Pollock and Hoskins on target as Cobblers see off Carlisle United
Scott Pollock scored his first goal in senior football as Cobblers moved all the way up to ninth place in Sky Bet League Two with an excellent 2-0 victory at Carlisle United on Tuesday evening.
In the end it was a happy return to Brunton Park for Keith Curle but his side took a while to come good as Pollock's terrific finish and Sam Hoskins' stoppage-time second secured a second straight victory.
Cobblers didn't even manage a shot before half-time as a lifeless and uninspiring first-half predictably ended goalless, despite the odd moment of danger for the home side.
But Pollock blasted the visitors ahead shortly after the break and from then on Town were comfortable as they defended resolutely before Hoskins made certain of the points with another fine finish in the dying moments.
And just to underline how quickly things can change, Cobblers jump up six places to ninth as a result of this win, although they remain three points adrift of the play-offs.
Keith Curle suffered a blow before kick-off when he lost the services of key midfielder Alan McCormack to illness, with teenager Pollock coming in for his first league start of the season.
Shaun McWilliams replaced Chris Lines in the only other change to Saturday's team but, a bit like in their last away game at Scunthorpe, Town were slow to get going and came under pressure.
Carlisle dominated the early possession and they should have been ahead after 12 minutes when David Cornell's flying save from Nathan Thomas rebounded to Hallam Hope but he headed wide.
As it turned out, that was the best and only chance of a turgid and error-strewn opening 45 minutes as Cobblers struggled to string passes together and Carlisle had little cutting edge despite controlling possession.
In fact, so poor was Town's attacking play that they did not muster a single shot of any kind, either on or off target, in the entire opening 45 minutes.
Carlisle did not fare much better at the other end, although Thomas brought Cornell into action for a second time just before half-time when Town's goalkeeper was at full stretch from his curling effort.
It was no surprise that, after his side's laboured first-half showing, Curle felt compelled to make a change at half-time as he replaced Michael Harriman with Harry Smith.
Cobblers went to three at the back as a result and it worked a treat, although their opening goal on 54 minutes came about more by accident than design.
Hoskins had a shot blocked only seconds before and Cobblers kept the attack alive before the ball dropped kindly to Pollock, who brilliantly lashed home via the crossbar for his first goal for the club.
Carlisle's attempts to hit back were met by stubborn resistance and with Town defending their goal well, home fans grew increasingly frustrated.
The greater attacking threat came from the Cobblers and Smith was twice thwarted by Adam Collin when trying to add a second goal, first seeing a low shot beaten away and then having a header saved.
Lines and Vadaine Oliver were both sent on by Curle and the latter drew another vital stop from Collin when teed up by Pollock in the closing stages.
There was the odd moment of alarm for Cobblers at the other end but for the most part they defended their lead far better than they have done on previous occasions, barely giving Carlisle a sniff of the goal.
And they then grabbed the safety net of a second goal when, in stoppage-time, Oliver and Smith combined to find Hoskins, who burst into the box and sent a rasping finish beyond Collin and into the top corner, rubber-stamping all three points.
Carlisle: Collin (c), Elliott, Mellish, Thomas (Olomola 80), M Jones (McKirdy 71), Scougall, G Jones, Webster, Bridge, Branthwaite, Hope (Loft 64)
Subs not used: Gray, Knight-Percival, Sagaf, Sorensen
Cobblers: Cornell, Harriman (Smith 45), Goode (c), Turnbull, Wharton, McWilliams, Pollock, Adams, Hoskins, Waters (Lines 64), Williams (Oliver 72)
Subs not used: Fisher, Hall-Johnson, C McWilliams, Anderson
Referee: Scott Oldham
Cobblers fans: 176