Northampton did just enough to see off Grimsby at a dank Sixfields on Saturday. Cobblers weren’t leagues apart from the Mariners but always had the power to round on their opponents.
Teams that do a little more than is required often go up and goals from Scott Wharton and Vadaine Oliver showed that Northampton are promotion material.
The Mariners find themselves in the depths of the division but can count themselves unlucky in that they came to play football but Cobblers were just too strong and too quick.
Barely a minute had passed before Northampton’s imposing centre-back Charlie Goode and Grimsby’s uber-targetman James Hanson had collided and set up a personal battle to last the 90 minutes. It should have been Grimsby celebrating in front of a strong away following moments later when a Scott Wharton slip allowed Jake Hessenthaler in for a free shot on goal.
Jake, son of retired lower league stalwart Andy, who lined up against Cobblers many times, could only shoot into the side netting with the goal gaping.
Northampton weren’t particularly fluent on a soggy pitch and an off the floor, two footed tackle from Alan McCormack framed the match as one that was to be about combat as much as it was about cool open play.
If you watch the highlights you’ll hear loud booing as Cobblers keeper Dai Cornell made a point blank save from a Matt Green volley. That’s because, moments earlier, Northampton’s Andy Williams had been chopped down in the Grimsby box. The home faithful were so sure of a penalty they celebrated raucously, only for referee Andy Haines, the man in blue, to wave away a spot-kick after pondering for an age. The colour blue never goes down well at Sixfields and Cobblers fans vented their ire chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing”.
While the referee’s aptitude was in doubt, Keith Curle’s was clear to see in producing a Cobblers side that is robust as they come. Northampton’s opener came from a textbook Nicky Adams deep free-kick followed by a Wharton free header that gave James McKeown no chance. Blackburn loanee Wharton made the FIFA video game Team of the Week and gave Cobblers a platform to build on.
This was dangerous territory for managerless Grimsby as ruthless Cobblers like to nail home an advantage. That came on the cusp of half-time with darkness descending on Sixfields as the strong Vadaine Oliver wheeled away after a playground bundle on the goal line. This was a goal that cemented Northampton’s physical reputation with a finish out of the Ian Atkins playbook. You could imagine big John Gayle relishing playing in this side with the midfield strength of McCormack and the quality into the box from Adams. The Oliver-Adams combination had Northampton on a roll.
A breathless, end to end affair continued into the second period as Sam Hoskins had not one but two chances to finish from Nicky Adams’ set ups. Hoskins sent a pair of tame volleys at the Grimsby goal after Adams had served them up on the plate.
Watching Adams you can see images of wing-wizard Stanley Matthews as Adams is unplayable with ball to feet. Northampton’s impish attacking midfielder has a higher-level ability to shift weight and feet and when he receives the ball you just know a cross is coming.
The Cobblers number 10 was one of the standout Northampton players on a day when every Northampton player performed but the likes of Adams, McCormack and goalkeeper Cornell made the difference.
Curle has created a system that is the essence of League 2, being both ugly and beautiful, archaic and modern and thoroughly difficult to play against. A Charlie Goode surge upfield after dispossessing his man showed what Cobblers are all about in harassing the opposition and piling forwards in numbers. Teams will dread coming to Sixfields and a reasonable Grimsby side join a decent Crewe outfit in leaving the shoe town on the end of a kicking. The Grimsby fans chanted “We only sing when we’re fishing” but it was Northampton who managed to net when it mattered
Cobblers, in 5th head to 4th placed Exeter for their next home game with a Devon promotion showdown in prospect.
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