Northampton Town 2 Charlton Athletic 1 - Jeremy Casey's review, player ratings and highlights

There is still a lot of work to be done, of course there is, but Saturday's win over Charlton Athletic was a hugely encouraging one for the Cobblers.

Sunday, 5th March 2017, 12:02 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:00 am
John-Joe O'Toole celebrates scoring the winning goal for the Cobblers against Charlton on Saturday (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

The midweek defeat against Oldham Athletic had set the alarm bells ringing, and not just because Town lost the game to slip to within four points of the relegation zone.

No, the alarm bells were ringing because for most of the second half, the Cobblers slipped into their timid, shoulder-shrugging, introspective, heads down and navel gaxing shell that had been a feature of the final couple of months of Rob Page's reign.

And a hungry Oldham team took full advantage.

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The momentum built by three straight home wins under Justin Edinburgh and some encouraging away performances had, in the space of about 30 pretty inept Sixfields minutes, seemingly been stopped in its tracks.

Many fans were fearing the worst, and there was more than a hint of doom and gloom in the stands and on social media, but thankfully the Town manager and his players just looked inwards for the answers, and came up with a hugely improved performance against the Addicks.

Tuesday's loss was a sobering experience, and although the weekend win doesn't mean Town fans can start popping the Champagne corks just yet, they can probably stick a few bottles in the fridge to chill.

The victory over Charlton means the Cobblers have won four of their past five home games in Sky Bet League One, a haul of 12 points out of a possible 15, and if they can continue that sort of form over the final couple of months of the season, then safety will be assured, regardless what happens on the road.

Michael Smith celebrates his goal

From the first day Edinburgh took the Town job, he has outlined how important it is to get the home form sorted, he said he wanted to make Sixfelds a fortress.

Such statements always comes across as a bit of a cliche, but they are cliches for a reason, and Edinburgh has at least followed up his positive soundbites with results, and hard, solid points.

Of the four wins he has overseen as Cobblers boss, Saturday's was arguably the most impressive.

The pressure was on, Town knew they had to win, and they responded with a solid and controlled performance against a Charlton side that is currently performing well below the sum of their parts.

Aaron Phillips and Michael Smith celebrate the Cobblers' opening goal in the 2-1 win over Charlton

Edinburgh made changes, recalling Marc Richards and Luke Williams, while Aaron Phillips was also back in the frame due to the fact Neal Eardley missed the game due to his partner giving birth.

Hiram Boateng was the unfortunate loanee to miss out, as only five are allowed in a match day squad.

The diamond formation was jettisoned, and Town played a traditional 4-4-2, with Matt Taylor and John-Joe O'Toole in the centre, flanked by Williams on the right and Gregg Wylde on the left.

It was back to basics stuff.

Charlton score their equaliser

Everybody knew their job, the team looked much more solid as a result, and enjoyied plenty of possession.

And when you have footballers such as Williams, Taylor and O'Toole in your ranks then possession will lead to chances created, and it did.

The first goal from Michael Smith was a thing of beauty, a brilliant header from an even better cross from Phillips, who did superbly to chase down the ball on the right wing before it went out and then whip in the centre.

Slack marking and soft defending from a corner, so often a problem for the Cobblers this season and still a cause for concern, led to Charlton's equaliser, but it was Town who were to shine in the second half.

The Addicks, with former Cobblers hero Ricky Holmes a constant threat, prompting and probing but ultimately shackled by Dave Buchanan, were reduced to long-range pot shots as Town controlled things after O'Toole's 61st minute strike put them in front, Phillips again the main provider.

This wasn't a perfect performance, of course it wasn't, but it was still a good one.

Charlton celebrate their goal at Sixfields

Town now move on to 43 points, seven points clear of the bottom four, and with 10 games remaining this season are three wins, or two wins and a couple of draws, away from securing their league one status for another season.

That is not a foregone conclusion by any means with the fixture list the Cobblers face in the next eight weeks, starting at AFC Wimbledon next Saturday, but their destiny is in their own hands.

And if Town continue to enjoy their home comforts as they have done in the past few weeks, safety should be assured - and sooner, rather than later.

Player ratings

Adam Smith - made a few routine saves, and blocked the initial shot before Charlton scored, but wasn't overly tested if truth be told. Steady - 6

Aaron Phillips - for a man that hasn't played since January 2, and was only told he was in the team on the eve of the match, Phillips produced an outstanding performance. His cross for the first goal was perfect, and he helped create the second too - CHRON STAR MAN 8

Gaby Zakuani - his afternoon was ended after just 20 minutes when he injured his hamstring colliding with Adam Smith after a communication mix-up. Hopefully it's not too serious - 5

Lewin Nyatanga - Charlton's goal aside, Nyatanga was part of a much more solid defensive performance from the Cobblers. Very steady and worked well with Diamond when the Scotsman came on - 7

Dave Buchanan - knew he was in for a testing afternoon against his old pal Ricky Holmes, and he rose to the occasion magnificently. This was the Buchs of old, and he will have loved every minute of it - 8

Luke Williams - was comfortable in possession, and gave the Cobblers team a different dimension they have been missing. His cool head and patience when gifted the ball by a slack Charlton pass led to the winning goal - 7

Matt Taylor - playing in a traditional 4-4-2 alongside John-Joe O-Toole, Taylor looked much more at home than when the team utlilises the diamond formation. His discipline allowed O'Toole to get forward - 7

John-Joe O'Toole - it's just my opinion, but I feel O'Toole is now playing better than he did at any point last season. A real powerhouse in midfield, he gets his tackles in, wins his headers, keeps possession, and scores goals, including the crucial winner here with an emphatic finish. An inspirational figure - 8

Gregg Wylde - this was an afternoon to forget for Wylde when it comes to productivity with the ball at his feet. But to his credit, he always made himself available and worked hard throughout. Felt he could have attacked his man more rather than passing inside - 6

Michael Smith - there has never been any questioning Smith's work-rate and all-round contribution to the team, all that was lacking was goals. Well, his classic header on Saturday from Phillips' brilliant cross was from the top drawer. And he worked even harder for the team after it - 8

Marc Richards - the Cobblers skipper didn't get a sniff of goal in this game, but never stopped working and hassling the Charlton defence. Along with Smith, he was Town's first line of defence and set the tempo for his team - 7


Zander Diamond (for Zakuani, 22 mins) - dropped for the Oldham game, Diamond was called into the action halfway through the first half due to Zakuani's unfortunate injury, and proceeded to give a near faultless display. He has been one of the Cobblers' best players this season, and he was back to his best here - 7

Paul Anderson (for Williams, 68 mins) - 6

Jak McCourt (for Wylde, 80 mins) - 6

Not used: K Anderson, Cornell, Moloney, Beautyman

Paul Anderson on the attack
Michael Smith celebrates his goal
Aaron Phillips and Michael Smith celebrate the Cobblers' opening goal in the 2-1 win over Charlton
Charlton score their equaliser
Charlton celebrate their goal at Sixfields
Paul Anderson on the attack