Wharton at the double as Cobblers sweep past Crewe and move into play-offs
Cobblers moved into the League Two play-off positions with a fifth win in six games as they beat Crewe Alexandra 4-1 in a helter-skelter clash at the PTS Academy Stadium on Sunday.
Four goals were scored in a crazy and breathless first-half and it could easily have been more such was the vulnerability of both defences, who struggled to cope with two different forms of attack.
Whilst Crewe repeatedly caused problems for the Cobblers with their slick passing football, it was the more direct, abrasive approach of the home side that put them in control at half-time.
They raced into a 3-0 lead inside 24 minutes after Scott Wharton's brace - his first goals for the club - and a penalty from Sam Hoskins, but Chris Porter's close-range finish kept things interesting at the break.
However, Andy Williams' terrific finish soon after half-time put Cobblers into a commanding position and ultimately they were comfortable and deserving winners.
After several weeks of near misses, Keith Curle's side now occupy a play-off place and only sit two places behind third spot.
Curle made three alterations from the cup win at Chippenham as David Cornell, Andy Williams and Hoskins were all restored to the starting line-up.
But it was Crewe who made the far more assured start and they twice went close to an early goal with David Cornell beating away Paul Green's shot and Owen Dale unable to react in time from just a few yards out.
However, the Cobblers moved in front with their first attack of the game on 10 minutes. Nicky Adams' free-kick caused mayhem in the Crewe penalty box and after Hoskins had two bites of the cherry, Wharton finally forced the ball into an empty net.
Going behind didn't deter Crewe and they were back on the front foot through the impressive Tommy Lowery as he burst into the box and put it on a plate for Charlie Kirk, who toe-poked wide of the far post.
Lower also blazed another chance over the crossbar but, amazingly, having done so much of the chasing, the next goal was scored by the Cobblers as they moved two to the good.
Wharton was again on target and this was a much sweeter finish than his first, the centre-back latching onto Adams' floated free-kick and nonchalantly volleying into the top corner.
And the ruthless Cobblers didn't rest up there, adding a third five minutes later in what was becoming a frantic first-half. Paul Anderson broke into the box and was adjudged to have been tripped by referee Craig Hicks, leaving Hoskins to drill the resulting penalty into the bottom corner.
Crewe remained undeterred though and continued to create chances almost at will, Porter heading off target and Lowery blazing over via a deflection while Cornell denied Kirk's powerful drive.
Eventually the visitors had the goal their play warranted and with eight minute to go until half-time they were back in the game. Cornell spilled Nicky Hunt's fierce shot and the ball fell to Porter who couldn't miss from just a few yards out.
Crewe 's attack were proving a handful for Town's defence time and time again and they so nearly clawed another go back on the brink of half-time with Kirk smacking the post
The game was far from over despite the home side's two-goal lead and Crewe were back at it in the second-half, creating more headaches for the opposition defence.
However, Cobblers gave themselves breathing space just shy of the hour-mark. A long ball downfield was flicked on by Oliver and Williams raced through before sizing up a perfect lob over the stranded Will Jaaskelainen and into the net.
Crewe didn't give up and Porter's header forced Cornell into a superb stop but the fizz from their play slowly disappeared and Town, unlike previous games, had little problem seeing out the win.
Cobblers: Cornell, Goode (c), Turnbull, Wharton, McCormack (Pollock 84), Lines, Anderson (Warburton 89), Hoskins, Adams, Oliver (Smith 74), Williams.
Subs not used: Arnold, Hall-Johnson, Harriman, Waters
Crewe: Jaaskelainen, Ng (c), Pickering, Wintle, Green (Anene 75), Hunt, Lowery, Dale (Powell 61), Mbulu, Kirk (Ainley 65), Porter
Subs not used: Nolan, Jones, Richards, Finney
Referee: Craig Hicks
Crewe fans: 522