Northampton battered a slick Crewe side with a 3 goal salvo in 24 minutes at soggy Sixfields.
Keith Curle’s men made a mockery of match statistics with Crewe controlling possession and shots on target figures but Town dominating where it mattered, the opposition box.
The game was always going to be a clash of styles as the mayhem men of Northampton tried to disrupt the possession play of Dave Artell’s Railwaymen and cause pandemonium in their box.
Cobblers fans had less then ten minutes to warm cool plastic with their backsides before centre-back Scott Wharton had them on their feet. The opener was classic Curle, a probing set-piece in the box, followed by a melee and then a tap in by the Blackburn loanee Wharton. From chaos comes order for Curle.
This was a baptism of fire for Artell’s callow Crewe, who had as many as 6 players starting who had come through their youth system. Alexandra’s talented academy graduate Charlie Kirk should have had an equaliser minutes later but could only slice wide.
While Crewe were tentative, Town were ruthless and were 2-0 up on 18 minutes when Wharton bagged his brace. The second was an absolute scorcher from a well worked free-kick pinged in by Nicky Adams.
Wharton took it first time with a crisp side footed volley that swept past Will Jaaskelainen in the Crewe net. The Crewe keeper is the son of former Bolton and Finland keeper Jussi and could have done with a few tips from his father about dealing with Northampton’s bombardment.
Crewe gaffer Artell lamented that his side should have been 3-0 up in the first-half but it was Cobblers who claimed a third via a penalty after a blatant trip on Paul Anderson. Former Nottingham Forest man Anderson bamboozled Crewe with a lovely penalty box Cruyff turn before being felled by Nicky Hunt. Sam Hoskins slotted home the penalty to take cauldron Sixfields to boiling point.
Alexandra deserved their reply which came just short of half-time when Chris Porter stabbed in after a Hunt long shot had been spilled by Dai Cornell. However, Cobblers deserved their lead after pummelling their opponents in key moments. Crewe’s lads in yellow would have been green around the gills in the half-time changing rooms.
The next goal after the break was going to be key and, as darkness fell, it was Northampton’s Andy Williams who was celebrating under the Sixfields floodlights. Again it was an industrial goal from the Cobblers as Williams chased down a massive up and under before chipping over an encroaching Jaaskelainen. Northampton’s shoe army were in raptures chanting “Artell what’s the score” at the former Cobbler in the away team dugout. Artell needed a calculator.
This was a clash of styles of Sugar Ray Leonard v James “Bonecrusher” Smith proportions. Crewe were all elan but Northampton were winning the personal battles. Man Of The Match Alan McCormack proved a man possessed, showing everything about his intent with a 70th minute double tackle where he slide in on 2 Crewe players in quick succession. Crewe’s holding midfielder Paul Green had once been likened to Gennaro Gattuso by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni but McCormack controlled the centre of the park like Andrea Pirlo crossed with Phil Mitchell.
Cobblers were evoking the spirit of the Ian Atkins days as Northampton demoralised their opponents. While McCormack was a man apart in the centre circle, centre-back Charlie Goode emerged as the next Ray Warburton, rising like a gazelle to win headers and providing growing presence.
After wins against decent sides like the Railwaymen of Crewe it’s fair to say that the Keith Curle promotion train is on. The Northampton boss seems to have distilled the best and worst of League 2 into in your face tactics that turn the attacking third into Town’s playground.
The only slight note of caution is that Northampton’s form is almost identical to that of last year. The wheels came off in December 2018 and Town now have the likes of Exeter and Forest Green to negotiate before Christmas. Having seen off one of the best footballing sides in the division however, Cobblers should have no fear.
McCormack: 9 Man Of The Match