Cobblers breezed into the knock-out stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with a routine 2-0 victory over Fulham U21s on Tuesday night, their fourth successive win in all competitions and sixth in seven games.
The result of this one was never really in doubt once Town hit the front with 17 minutes on the clock as they made light work of their youthful visitors to secure second spot and therefore progression from South Group F.
The Cobblers had a 2-0 half-time advantage handed to them by a charitable Fulham defence as Aaron Pierre and Sam Hoskins profited from two howlers when netting within three minutes of one another.
There was less between the sides in the second period but Town had no problems in recording their second 2-0 win in the space of four days, meaning they now face an away tie in the next round of the competition.
Six of Town’s matchday squad on Tuesday came through the club’s youth ranks, including two starters, but it was still a strong team named by manager Keith Curle, who made only four changes from Saturday’s win over Crewe.
Jay Williams was one player to come in and he started in midfield alongside Shaun McWilliams, whose brother Camron joined fellow academy products Sean Whaler, Morgan Roberts and Joe Iaciofano on the bench.
All of the early play took place in Fulham’s half and a succession of corners - seven in the first 10 minutes - were not convincingly dealt with by the visitors with Pierre twice close to an opening goal.
It was, predictably, from a set-piece that Cobblers took the lead when Fulham goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond made a hash of attempting to claim Hakeem Odoffin’s 17th-minute free-kick, allowing Pierre to nod into an empty net.
It was 2-0 within three minutes as another mistake at the back was pounced upon by Hoskins, who raided a defender of possession in the box and fired beyond Ashby-Hammond.
Billy Waters whizzed a low shot wide of the far post before the corner tally reached double figures for the home side, who were in cruise control at half-time having remained untroubled at the back.
Camron and Shaun McWilliams became the first set of brothers to play a competitive game for the Cobblers in 86 years when the latter replaced Pierre for the second-half.
Hoskins three times went close to extending the lead, rifling a thunderbolt a whisker wide from all of 40 yards, side-footing a much easier chance over the crossbar and then seeing Ashby-Hammond keep out his close-range header.
A fourth academy player joined the action when Iaciofano was introduced in a second-half that mostly involved Cobblers pressing for a third goal, although Fulham did at least manage to test Lewis Ward on a couple of occasions.
The Town stopped grasped Jayden Harris’ long-ranger at the second attempt and then blocked from Tyrese Francois, but those half chances dind’t disguise what was a stroll to the winning line for Northampton.
Cobblers: Ward, Odoffin, Turnbull, Pierre (C McWilliams 45), Buchanan (c), J Williams, S McWilliams (Whaler 83), Powell, Waters, Hoskins, A Williams (Iaciofano 69)
Subs not used: Coddington, Bridge, Roberts, van Veen
Fulham U21s: T Ashby-Hammond, Jenz, De La Torre (Atkinson 45), Francois, Thompson, Mundle-Smith, Harris, S Sessegnon, Cisse, Davies (c), Santos-Clase (Abraham 62)
Subs not used:Kelly, Davies, L Ashby-Hammond, Asare
Referee: John Busby
Fulham fans: 38