Northampton Town 2 Luton Town 0 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
It was the perfect culmination of the perfect season; a day to savour what this remarkable team have achieved and celebrate the ending of a magical story told over nine enthralling months.
The result may have not mattered and the performance was irrelevant, but you wouldn’t have known from the manner of Cobblers’ overwhelming victory against a Luton side who failed to once test Adam Smith.
It was fitting that, on this their last outing at Sixfields, Northampton produced one of their best performances of the season, a performance that showcased just why all before them have been dispatched.
Then the game took a back seat as, one by one, the champions were introduced back onto the pitch for their crowning glory, with Marc Richards lifting the trophy to a huge roar by a record Sixfields crowd.
Watching the jubilant, euphoric scenes just rammed home the staggering journey this club have undertaken, after all it was only five months ago when their very existence teetered on the brink of the abyss.
It will surely go down as the most memorable season in the club’s long, rich history – and it had the perfect ending on a golden day at Sixfields.
With recent wins at Leyton Orient, Plymouth, Oxford and Carlisle, Luton came into this game with a track record of upsetting the form book but as many teams have discovered to their expense this season, Northampton were simply too good and coasted to three thoroughly deserved points.
Few would have complained had they taken the easy option to drop off and let the season peter out having sewn up the title with ample time to spare, but that’s not in the nature of this team and there was to be none of that at Sixfields on Saturday.
Instead of letting their minds wander to 5pm and the moment they’ll be crowned champions, the Cobblers went about their business as if everything depended on this game, as if it was a crunch, end-of-season promotion-decider.
That’s testament to both the players and the management staff who’ve not achieved what they have this season purely through quality or skill, but by taking the same determined, dogged attitude into every game.
From the very first whistle on Saturday, Northampton looked a cut above Luton, just as they’ve looked a cut above every other team in League Two, and just as they did at Kenilworth Road in the reverse fixture.
Zander Diamond pummelled in a fourth-minute header and that set the tone for a dominant first-half performance as Cobblers bossed possession and reduced Luton to few chances on the counter.
One of those chances yielded Luton’s best opening of the match but Joe Pigott somehow conspired to head over from a matter of yards following good work from Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu.
That missed opportunity proved the game’s pivotal moment as, barely minutes later, Cobblers sliced apart Luton with a free-flowing move, predictably orchestrated by Ricky Holmes.
Holmes burst forward from midfield, fed John-Joe O’Toole who in turn teed up John Marquis and Marquis did the rest, nonchalantly stroking the ball into an empty net.
That put the champions firmly in the driving seat and while Luton did improve after half-time, by that time the game was up.
The visitors’ new-found attacking approach did at least make for a more open, end-to-end second-half during which both sides had their chances, but with the destiny of the three points rarely in doubt, Northampton always held the edge.
There could have been more goals, Sam Hoskins and Pigott both going close three times, but the final scoreline reflected another accomplished Cobblers performance.
A win at Portsmouth on the final day would match the tally of 99 points that Graham Carr’s famous side reached the last time they won a league title.
That really would put the gloss on a true footballing fairytale.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Wasn’t forced into a single save on perhaps his quietest afternoon of the season... 7
Josh Lelan - Really impressive display as he appeared in control and untroubled throughout. Both composed in possession and error-free defensively. Has undoubted potential... 8
Zander Diamond - Bullet of a header gave Town a dream start and that set the tone for both himself and his side, with the Scotsman playing a central role in a 15th clean sheet of the season... 8
Luke Prosser - Returned to the team in place of the injured McDonald and slotted seamlessly in with an assured performance... 7
David Buchanan - Hand his hands full with the dangerous Ruddock-Mpanzu, who got the better of him on one or two occasions, but that was the only time he looked under any pressure... 7
John-Joe O’Toole - Setting up Marquis for the second was the highlight of the type of all-round, all-action midfield performance which has been key to helping Northampton into this position... 8
Danny Rose - Another performance dripping with class. Anticipated the danger so well, one brilliant last-ditch block a particular highlight, and kept things ticking over with his meticulous passing. Has a wicked set-piece delivery too, as evidenced by his corner for the opener... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
Ricky Holmes - Was the instigator of several well-worked moves, including one which led to a goal and then another to slip through Hoskins. Luton were never able to keep tabs on him... 8
Nicky Adams - Busy as ever and was central to some lovely passages of play with his flicks and vision, although less effective than his team-mates on this occasion... 7
Sam Hoskins - Could have had a hat-trick on another day, denied by both the post and a fine Justham save, but nevertheless this was another impressive outing... 8
John Marquis - Must be a headache to play against with his strength, tenacity and willingness to chase down every ball, and Luton had few answers. Capped off a good performance with an easy tap-in... 8
Lawson D’Ath - 7
James Collins - 6
Jason Taylor - 6