Classy Cobbler Jack Bridge bagged a second-half brace to lead Northampton to a 3-0 win over Carlisle United at Sixfields. Tiny Town link-man Bridge brought both power and finesse with a two goal showing after half-time that sunk manager Keith Curle’s former side.
Sixfields was surrounded by an almighty gloom, both metaphorically and meteorologically as the match kicked-off minus Matt Crooks, the talented midfielder who was sold the night before to Rotherham.
But whilst the fee for Crooks was undisclosed, Town made their intent to win the match public, with a vigorous, high pressing performance that got into the faces of their opponents from Cumbria. The match was the kind of end-to-end contest that typifies Town at present, except this time the Cobblers didn’t crumble and saw out an impressive win to the last whistle.
Tactical nerds drooled at the clash of styles with Northampton lining up with Curle’s preferred 3-5-2 whilst the Cumbrians utilized a modified 4-2-3-1 not dissimilar to that favoured by the great Chris Wilder in his time at the Cobblers.
Indeed, it seemed like managerless Carlisle’s style would see the breakthrough in the first-half with the pest of a striker Hallam Hope (ex-Cobbler of course) slaloming through the town defence via an eye catching “off the shoulder” energy. Meanwhile, Irishman Jamie Devitt showed why he is so highly prized in lower league circles showing smart play and sound first touch.
Yet Carlisle couldn’t make their attempts to get in behind Northampton’s wing-backs pay as Town defender Aaron Pierre was taking no prisoners and back to his powerhouse best. The mature beyond his years Jay Williams glided round the pitch with the profile of a classic centre-half, making the debate about the absent Ash Taylor’s role redundant.
That said, Dai Cornell had to be wise to a 42nd minute Devitt rising volley that the Town goalie measured well and sent up a strong left hand to repel.
The Shoe Army had barely time to digest their half time pies when Bridge smashed home from 10 yards after a melee following a Shay Facey right-wing cross. 23 year-old Bridge emerged as an unlikely hero for Town but not one entirely unexpected for those that have observed the technical aspects of his game. The Dean Austin signing reinforced his reputation as one of Northampton’s “ballers” with a blink and you’ll miss it outside of the foot finish on the hour mark that finished off Carlisle. This contrast of power and cunning was reminiscent of a certain Alex Nicholls, a player fondly remembered at Sixfields.
Perhaps the Cumbrians were prematurely preparing for their long trip back up North because they never really emerged in the second-half. Chris Curle added insult to injury to his ex-colleagues by sending on squat striker Junior Morias to terrorise the team in blue. Morias did just that via a determined run and nutmeg with 20 left on the clock that poleaxed Carlisle keeper Adam Collin.
Keith Curle, hoarse from barking orders will be rightly proud of his charges. He clearly has a “type” of player and that means no ego, endeavour and professionalism. That fits rather well with what Town fans want to watch over on their precious weekend’s 90 minutes.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer and Cambridge next week will be a tougher test but 3 goals certainly make a Sunday for those of a claret and white persuasion.
Tactics Profile: George Cox by Phil Garlick
20 Year-Old Brighton and Hove Albion loanee George Cox made his NTFC debut in what what his first start in senior football. Not surprisingly, the left wing-back was replaced on 74 minutes by the vastly more experienced David Buchanan. By that time the course of the game was won and Cox can be proud of a good shift. Being preferred to club captain Buchanan seemed to cause him no worries and he showed why Curle has put faith in him.
Cox’s attacking flair is his main strength but Carlisle limited him to a couple of opportunities down their right flank. Known for his set-piece ability he delivered a couple of dangerous corners and a first half free-kick which threatened the top corner. Defensively he coped well with the twin threats of 17 year-old winger Lian McCarron and that of Gary Liddle. His pace was displayed when chasing back to help Shay Facey after a quick Carlisle break.
It’s early days but I’m sure we’ll all soon be declaring our love of Cox.
J Williams: 8