Taylor's late stunner seals the points as Cobblers beat Vale to claim third straight win
Matty Taylor scored a late winner for the second time in four days as Cobblers claimed an invaluable if somewhat fortunate 2-1 home win over Port Vale after a ragged performance at Sixfields on Tuesday.
It will hardly go down as their most convincing win of the season, nor was it particularly deserved on the balance of play, but the importance of the three points overrides anything else, especially given results elsewhere.
All three goals came in the second-half, Aaron Phillips putting Town ahead in fortunate fashion before JJ Hooper haunted his former club with the equaliser, only for Taylor to snatch an 88th minute winner with a fine long-range strike.
That goal ensured Northampton recorded three straight league wins for the first time this season and there's no better time for it to have happened.
In similar fashion to Saturday's game at AFC Wimbledon, the first-half never really clicked into gear as a scrappy and mostly uneventful contest was only brightened by the odd moment of life with Northampton shading what few clear chances there were.
There was little improvement after half-time but two rather peculiar goals were enough for Town to move up to 14th in Sky Bet League One, 11 points clear of relegation.
Relegation can't quite be ruled out just yet after the likes of Oldham and Bury winning elsewhere, and with games against Bolton and Sheffield United to come, Northampton must produce better showings than this one if they want to continue their recent resurgence.
Before kick-off, David Buchanan was presented with a special award to mark his 100th successive Cobblers appearance.
Despite the presence of club captain Marc Richards, he was also named skipper for the evening in a team that included just one change from Saturday's win at AFC Wimbledon.
Out went Gregg Wylde and in came Keshi Anderson, and a bright start from the Crystal Palace loanee almost saw him give the Cobblers an early lead but, off balance and from an acute angle, he fired over having been slipped through by Luke Williams.
Reverting to a diamond formation in midfield, Northampton shaded what action there was in a low-key first 20 minutes, and again it was Anderson who threatened for the hosts when Vale goalkeeper Leonardo Fasan tipped wide his crisp drive from 20 yards.
Vale were far from being outplayed, however, and they too had their moments with Phillips and Lewin Nyatanga both having to be on their guard to foil dangerous attacks.
Neither side were able to take a firm grip on proceedings, the two rather cancelling each other out in a sluggish opening 45 minutes, although the Cobblers perhaps should have taken a lead into half-time when Vale failed to deal with a long ball and Richards found himself through on Fasan's goal, only to drill his volley straight at the visiting goalkeeper.
Richards did have the ball in the net within moments but his close-range effort was ruled out for a tight offside call, before Adam Smith was called into action for the first time, saving comfortably from Olamide Shodipo's weak shot.
That brought a frankly poor first-half to a close, and there was little change in the second-half when the struggle for superiority continued.
Vale were improving though, and they almost had the lead on 55 minutes when Sam Foley curled narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Richards went close at the other end but that came against the run of play in a second-half that the Valiants were having the better off.
Clear-cut chances remained at a premium, which made the manner of the opening goal on 63 minutes somewhat predictable.
In a game short on quality, it was always going to take a moment of fortune to break the deadlock, and luckily for the hosts, it went their way. On the attack and in a promising position, Phillips lined up a cross that was seemingly sailing out of play, only to loop over the stranded Fasan and into the corner.
The nature of the goal mattered little to a relieved Sixfields, who almost saw their side add a swift second when Richards deftly lobbed a shot onto the roof of the net.
Richards also blasted wildly off target in another half chance as the Cobblers sensed a quick second.
But if they were expected a simple cruise to the finishing line, they had another thing coming, and again they were punished for lax defending.
During a spell of Vale pressure, Sam Kelly was allowed to waltz through several static Northampton defenders before Hooper intervened, curling a fine first-time finish beyond Smith and into the far corner.
Predictably, as has been the case this season, the Cobblers lost their way thereafter and reverted to type in a ragged finish to the game.
They did have one opportunity but Hiram Boateng placed his header, and that looked to have been that.
However, just like he did at Kingsmeadow three days earlier, Taylor had final say with a superb late winner.
In possession 30 yards from goal, Taylor saw Fasan out of position and took aim, brilliantly lashing into the bottom corner with Fasan unable to recover to pinch all three points, albeit only after Northampton survived a late Port Vale bombardment.
Cobblers: Smith, Phillips, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan (c), Taylor, O'Toole, Williams (P Anderson 83), K Anderson (Boateng 77), Smith, Richards
Subs not used: Cornell, Moloney, McDonald, McCourt, Beautyman
Port Vale: Fasan, Tanser (Kiko 45), Smith, Knops (Streete 81), Purkiss (c), Guy, Foley, Shodipo (Kelly 70), Eagles, Forrester, Hooper
Subs not used: Mehmet, Tavares, Turner, Reeves
Referee: Gavin Ward
Vale fans: 248