Northampton Town 3 Coventry City 0 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
It would be foolish to suggest they're out of the woods but this invaluable victory, inspired by a superb hat-trick from the new golden boy of Sixfields in Keshi Anderson, was just the tonic Northampton needed to revive their ailing season.
The heat remains on, of course, and games of equal significance lie in wait but, for now, spirits can be lifted and hope restored as the Cobblers eased to a first home league victory since October by clinically dispatching Coventry City 3-0.
Seeing smiling faces around Sixfields was a welcome change at the full-time whistle on Saturday, and once Anderson slotted them in front on 54 minutes, the sense of relief was palpable.
Going into the contest placed 18th and on a run of five straight losses, the visit of equally out-of-form Coventry was never going to be one for the purist and though it proved that way, Northampton will care not because victory, in the end, was all that mattered.
When you get yourself into the position the Cobblers have, performances become irrelevant. Points are the be all and end all.
And that’s just as well because Saturday was hardly the type of swashbuckling, free-flowing performance which you might expect with a 3-0 scoreline, even if there were green shoots of hope during an otherwise scrappy and at times chaotic encounter.
It was not helped by the ugly scenes caused by upset Coventry fans who let their anger known to their controversial owners with not one, not two, but four separate protests which disrupted this crucial bottom-of-the-table clash, delaying full-time until well after 5pm.
One feels for those understandably upset supporters given what has happened to their club in recent years but this type of behaviour, with smoke bombs and pitch invasions, cannot be condoned under any circumstances.
Nonetheless, the Cobblers did not let those distractions affect their mission, and this was a thoroughly professional job that came at the expense of a team which is enduring even more troubled times.
So dire had Northampton’s fortunes become that this suddenly became a must-win game, or at least must-not-lose.
They did win, and whilst it would be easy to point at the struggles of the opposition and the fact they were playing against 10 men, it is important to remember how much pressure the Cobblers were under to get this win.
That pressure showed in a frenetic, frantic first-half when Northampton got into good positions but lacked composure at key moments.
What chances there were came and went in a flash, with the Cobblers guilty of snatching their shots and misdirecting their passes, even after their bid for three points was boosted by Jordan Willis’ somewhat harsh red card on just 17 minutes.
Anderson’s well-taken opener on 54 minutes was just the settler everyone needed, and what followed next was equally as pleasing.
In times gone by – thinking Bradford specifically here – the Cobblers would have retreated at 1-0 or 2-0 ahead and been content with that they had, but what was so refreshing here was the fact they carried a genuine threat throughout, illustrated by the final scoreline.
Anderson will steal many of the headlines but it’s also important to point out how well Town managed this game and how assured they looked at the back and although it came against 10 men, it was still a welcome relief following recent abominations.
A second clean sheet in 21 league games will do the world of a good for a defence that has become increasingly creaky of late, especially given the manner it came in with Adam Smith barely having a save to make.
That will please Justin Edinburgh as much as anything, and like against Scunthorpe two weeks earlier, the new boss would have seen enough to be confident he can guide this team to significantly better things.
There were signs of promise and hints of what might be to become under Edinburgh, especially in the second-half when the Cobblers played with a certain gusto.
Luke Williams impressed on debut and alongside Anderson and Boateng, there’s real signs of life and that Northampton might be onto something.
Williams was bright and sharp, finding pockets of space and popping off passes, while Boateng’s strength and power kept several Coventry defenders occupied at various stages of the 90 minutes.
Anderson’s goals will be priceless for the Cobblers but he brings more than that; his quick feet, smart movement and hard-work add a different dimension to the attack, certainly compared to when Marc Richards and Alex Revell have partnered each other this season.
The energy and mobility of Williams and Boateng in midfield also allowed Matty Taylor more space to play in and he certainly enjoyed profited from that, although of course all this must be tempered by the fact Town were up against a terribly out-of-form Coventry side who were down to 10 men for 70 minutes.
And there remains a sense that the midfield diamond will come unstuck against superior opposition because the balance doesn’t quite seem right, and better teams with more attacking quality with find space to hurt Northampton.
Nevertheless, Saturday was a good day.
It’s difficult to get too excited given the deficiencies of the opposition but as Coventry are left to face the grim consequences of their defeat, Northampton can start to hope again.
A defeat would have left them perilously close to the trap door, instead this win gives them breathing space.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Coventry’s fans posed more danger to his goal than the visiting players on his way to a long overdue clean sheet... 7
Neal Eardley - Crossing needs work but got forward with regularity, providing the width his side needed to help break down City. Done more than enough to deserve a decent run at right-back... 7
Zander Diamond - A comfortable afternoon, only really troubled early on but even then he coped with the danger well... 7
Lewin Nyatanga - Fortunate to keep his place after last week but this was just what he needed - an easy day at the office, rarely did he find himself under pressure... 7
David Buchanan - His every touch was booed by City fans after he had the audacity to find himself on the end of a reckless tackle, prompting Willis’ red. Didn’t let that faze him, as you’d expect, and was excellent thereafter... 8
Matty Taylor - Again operated in the holding role but radar was off with some wayward passes in the first-half. Found more space in the second which suited him much better. His set-piece set up the second... 7
Hiram Boateng - Has been one of few bright spots for Town of late and he starred again here. Keshi will get the headlines but his fellow Palance loanee continues to turn heads with the pleasing way he surges past players and carries the ball with such strength. An exciting prospect... 8
John-Joe O’Toole - Played further forward than usual and got into some really good positions, just missed the final touch. Squandered an especially good chance at 2-0... 7
Luke Williams - Very encouraging debut. Drafted straight into the side 24 hours after signing and slotted seamlessly in, showing neat close control, terrific vision and willingness to work for the team. Could be a real coup if this performance is anything to go by... 8
Keshi Anderson - Burst into life after a bright but rusty first-half, firing his side to a crucial victory with three well-taken goals, his first league hat-trick. With his smart movement and quick footwork, he’s just what the Cobblers have lacked up front this season... 10 CHRON STAR MAN
Marc Richards - Led the line well and linked up with Anderson to good effect, none more so than when setting him away for the vital opener... 7
Gregg Wylde - 6
Paul Anderson - 6
Harry Beautyman - 6