Richards on the spot as Cobblers see off youthful Wolves at Sixfields
A debut goal from Harry Beautyman and a late Marc Richards penalty earned the Cobblers a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in their penultimate pre-season friendly at Sixfields on Tuesday.
A youthful Wolves outfit made a bright start and led through Nial Ennis’ cool finish but Northampton’s superior fitness and quality gradually turned the tide in their favour in an entertaining contest.
Beautyman caught the eye throughout on his first Cobblers appearance since signing last Thursday, and the former Posh man brought his new side level when directing Lawson D’Ath’s pinpoint cross into the corner.
Despite a lack of goalmouth action, this was an enjoyable and open encounter throughout played at a decent tempo as the Cobblers produced some moments of real promise.
They lacked a cutting edge at times but with Richards emphatically dispatching a late penalty to clinch victory, there were several positives for Rob Page 11 days ahead of the big kick-off.
Beautyman was one of those positives as the midfielder showed some classy touches in a busy midfield display, while D’Ath and trialist Emmanual Sonupe also had their moments.
Northampton included two trialists in their starting 11.
Twenty-year-old Sonupe featured again having started against Queens Park Rangers last week, and he was joined by former Brighton man Adam Chicksen who slotted in at left-back.
Sonupe was in the thick of the action early on when he combined well with D’Ath before crossing for Alex Revell, who was unable to get a shot away, while David Cornell dived full-length to tip wide Nathan Byrne’s long-range effort at the other end.
Wolves fielded a young team and their fleet-footed, tricky forward players were causing problems for the Cobblers back four, none more so than when Ennis gave the visitors a 1-0 lead on 17 minutes.
The highly-rated youngster latched onto a through ball and turned both Northampton centre-backs inside out before wrong-footing Cornell with a cool low finish.
John-Joe O’Toole almost levelled instantly but his sweetly-struck volley whistled wide, while Ennis continued to give Zander Diamond and co problems and he was only denied a second by an alert save from Cornell.
Northampton improved as the first-half wore on and gradually gained the upper hand as they produced some promising moments, particularly through the lively Sonupe and D’Ath, but Andrew Londergan remained untroubled in the away goal.
That all changed on 37 minutes, however, when a delicious right-wing cross from D’Ath curled perfectly into the path of Beautyman who rose well to nod home and mark his first Sixfields appearance in style.
That took Northampton into half-time all square at one apiece, and they would have fancied their chances of going one better in the second-half given the way the game was developing.
But Wolves’ front line were a menace throughout and Cornell again had to be alert to save from Bright Enobakhare, and play then switched to the other end where Sonupe was just unable to reach D’Ath’s through ball after another slick move by the hosts.
The inevitable flurry of substitutions brought a lull midway through the second-half and the match appeared to be petering out until 12 minutes from time when D’Ath was bundled to the ground by teenager Connor Johnson, a former Cobblers academy player, having burst into the penalty area.
Richards confidently stepped up and duly hammered home the resulting spot-kick and that would prove enough to earn Northampton a well-deserved victory after an entertaining and productive evening.
Cobblers: Cornell, Phillips (Buchanan 45), Diamond (Cresswell 71), Zakuani (McDonald 71), Chicksen, O’Toole (Taylor 71), McWilliams (Byrom 64), Beautyman (Hall 78), D’Ath, Sonupe, Revell (Richards 45)
Subs not used: Smith, McCammon
Wolves: Lonergan, Odoffin, Hayden, Johnson, O’Hanlon, Ronan (Hunte 83), Herc, Coady, Byrne, Ennis (Wilson 78), Enobakhare (Collins 78)
Subs not used: Flatt, Leak, Upton
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Wolves fans: 386