Two wins, two clean sheets and two mightily impressive performances. If Cobblers fans were expecting a slow start to the season, they can think again.
Following Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers in their Sky Bet League Two opener, Town then made it two from two when they cruised into the second round of the Capital One Cup with an emphatic and highly impressive display against League One outfit Blackpool on Tuesday evening.
For a competition that’s so often criticised and ridiculed, the League Cup doesn’t half provide its fair share of upsets and excitement.
The Cobblers have enjoyed their own success in recent years, beating the likes of Liverpool and Wolves, and though Tuesday’s win doesn’t register on the same scale, it does confirm their place in the second round of the competition for the fifth time in six years.
Given they were the bookies’ favourites going into the tie, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the result, and it has to be said that Blackpool didn’t offer much of a contest, but it was more the manner of the victory and the nature of the performance that was so impressive.
It’s far too early to make any predictions or get too excited, but it would be understandable if Town’s opening two performances have raised hopes and expectations among fans – and why not.
They may not have the likes of a Craig Mackail-Smith or Matt Tubbs leading the line, but what the Cobblers do have is an exciting young squad that’s been carefully-constructed by manager Chris Wilder, and Tuesday’s win was a prime example of that.
Going up against a side from the league above without the likes of Marc Richards and Nicky Adams, Cobblers fans could have been forgiven for fearing an early exit from the competition.
Instead, those players who came into the starting 11 laid down a marker to their more established team-mates. The likes of Sam Hoskins and teenager Dominic Calvert-Lewin, both making their full Northampton debuts, slotted seamlessly into the team and were impressive throughout as they both played key roles in all three goals, while Chris Hackett and Lawson D’Ath also starred on their first starts of the season.
It was young Calvert-Lewin, though, who particularly caught the eye. Right from kick-off, the 18-year-old loanee was lively and proved a handful for Blackpool’s defence. He was unfortunate not to bag a goal inside 10 minutes when his header clipped off the crossbar, but he didn’t have to wait long for his first Cobblers goal when, on 24 minutes, he swivelled and fired an excellent first-time finish into the bottom corner.
“Now some of the big boys enter the stage. Although they can’t face the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal just yet, the Cobblers could come up against Premier League big boys such as Everton or Newcastle United in Thursday’s second round draw”James Heneghan
There were other moments of note, too, such as when he controlled, spun and shot all in one swift movement, though his effort was too tame to beat the keeper. It’s early days but if Tuesday’s performance is anything to go by, the teenager could quickly become a fans’ favourite at Sixfields.
The final scoreline did not flatter Northampton, either. In fact, if anything, Blackpool were fortunate it was not more than three. The Cobblers had already struck the woodwork twice before taking a 21st minute lead and there were further chances in the second half, while at the other end, Ryan Clarke remained a virtual spectator in the home goal.
Admittedly, this was a very poor Blackpool side and it’s difficult to gauge just how good Northampton were given their opposition. But, as the old adage goes, you can only beat what’s put in front of you. And, boy, did Wilder’s side do just that.
How they rated...
Ryan Clarke - wasn’t put under huge pressure from the Blackpool forwards, however made two smart saves in the second half when called upon. Also commanding from crosses to relieve pressure... 7
Josh Lelan - another performance full of energy from the right-back. Got up and down the flank very well and stood up to any attacks coming down his side. Settling into the team nicely... 7
Ryan Cresswell - as commanding as ever in the back-line, winning almost everything in the air. Kept the dangerous Mark Cullen quiet but feels he should’ve scored when presented with a good chance from a corner in the second half... 7
Zander Diamond - like Cresswell, was commanding at the back and showed a few neat turns when under pressure. Two clean sheets from two games now for this impressive centre-back partnership... 7
David Buchanan - skipper for the night, and led by example. Got forward at every opportunity and got a brilliant crossed assist for the opening goal. A brilliant signing... 8
Jason Taylor - seemed to be in the right place at the right time when collecting all of the 2nd balls, giving Blackpool no chance to clear their lines. Protected the back four very well and deserved his warm ovation when replaced... 8
Joel Byrom - kept things ticking nicely in the centre of the park and was as neat and tidy as ever. Came close with his trademark free-kick but it was well saved by the keeper... 8
Lawson D’Ath - part of an attacking midfield 3 that terrorised Blackpool in the opening 30 minutes. Brilliant pressing play and looked dangerous on the ball, puts himself in contention for a start on Saturday...7
Sam Hoskins - fantastic home debut from the striker, rounding it off with a goal that showed great tenacity and composure. Full of pace and will be a great asset either from the start or the bench... 8
Chris Hackett - got himself on the scoresheet and also added an assist. Was more like the Hackett-of-old with his tricky wing play and dangerous crosses... 8
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - A debut to remember for the 18 year-old following his goal. Would’ve got a hat-trick on another night and was a constant thorn in the side of the Blackpool defence. Brilliant link-up play and will take the goalscoring burden off of Marc Richards... 9 CHRON STAR MAN
Ricky Holmes - dangerous when he came on and showed some good dribbles... 7
Alfie Potter - didn’t see too much of the ball but was direct and pacy when he got the opportunity... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Saturday’s hero came on so that Taylor could have a well earned breater, and slotted in comfortably next to Byrom for the final 20 minutes... 6