McKirdy scores four as Cobblers return to action with crazy defeat at Swindon on New Year's Day

Swindon Town 5 Northampton Town 2

By James Heneghan
Saturday, 1st January 2022, 5:53 pm
Fraser Horsfall challenges for a header. Picture: Pete Norton.
Fraser Horsfall challenges for a header. Picture: Pete Norton.

Harry McKirdy scored four goals as Cobblers started 2022 with a crazy, error-strewn 5-2 defeat at Swindon Town on New Year's Day.

The first-half was an entertaining and close affair but few could have predicted what would unfold in a breathless and often chaotic second 45 minutes.

Locked at 1-1 apiece at half-time after Sam Hoskins cancelled out McKirdy's opener, Cobblers did briefly go ahead through Jon Guthrie, only for everything to unravel in 16 disastrous second-half minutes.

Sam Hoskins equalised in the first-half with a superb touch and finish, his eighth goal of the season. Picture: Pete Norton.

The home side netted four times during that period, three scored by the outstanding McKirdy, as Town's previously obdurate defence fell apart and their four-game winning run came to an abrupt end.

It was Northampton's first game for three weeks and the impact of COVID no doubt played a part in their collapse, both physically and mentally, but still sitting second in the league, Jon Brady will hope to quickly brush off this defeat and get back to it, helped by a full week of training.

Cobblers were able to field close to a full-strength team with Shaun McWilliams replacing Nicke Kabamba in the only change from their most recent game - the 2-1 win at Harrogate Town three weeks ago.

Kion Etete was the only regular starter not to feature due to injury, but club captain Joseph Mills returned from his long-term ankle problem to make the bench.

Swindon had already returned from their own COVID-enforced break with a game in midweek and unsurprisingly they made the sharper, brighter start.

A couple of menacing attacks came to nothing before Cobblers had their own spell on the front foot with Mitch Pinnock's shot blocked and Jack Sowerby finding the gloves of Jojo Wollacott.

The momentum returned to Swindon though with McKirdy and Jonny Williams looking particularly dangerous, the former curling a sweet shot narrowly past the post.

And it was McKirdy who made the breakthrough 28 minutes in. Cobblers lost possession on halfway and Swindon broke forward in numbers, swinging the play out to the left where Jack Payne's low cross hit Shaun McWilliams and dropped kindly for McKirdy to finish low under Liam Roberts.

But the lead lasted only nine minutes, wiped out by a fabulous equaliser. McWilliams made amends for his part in Swindon's opener by spraying a superb pass over the home defence and Hoskins controlled expertly before lashing low and hard past Wollacott.

That goal led a dominant end to the half for Cobblers and they twice went close to completing the turnaround as Ali Koiki picked out Paul Lewis, whose low shot was blocked, before Hoskins poked a volley over from Pinnock's long throw.

Pinnock himself almost scored a spectacular goal in first-half stoppage-time when he spotted Wollacott off his line from a free-kick near the halfway line and went for goal, forcing Swindon's goalkeeper to desperate backtrack and tip over the crossbar.

The second-half exploded into life with four goals inside the first 15 minutes. Cobblers initially got their noses in front when Pinnock's low free-kick was directed into the top corner by Guthrie.

But the visitors had barely stopped celebrating when things began to go horribly awry. Swindon took the kick-off and immediately sprung forward and after a scramble in the penalty box, the ball came out to McKirdy and he lashed a fine finish into far corner.

McKirdy was not done yet though and only four minutes later he completed his hat-trick. Williams sliced open Town's defence with a through pass and although Horsfall got a foot in after initially hesitating, the ricochet fell kindly for McKirdy to roll into the net.

Cobblers had collapsed and suddenly Swindon were running riot. After Rob Hunt headed against the crossbar, the hosts had a fourth goal as Town's defence again back-peddled and Tyreece Simpson hammered into the top corner.

McKirdy's remarkable afternoon continued with a fourth goal midway through the second-half when finding the bottom corner after Roberts parried Louis Reed's free-kick.

Chances kept coming at both ends as Simpson hit the post and Lyden shot over for Swindon while Nicke Kabamba's header was held by Wollacott.

McKirdy himself nearly had a fifth, catching the post late on, but the goalscoring was done for the day, much to Northampton's relief.

Swindon: Wollacott, Odimayo, Iandolo, Lyden, Kesler-Hayden, Hunt, Reed (East 80), Payne (c) (Crichlow 59), Williams (Gladwin 89), McKirdy, Simpson

Subs not used: Ward, Mitchell-Lawson, Gilbert, Grant

Cobblers: Roberts, McGowan, Horsfall (c), Guthrie, Koiki, McWilliams (Flores 69), Sowerby (Kabamba 65), Hoskins, Lewis, Pinnock, Rose (Connolly 65)

Subs not used: Maxted, Harriman, Mills, Dyche

Referee: Sam Allison

Attendance: 9.071

Cobblers fans: 746