For an FA Cup Round 4 tie that was supposed to revolve around Wayne Rooney, Northampton Town’s team game caught the attention at a sold-out Sixfields.
Northampton’s power play had County on the back-foot for much of the match and if League 2 Town had a touch more precision, they’d have secured a solo Round 5 draw berth instead of sharing with Championship Derby.
Keith Curle’s mayhem men burst out John Dillinger levels of all guns blazing with Town target man Vadaine Oliver brushing the bar after a 4th minute melee following a Nicky Adams corner. Sixfields was bouncing as the home support revelled in a proud night for Northampton sport with Northampton Saints rugby playing London Irish just down the road and both games live on BT Sport. The match also featured a poignant standing ovation for the late Harry Dunn, the Cobblers fan who tragically died in a collision with the wife of a US Intelligence officer at a local military base.
While Northampton fans’ retinas glowed with unfamiliar sight of animated LED advertising hoardings, the game was flashing before Derby’s eyes as the imposing Oliver thumped a header agonisingly wide of Kelle Roos’ right hand post. Northampton’s other physical forward Andy Williams then showed he had technique to go with shoulder to shoulder to strength to shift feet and sent a fizzing shot into the side netting.
There was controversy when Cobblers’ standout defender Charlie Goode tackled an on the run Jack Marriott with the Rams’ forward falling to the deck. Goode showed no quarter to Marriott, who grew up in Northampton, but in truth, got the ball and a red card for the game’s stand-out player would have been no way to a decide a game that was closer than a cut throat shave.
Derby boss Phillip Cocu was all up in the 4th official’s grill along with his coaching team but with the referee saying nothing doing, the Dutchman was left to worry about a game that County couldn’t settle into. Northampton’s gameplay is simple but oh so effective, press high, ping balls into the box and don’t give the opposition a second to think.
Such high tempo Cobblers gameplay inevitably meant that the home side flagged at times and that is when County, who play some nice passing football were able to boss possession. Yet, Town’s defence stood firm with Goode and Jordan Turnbull putting in several key blocks to frustrate the Rams. Rooney, a calm midfielder now rather than the unpredictable Everton wonder-kid was mainly limited to corners, one of which Curtis Davies headed onto the roof of the net.
Northampton fans went into the half-time break and long queues for the bars, with their chests puffed out while Cocu tried to formulate a plan to win the game via a team that had 8 changes from the weekend.
Cobblers had played Saturday-Tuesday and but put fatigue to one side as Chris Lines had the hosts’ best chance with an audacious dipping volley that went over the bar. At the other end, Chris Martin flicked a header high and wide from a Rooney free-kick to wrap up a game of high intensity but low on goals as the replay was confirmed with 0-0 on the scoreboard.
Northampton were without two key players in centre-back Scott Wharton and midfield general Alan McCormack and with the pair back for the return game, Town’s in your face game can turn up a notch.
Derby have Division 1 titles but Cobblers showed that reputation means next to nothing in the Cup on a night of sporting pride in Northampton and will head to Derby with upwards of 5,000 travelling fans and the confidence to finish off the job.
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