (trialist)
Wednesday first-half team: Westwood, Van Aken, Fox, Winnall, Lees (c), Reach, Hutchinson, Baker McEachran, Forestieri, Fletcher
Second-half team: Dawson, Penney, Iorfa, Borner, Odubajo, Bannan, Pelupessy, Harris, Nuhiu, Joao, Rhodes
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Wednesday fans: 1,095