It’s often said that nothing is ever won in February but the Cobblers are doing their utmost to disprove that theory as they continued their scarcely believable run of form with a 10th successive win on Tuesday.
Even without their three best players and even without being at their absolute best, Northampton were comfortable winners in a game where they were always a cut above struggling York City.
It’s performances and results like this one that illustrate just why the Cobblers are so far clear at the top and will be playing League One football next season.
Losing key players to injury, such as Marc Richards and John-Joe O’Toole, would severely hamper many of their rivals but Chris Wilder could even afford to rest Ricky Holmes and Lee Martin at York and still watch his side notch three more points, deservedly so too.
While Northampton’s ruthlessness in both boxes has undoubtedly been key in this incredible run, it’s their ability to win the midfield battle that has so often laid the foundations for the attacking players to do their thing.
You would think, then, that the loss of O’Toole would be a significant blow, he missed Tuesday’s game with a thigh strain sustained during Saturday’s win over Wycombe, but in came Jason Taylor, Lawson D’Ath and debutant John Marquis and all three played key roles in Tuesday’s victory.
Taylor is a more limited player compared to O’Toole but the latter’s absence was barely felt as his midfield replacement and the classy Danny Rose dictated the game.
Marquis, too, was bright on debut and gave York’s back four a headache all evening alongside the tireless James Collins.
That they were able to easily overwhelm York without ever hitting top gear says everything about the confidence and serenity with which the Cobblers are playing.
There’s never any panic or feeling that they’ll come away with anything but three points, even on Tuesday when York came out fighting and gave as good as they got for 30 minutes.
The opening goal took a while to come but, as so often this season, once Northampton struck first blood and had the advantage, they never once looked like relinquishing it.
The visitors posed the greater threat throughout a relatively even first half as Marquis twice headed off target and also showed a surprising turn of pace when racing through on goal, only for a heavy touch to allow Scott Flinders to come off his line and smother the shot.
That sharpness will come with more game-time – Tuesday was Marquis’ first start since December 12 – but with so much quality around him, the first goal was only a matter of time.
On this occasion it was the excellent Brendan Moloney, who had a fine evening at right-back, that provided the injection of quality when whipping in a pinpoint cross for an unmarked Collins to head home six minutes before half-time.
It could have been more than one at the break had Zander Diamond managed to turn in Nicky Adams’ dangerous corner from all of two yards, but just five minutes after the restart, Northampton had a second.
The hard-working Collins turned provider, out-muscling Lubo Satka to get free on the right before sliding in an inch-perfect cross that gave Marquis the simplest of tap-ins.
Now leading 2-0, that goal sparked a rampant 10-minute spell for the visitors who could and probably should have been out of sight as Lawson D’Ath and Collins both missed presentable chances.
And those misses almost came back to haunt them as Cobblers dropped the tempo and allowed York onto them in the final 20 minutes and while that brought about opportunities on the counter-attack, it did give York encouragement.
There were a few scary moments as Bradley Fewster and Michael Coulson both threatened but even when the hosts got through Rod McDonald and Zander Diamond, Adam Smith was in the way.
The only blot on the copybook came in the final minute of stoppage time but if you’re going to end a 480-minute run without conceding a goal, a 30-yard volley that sails into the top corner is a mighty fine way to do it.
There was still time left for York to launch a couple of long balls into the Northampton box but they had left it too little too late.
In truth, that last-gasp goal made for a slightly skewed final scoreline that didn’t entirely reflect the game itself as on another day, this could easily have been a more emphatic victory.
But at the stage of the season and with promotion in their sights, victory is all that matters, a habit which the Cobblers have become rather good at, and with rivals dropping points again, Northampton are almost having a competition all by themselves with a 12-point gap now separating them at the top from second-placed Plymouth.
There was also another record broken on Tuesday, something which is becoming an almost daily occurrence, as Northampton scored in their 28th successive league game for the first time ever.
No record is safe in this crazy season.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - One good save from Coulson on an otherwise quiet night. Had little chance with Penn’s wonder strike... 7
Brendan Moloney - His excellent form continued with another top performance. Stopped the supply from York’s left and always offered an attacking threat, none more so than when whipping in a delicious cross that laid it on a plate for Collins... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
Zander Diamond - Somehow missed from all of two yards before half-time but remained commanding at the back until a hairy last few minutes... 7
Rod McDonald - Showed why he’s signed a new contract with an assured display. Kept his composure in a panicky situation at the death... 8
David Buchanan - Two well-timed challenges in crucial areas were the highlights of a predictably dependable evening from the left-back... 8
Nicky Adams - Seems to be edging closer to his early-season form. Was bright against York, showed good movement and was unfortunate not to have an assist or two to his name... 7
Jason Taylor - More than useful replacement for O’Toole. Did the ugly side of the game well and tidy in possession too... 7
Danny Rose - Pulled the strings from midfield in another classy display... 7
Lawson D’Ath - Missed a great chance to make it 3-0 when heading over in one of his better games... 7
John Marquis - Encouraging on debut. Lively from the off and deserved his goal when it came. Could have had one or two more as well... 8
James Collins - Scored one, made the other and worked his socks off. Can’t ask for much more... 8
Sam Hoskins - 7
Ricky Holmes - 7
Joel Byrom - 6