Joe Powell scored a sensational last-gasp winner as Cobblers kept alive their play-off hopes with a fourth successive win as they left it late to stun Newport County 1-0 at the PTS on Tuesday evening.
With the game meandering towards a goalless draw, it was always going to take something special to claim all three points and Powell, on as a second-half substitute, provided just that with a wonderful left-footed volley that flew into the top corner from 25 yards.
It’s debatable whether Town merited victory on the balance of play but at this stage of the season it’s all about substance over style and Powell’s 88th minute strike ensured they remain in the play-off picture.
The Cobblers took a while to get to grips with both their opponents and the game itself in a topsy-turvy, enjoyable opening period, coming under pressure before ending the half on top.
Despite plenty of chances though, it remained goalless at half-time and Town were then below-par in the second-half, but it didn’t matter when Powell blasted home in spectacular style to grab a dramatic victory, their fourth in a row and seventh successive game unbeaten.
The Cobblers have jumped up to 11th place in Sky Bet League Two as a result – the first time they’ve been in the top half all season – and within six points off the top seven, keeping the play-off dream very much alive.
Manager Keith Curle was forced into one change on Tuesday as Marvin Sordell failed to recover in time to make the squad so top scorer Andy Williams led the line.
The tone for an entertaining first 45 minutes was set early on with Cobblers making a bright start and creating two openings in the first five minutes, Sam Hoskins having a close-range shot blocked and Joe Day saving at the feet of Daniel Powell from the following corner.
Long throws were proving a particularly lethal weapon for both teams, but the tide gradually swung Newport’s way and the visitors threatened a first goal on several occasions during a dominant 20-minute spell.
Jamille Matt out-muscled Ash Taylor to head against the crossbar before Aaron Pierre stuck out his leg to block Padraig Amond’s goalbound shot, with Tyreeq Bakinson firing the rebound into the side-netting.
Matt also dragged wide after escaping the home defence but, whilst the visitors were on top, they were fortunate in the extreme not to concede a penalty just short of the half-hour mark after Charlie Goode’s cross clearly struck an out-stretched arm inside the box.
With others still unsuccessfully screaming for a spot-kick, Williams’ hooked volley was tipped over by Day, and the striker was close again moments later, just unable to reach Aaron Piere’s low cross.
The momentum had now swung back Northampton’s way and they really should have taken a lead into half-time when John-Joe O’Toole burst through and squared for Powell, but though his shot squeezed through Day, a defender raced back to block near the goal-line.
Pierre flicked a header wide with the last act of the first-half and Town continued to create chances after half-time as Day beat away a powerful effort from Williams.
The decision to replace Williams with Jack Bridge didn’t go down well with the home faithful, and Town twice nearly fell behind either side of that substitution as Robbie Willmott headed just wide and Mark O’Brien slashed off target.
Matt could also only find the roof of the net when the ball dropped kindly to him inside the box as County threatened to win it, but instead it was Town who snatched all three points when Powell, off the bench, scored his second Cobblers goal in sensational fashion, clipping the crossbar with a left-footed volley 90 seconds from full-time.
Cobblers: Cornell, Goode, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan, Turnbull, Foley, O’Toole (J Powell 86), Hoskins, D Powell, A Williams (Bridge 66)
Subs not used: Coddington, J Williams, Elsnik, Roberts, Bowditch
Newport: Day, Butler, Labadie (Sheehan 89), Willmott, Bakinson, Bennett (McKirdy 89), O’Brien (c) (Azeez 88), Poole, Demetriou, Matt, Amond
Subs not used: Pipe, Marsh-Brown, Forbes, Townsend
Referee: Antony Coggins
Newport fans: 98