Midfielders star for below-par Cobblers in win over slick but toothless Shrimps - verdict, reaction and highlights

It's not often a 4-1 victory can be described as ugly but while Northampton eventually ran out comfortable winners over lowly Morecambe on Saturday, this game was far less one-sided than the final scoreline suggested.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 9:00 am
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 9:01 am
Nicky Adams celebrates his second goal of the season. Picture: Pete Norton

Words such as 'scrappy' and 'hard-fought' are typically associated with narrow one-goal wins but they could also apply here because the Cobblers were made to work extremely hard for all three points.

The idea that this game, played between two teams in contrasting form and at opposite ends of the table, would end in a one-sided victory in favour of Keith Curle's men was a perfectly reasonable one before kick-off, but maybe not quite like this.

Cobblers' most recent home defeat, in any competition, came against Leyton Orient on October 5, a week before Morecambe last won on the road. No team in the division have conceded more goals away from home than the Shrimps this season and only Stevenage have an inferior overall record.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And yet those stats were not reflected by their performance. Forget the scoreline for a moment, the Shrimps played well and certainly did not look the worst side in the division, putting on a better show than many visiting teams at the PTS this season, including one or two promotion contenders.

However, though they played some neat football and carved out plenty of chances, their lack of cutting edge perhaps revealed why they now prop up the division. Town's ruthlessness at the other end, meanwhile, showed why they are back in a play-off position.

Four midfielders scoring all four goals can't have happened too many times before. Paul Anderson satisfied his manager's need for more goals with a somewhat fortunate opener but the second belongs to Ryan Watson, whose deft touch in first-half stoppage-time came at a crucial moment in the game.

"It's important everyone chips in," said Curle afterwards. "And it's important to have the likes of Nicky Adams and Paul Anderson to go on little scoring runs and being a goal threat because that's probably been the only criticism of those players.

"Ando's been getting some good opportunities, probably a lot better opportunities than he had today, but things haven't quite fall for him so it was pleasing for him to score."

Nicky Adams is another player who will want to add to his goal tally and his second of the season, a first-time finish 10 minutes into the second-half, effectively killed off the contest.

"We've also been working with Nicky on keeping him inside the game so he's able to be in the right place at the back stick," Curle added.

"If you want to get technical, they call it in the position of maximum opportunity and it's being in the right place when the ball's coming in from the other side.

"If you're in the right position, you'll get tap-ins, you'll get saves off the goalkeeper landing to you and it's a great position to be in when you're inside the game as a wide player."

Of course, Adams couldn't resist chalking up another assist, though Town's fourth goal, soon after Adam Phillips gave Morecambe the briefest of lifelines, was all about Chris Lines' sensational finish, a thumping volley that left Adam Halstead flapping at thin air.

David Cornell also deserves a mention. If not for his two early saves, from George Tanner and Cole Stockton, the afternoon may have unfolded very differently. Although, with that said, opposite number Halstead pulled off a raft of late saves to prevent an even heavier beating.

Ultimately, this was a case of job done and move on to more important matters, most notably Tuesday's trip to London and then the tasty FA Cup clash with Derby County.