Late goals from Billy Waters and Kevin van Veen secured a 2-0 win for the Cobblers over a young and inexperienced Manchester United XI at the PTS Academy Stadium on Friday night.
A pretty uninspiring game looked to be heading for a goalless draw, but Waters was teed up by van Veen to open the scoring on 73 minutes, and then with six minutes remaining van Veen headed home a Daniel Powell cross to seal it.
The win means the Cobblers have completed an unbeaten pre-season ahead of the Sky Bet League Two opener against Lincoln City next Saturday.
Cobblers boss Dean Austin rang the changes from Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Barnet, with a whole new team taking to the pitch, although there was still no sign of new signing Junior Morias, who is not yet match fit following his move from Petereborough United.
John-Joe O’Toole captained the team on his return to duty after compassionate leave, while van Veen led the front line alongside Waters in a 4-4-2 formation, and there was a first home runout since last November for Dean Bowditch.
A string of players who were involved in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Barnet were given the night off, including Ash Taylor, David Buchanan, Aaron Pierre, Matt Crooks, Shaun McWilliams and Andy Williams.
The game started with both teams happy to keep possession, and chances were at a premium in the opening quarter as the teams cancelled each other out.
It was the 19th minute before a clear chance came about, and that was down to a United error as a short back-pass saw Daniel Powell in on goal.
The winger did the right thing as he tried to go round goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara, but the United shot-stopper did brilliantly to stick out his left arm and grab the ball cleanly.
The Cobblers were looking the more likely to score, and a flurry of blocked and deflected shots led to five corners being won in very quick succession, but O’Hara wasn’t forced into a save and it stayed 0-0.
United had been non-existent as an attacking force, but Zachary Dearney sent a low shot fizzing wide, before then fluffing a great chance.
Regan Poole nodded a deep cross back to him after well-worked short corner, but the United no.7, with the goal gaping, scuffed his shot and the ball was cleared.
The Cobblers were pressing for an opening, and they created a rare one just before the break, but Waters’ low goalbound shot was blocked by his old team-mate Poole.
The opening exchanges of the second half were pretty uninspiring, with both sides coughing up possession whenever they got near the final third.
The Cobblers had enjoyed more possession, but it was United who almost took an unexpected lead with 20 minutes remaining.
A harmless looking ball over the top caught out the Town defence, and with James Goff caught in no man’s land, United striker James Wilson got to the ball first and headed it over the Town goalkeeper.
The ball was going in, but Jay Williams got back superbly to clear the ball before it crossed the line.
A few minutes later, and it was the Cobblers who led.
United looked to have cleared the danger from a corner, but Jordan Turnbull did well to keep the ball live and in the danger area.
He sent it into van Veen on the six yard box, and he laid it back to Waters who rifled home a crisp low drive from just inside the box to make it 1-0.
Waters then had a big hand in the creation of the second as he made a lung-busting break from inside his own half, and although his interplay with van Veen and Morgan Roberts broke down, possession was kept.
The ball was fed out to Powell on the right wing, and his wicked outswinging cross was met six yards out by van Veen, who headed the ball into the net.
The goal was the Dutchman’s first in a Cobblers shirt since he signed from Scunthorp in January, and put the gloss on what turned out to be another satisfying evening for Town boss Austin.
Cobblers: Goff, C McWilliams, Barnett, J Williams, Turnbull, Powell, O’Toole, Foley, Waters, Bowditch (46m, Roberts), van Veen. Subs not used: Cornell, Odoffin, Bridge, Whaler, Harding.
Manchester United XI: O’Hara (75m, Kovar), Warren, O’Connor (69m, Tanner), Poole, Ercolani (75m, Dunne), Traore (69m Whelan), Dearney, Buffonge (69m, Sang), Wilson, Barlow, Burkart (75m, Baars)
Referee: Will Finnie
Goal: 73 mins: Waters 1-0; 84 mins: van Veen 2-0