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Friday, September 22, 2023
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Cobblers show higher level intentions with smooth Newport win

Northampton flowed through a warm September match V second placed Newport County with a 2-0 win that showed higher level intentions, writes Tom Reed. The game saw unseasonably warm highs at Sixfields and Keith Curle’s side turned up the heat from the off against their South Wales opponents.

Latecomers enjoying a last minute pint in the sunshine missed action at both ends, as first a Joss Labadie header was chalked off for offside and then Northampton’s Andy Williams notched with barely 5 minutes gone. County hadn’t conceded in 6 league games but it was Williams taking over on the stat attack by cutting home his 4th in his past 5 matches. Newport Twitter tried to give it as an own-goal for Mark O’Brien as the Exiles’ defender sliced into his own net but it’d be cruel to take the goal away from the industrious Williams.

Williams epitomises the modern day, lower league lone striker with his work rate, hold-up play and finishing ability and his no-nonsense approach symbolises the kind of play that Curle expects from his claret and whites. 

Cobblers pressed high from the off and aimed to pen in a decent County side that can dominate if allowed. Most enthusing for the home fans was that Cobblers tried to play a bit of football in between the rapid counter-attacking that is becoming Curle’s staple. New Northampton full-back Michael Harriman looks understandably rusty after being a free-agent but slowly started to find space for intelligent passing while centre-mid Chris Lines looked for crafty through balls. 

On 18 minutes the revitalised Northampton winger Sam Hoskins headed a Harriman cross at the Newport goal but the effort was well saved by County keeper Tom King. 

The Exiles, meanwhile, were happy to play patiently and mainly through the Swansea schooled Josh Sheehan. However, Curle had stuck centre-back Jordan Turnbull in as a holding midfielder meaning that anything Newport tried to do in central areas had to go through a 6ft 1 inch wall in the shape of Northampton’s bearded stopper. Labadie was one of County’s standout players but the well-built captain was well marshalled by the Northampton defence that carried out Curle’s team talk to a T.

This was a game that Northampton never had anything but total control over. The two hundred odd travelling fans in yellow would have seen the writing on the wall from the off on a hot day where goals conceded were incredibly hard to claw back.

Maybe County were affected by potential interest in manager Mike Flynn from managerless Lincoln City but in truth, few League 2 clubs will come and get much from Northampton in this mood. Keith Curle’s directional barks can be heard in the nearby cinema and his players did everything he asked.

There was a past half-time scare for Northampton as local lad Shaun McWilliams went off with heart palpitations but hopefully it will be just due to the huge effort put in by the Kings Heath native who is an aggressive player you definitely want on your side.

A second was always on the cards for Northampton and that came on 72 minutes via the diminutive Hoskins. The goal will have Curle grinning from ear to ear, coming from two of his favourite play phases in stealing possession and hitting the opposition on the counter. Andy Williams charged down a Newport clearance, Charlie Goode collected before surging forwards and feeding Chris Lines who cut back for Hoskins to slide home. Hoskins received a loud cheer having been in receipt of significant stick recently but has always kept going.

A Jamille Matt red card for County capped one of those days for the away side with the Newport substitute striker being sent off for a silly second red after a tug on a claret shirt. Man Of The Match defender Charlie Goode then topped a sterling performance with a mocking wave to the Newport number 11 as he departed the pitch. You do love to see it and performances like this from Northampton are a pleasure to watch.

If Town had been in first place you’d have taken this showing and that result all day long against second placed Newport. The challenge for Northampton now is to turn their top 6 intent into an actual direction of travel that sees them there. Cobblers are definitely capable.

Player ratings

Cornell: 7

Harriman: 7

Goode: 8. Man Of The Match

Wharton: 7

Martin: 7

Turnbull: 7

Adams: 7

Lines: 7

McWilliams: 7

Hoskins: 7

Williams: 8


Kaja (for McWiiliams 53) 7

Smith (for Williams 79) 6

Warburton (for Adams 87) 6

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