Strong second-half performance sees Cobblers sink Southend at Sixfields
Cobblers produced the goods when it mattered most as they picked up three priceless points in their battle to beat relegation by downing Southend United 3-1 after a much-improved second-half performance at Sixfields on Saturday.
In a low-quality first-half, Town had made barely any headway when John-Joe O’Toole’s opportunistic finish handed them the lead but they were unable to capitalise on that stroke of good fortune when Jason Demetriou brought Southend level from the spot.
However, Town were vastly improved after half-time and restored their lead through Matt Grimes’ penalty before Alex Revell’s late third put the gloss on a huge win, and few could begrudge them the three points after a second-half in which they carved out numerous goalscoring chances.
It takes Northampton to within two points of survival while also dragging Southend into the relegation dogfight, and there were also glimpses of encouragement from the two new boys as Shay Facey impressed on debut and Hildeberto Peirera supplied the assist for Revell’s game-clinching third.
Facey was on of four changes as he made his first appearance at right-back, with John-Joe O’Toole, David Buchanan and Sam Hoskins all coming back in as Daniel Powell and George Smith were ruled out through injury.
Chances and quality were kept to a minimum in a very fractious and scratchy start to the game, which was probably to be expected given the two teams’ struggles.
But the first opportunity led to the opener as Town struck on 20 minutes with a goal that was in keeping with the game.
Visiting goalkeeper Mark Oxley initially clawed away Ash Taylor’s header but Harry Hyprianou’s attempted clearance cannoned off Matt Crooks and fell to O’Toole, who guided the ball into the corner.
It was a comical way to open the scoring, however the lead last just six minutes as as United got back on level terms from the spot after Taylor collided with Stephen McLaughlin in the box, Demetriou sticking away from 12 yards.
Michael Kightly dragged just wide of the far post for United and Chris Long was well off target with two attempts from the edge of the box but other than that it was a poor opening 45 minutes.
It took only three minutes of the second-half for Town to restore their advantage, though, as they earned a penalty of their own.
Long won it, as he was deemed to have been fouled by Kyprianoi, and Grimes confidently did the rest, shooting into the corner with power.
Northampton then proceeded to enjoy their best spell of the game as they threatened a second goal with a couple of half chances, the closest of which saw Grimes blast over from 25 yards.
In need of a third, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink threw on another of his new signings as Pereira got his first taste of Sixfields when replacing Sam Foley shortly after the hour-mark.
And Pereira should have opened his Cobblers account almost immediately when the hosts broke through Long and he found O’Toole who drew the goalkeeper before squaring to Pereira, only for him to smack the crossbar from yards out.
That should have been game over and another chance fell Town’s way when Hoskins cut the ball back to Long but the Southend defence smothered clear
Long was also off target when clearing the crossbar from 20 yards before Southend began applying pressure at the other end with Anthony Wordsworth twice going close from the edge of the box.
As the clock ran down, United threw more bodies forward in search of a late equaliser, forcing important blocks from both David Buchanan and Matt Crooks in the final 10 minutes, but Revell, off the bench seconds earlier, gathered Pereira’s pass after a break from halfway and placed a precise shot into the bottom corner in the final minute of normal time.
That wrapped up the win, much to the relief and delight of what was becoming an increasingly anxious crowd of home supporters inside Sixfields who could now celebrate a vital three points.
Cobblers: Ingram, Facey (Moloney 90), Poole, Taylor, Buchanan (c), Hoskins, Grimes, Crooks, Foley (Pereira 64), O’Toole, Long (Revell 87)
Subs not used: Cornell, Moloney, McWilliams, Waters, Richards
Southend: Oxley, Demetriou, Turner (c), Kyprianou, Coker, Kightly (McGlashan 61), Yearwood (Timlin 61), Wordsworth, McLaughlin, Cox (Wabo 74), Fortune
Subs not used: Bishop, Bwomono, Robinson
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Southend fans: 564