Alan McCormack put in a mature performance in the centre of midfield to see off a callow Salford City side at Sixfields. The Manchester club’s inexperience as a league outfit showed with neat but naive play that Cobblers exploited for a 2 goal win.
Northampton were in debacle mode in the 3-0 defeat by Scunthorpe last week but the return of McCormack added calm to central areas with Cobblers’ bald centre-mid all menace and considered passes.
The opening skirmishes were Brexit vote close with half the pitch in shadow. Yet, there was a sense that Northampton’s pinball wizard plan of pelting balls into the box and feeding off knock-downs was going to result in goals. Billy Waters came into the 4-2-3-1 Northampton attack in a roving role after a midweek hat-trick for the reserves.
Graham Alexander’s Salford, in contrast, played an almost exhibition style, taking their time to try and feed Jake Jervis on the left wing or tee up Adam Rooney for pot shots.
It was Cobblers who asserted themselves in first 10 minutes as first Chris Lines sent a header from a Nicky Adams cross straight at Kyle Letheren then Sam Hoskins sent a low drive just wide.
City, in front of a sparse away following, had first half chances of their own as Rooney found space for a 20th minute shot on an angle that Dai Cornell was just able to tip away.
Cobblers’ breakthrough came in unlikely circumstances from a player that drew the ire of Salford boss Alexander. Charlie Goode, the solid Northampton defender had found himself on the floor a couple of times after drawing fouls but in the 35th minute was on the deck in the Salford box with the referee pointing to the spot.
Alexander’s face was as white as his team’s jersey at the soft decision as Goode went over the leg of Salford’s Cameron Burgess. But Burgess had made a rod for his own back with an exaggerated stretch for the ball, leaving Goode more than happy with the resultant spot kick.
Sam Hoskins, not noted for his finishing, would have been on no-ones shortlist to take the penalty but he slotted it away with aplomb, producing a confidence boost for himself and the home faithful.
Town would usually be at risk of an immediate equaliser but McCormack’s presence made sure that Salford weren’t going to just walk through midfield. This is a player who says he could still play in the Championship and you can believe it in terms of technique, though probably not in terms of age and injury record.
McCormack delivered a nice sliding tackle just shy of half time, a dying art these days with the referee reaching for his yellow card as his opponent has been brushed in taking the ball. Dance act and Salford fans K-Klass were in attendance but it was McCormack offering to ‘let me show you’ how it’s done.
Alas, McCormack was withdrawn on 55 minutes as Keith Curle managed his key player with 2 games next week but that made space for homegrown prospect Scott Pollock to get much needed involvement. Curle has been barracked this week for a lack of first team action for Town’s star youth products and he seemed to respond by sending on the assured Pollock for some meaty minutes.
Town’s Jordan Turnbull is a wrecking ball in opposition boxes and the bearded bomber secured the 2-0 win with a dominating close range volley on 66 minutes. It was a classic Keith Curle goal: Set piece, knock down, finish, leaving Salford’s Alexander exasperated but surely knowing his side hadn’t done enough to win.
Now focus will be on what Northampton are capable of. This simple win will be followed up by tough games away at Carlisle and then a local clash at home to Cambridge next Saturday. If Curle, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, can’t get consistency from a clearly capable side, then calls to replace him with someone that can will continue.
Town are 3 points off the playoffs but whether they’ll get there is anyone’s guess.
McCormack: 8 Man Of The Match