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MK pay as Town put young pretenders in their place.

Tom Reed’s report on the Cobblers clash with MK Dons…

Milton Keynes boss Robbie Neilson was given the boot immediately after Cobblers’ fine 2-1 win at Sixfields. Goals from John-Joe O’Toole and Chris Long saw Town move clear of the relegation zone on a wintery day while MK slipped closer towards the drop.

The Shoe Army’s chant of ‘We only hate Peterborough’ showed that this was no local derby but a crowd of over 7000 still squeezed into Sixfields. Cobblers were formed over a hundred years before Wimbledon’s controversial relocation to Milton Keynes and Town asserted themselves as an authentic club on the up while directionless MK look ripe for League 2.

Town boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink threw new left-back signing Joe Bunney into the fray but exciting wingers Hildeberto Pereira and Gboly Ariyibi were kept back on the bench to be unleashed later.

On a pitch muddied by heavy sleet, Cobblers looked to release Bunney down the left flank via assertive John-Joe O’Toole central work and sprayed passes from the assured Matt Grimes.

Indeed, ex-Rochdale man Bunney hopped into an advanced position on 16 minutes to cut back for O’Toole who prodded past MK keeper Lee Nicholls. Yet, Milton Keynes had an equaliser 3 minutes later after rotund referee Brett Huxtable somehow managed to miss a clear hand-off on Northampton defender Ash Taylor that had the centre-back flailing. Huxtable, with the same name as the Cosby show family had made the game the Huxtable show after whistling for every small infringement but contrived to miss a challenge that left a 6ft 4 centre-back Taylor flattened. This left MK’s Alex Gilbey to stroke home a soft reply.

MK were now on the front foot with Town goalie Richard O’Donnell forced to palm away an Osman Sow header after saving an initial Ike Ugbo cross-shot. Then O’Donnell set the scene for a man-of-the match showing with a peacocking outstretched save from a rising Calumn Britain long shot a minute later.

Town seemed content to let MK boss possession knowing Northampton had the individual quality to put the game to bed. Indeed, the sight of Portuguese wing wizard Pereira warming up on the sideline for Cobblers would have put the fear of god into MK boss Neilson under dire pressure to win.

Northampton forward Chris Long is a relentless presence up front and it was no surprise that the Burnley loanee forward gave Cobblers the lead just short of half-time. Again Bunney was involved in the build up with the ball slicing out to Sam Hoskins on the right to cut-back for Long to finish with a cute left foot.

Hasselbaink wasted little time in bringing on Benfica schooled Pereira in the second-half with Sixfields rocking to his chant to the White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’. Indeed, MK looked like they needed several nation’s

armies to keep Pereira at bay with the live-wire releasing Long via a cool outside of the foot pass within minutes of coming on but the striker saw his shot deflected over. Then Pereira showed his on the ball tekkers with a drive and shot saved centrally by
ex-Cobbler Nicholls.

Some will criticise Pereira’s lack of awareness of team shape but who cares with a player of this ability? Northampton have one of the most exciting talents outside the Premier League and such maverick players always come with a certain defensive frailty.

There was tension near the final whistle when burly MK centre-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell was clipped on the edge of the Northampton box. It was barely a free-kick and in the fracas that followed Chuks Aneke was sent off for

raising his hands to Town midfielder O’Toole. It was a fuss about nothing, likewise the actions of O’Toole who did similar to Aneke but only received a yellow.

MK’s resulting free-kick proved an anti-climax too with O’Donnell saving fairly simply from the strike from 20 yards.

In previous seasons MK would have presented serious problems but Town’s well balanced side are a different proposition now. They travel to lofty Blackburn Rovers next weekend with a serious chance of leaving with a point
or three.

Focus on Joe Bunney by @phil_garlick

After getting beaten too easily in the 6th minute Bunney recovered, overlapping the industrious Foley on the left before cutting in and teeing up JJOT for the 15th minute opener.

Prior to that he gave a glimpse of his potential with a 9th minute cross to the far post that was just a little too deep to pose a real threat. Bunney will need to work on his strength but he more than makes up for it with his bursts of speed and ventures into the opposition box that David Buchanan struggled with.

The Northampton defence looked narrower than earlier in the season with the midfield being made to defend the flanks. In that position, Bunney looked composed and had no real issues. It is going forward where he looks a gem with JFH noting his assets may result in some defensive weakness, as it was for the great Roberto Carlos.

 

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