Record low crowd as Cobblers end Checktrade Trophy campaign with shootout loss to West Ham
The lowest home crowd in Northampton Town history turned out to watch as Cobblers ended their fleeting Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a farcical penalty shoot-out defeat to West Ham United Under-21s.
Despite the fact that neither team could qualify, the game required a penalty shoot-out to decide who gets an extra, completely irrelevant, point after the 90 minutes finished level at 1-1.
And with John-Joe O’Toole and Emmanuel Sonupe both blazing poor penalties way over the crossbar, it was West Ham who came through 3-2 in the shootout, meaning Cobblers finished bottom of the group.
Just 762 fans bothered to make the effort for this dead rubber, including 189 from West Ham, and those who chose not to attend missed little as this game took a rather predictable path.
The crowd was lower than the previous worst for a competitive game, which was 942 for a division four game against Chester City at the County Ground in 1985.
Harry Beautyman fizzed Cobblers ahead with a fine 23rd minute finish but West Ham hit back through Djar Parfitt-Williams’ equally accomplished strike in a low-key yet at times entertaining first-half.
There were chances to win it at both ends in the second period but with neither side able to convert, the tie went to penalties.
The pitiful attendance came as little surprise given the general apathetic attitude towards this competition, but at least now the Cobblers will not need to worry themselves and can focus on more important matters.
Rob Page rang the changes as expected and gave game-time to several fringe players including Alfie Potter, Aaron Phillips and goalkeeper David Cornell.
Speculative long-range efforts from Emmanuel Sonupe and Djar Parfitt-Williams provided the highlights of a predictably low-key opening quarter, howvever Beautyman brightened proceedings at the midway point of the first-half.
Joel Byrom swung in a free-kick and West Ham failed to deal with it, the ball falling to Beautyman who drilled a first-time shot into the bottom corner.
Although for the most part West Ham’s pretty passing lacked much punch, the visitors did bring themselves level before half-time when Parfitt-Williams powered a shot in off the crossbar having been fed through on goal.
Alex Pike should have had the Hammers ahead at the break too but he blazed over, and then it was Sonupe’s turn to go close just after the restart when his shot whistled a fraction wide via a deflection.
Rod McDonald and Raheem Hanely were both introduced for the second-half, during which Beautyman twice headed off target while Jehmal Hector-Ingram was denied by Cornell at the other end as both teams looked to avoid the ignominy of penalties.
Sonupe came as close as anyone when having an effort cleared off the line before Page spiced things up by handing a senior debut to Northampton academy youngster Joe Iaciofiano.
He replaced Alex Revell up front to perhaps the loudest roar of the evening, but no winner was forthcoming despite Dan Kemp’s best attempts with a fiercely-struck volley, and that meant penalties.
And with misses from Beautyman, Sonupe and John-Joe O’Toole, it was West Ham who prevailed in the shoot-out 3-2.
Cobblers: Cornell, Phillips, Diamond (McDonald 45), Nyatanga, Buchanan (c) (Hanley 45), Potter, O’Toole, Beautyman, Byrom, Sonupe, Revell (Iaciofiano 74)
Subs not used: Smith, D’Ath, Richards, Hoskins
West Ham: Spiegel, Parfitt-Williams (Powell 65), Rice (c), Browne, Makasi, Westley (Neufville 78), Hector-Ingram, Pike, Kemp, Akinola, Lewis
Subs not used: Coventry, Sylvestre, Ford, Johnson, Matrevics
Referee: Graham Salisbury
West Ham fans: 189