Northampton Town filled the goal tally with a 4-0 trouncing of Exeter City in an empty Wembley to win the League 2 playoff final.
Cobblers performance was as bright as the pyrotechnic smoke bombs of jubilant fans that greeted their triumphant return to Sixfields in the early hours after a total team performance at the National Stadium.
Exeter’s main error was to try and play Northampton at their direct game and Cobblers shrugged off the Grecians’ advances.
Northampton’s approach is about unrelenting consistency mixed with individual quality and an unchanged Town started where they left off in the semi-final win over Cheltenham by forcing an early lead via a smart Ryan Watson 20 yard drive. Leicester City schooled Watson’s goal was as much about the first touch and shift to the left foot as it was the connection that beat Jonny Maxted in the Grecians’ goal all ends up.
Exeter boss Matt Taylor’s mood would have been as dark as Northampton’s black away jerseys as his side struggled to produce any meaningful deck-based play. There was only going to be one winner in a toe-to-toe tussle and that appeared to be Northampton’s “Curleball” as early as 31 minutes as Town notched a second via the intuitive Callum Morton.
West Brom loanee Morton scored a header in the semis that he barely had time to see and showed his striking instincts at Wembley with a short range volley of real anticipation on 31 minutes. This was a pure Curle set-up from a long range free-kick, headed goalwards by the imposing Scott Wharton and finished by Morton.
Silver mopped Watson and red headed Morton have been nick-named Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasley and it was Cobblers bringing the magic as Town headed into half-time two goals to the good.
Unfortunately for Exeter it was Dean Moxey being expelliarmussed early in the second half as the defender saw red for a tasty tackle on Watson. Exeter born Moxey, in his second spell at the club, had also been a fan favourite at Crystal Palace, known for his attacking runs but the only thing he was attacking this time was Watson’s ankles and the early bath.
Another player in the dressing room early doors was the injured Northampton wing-back Nicky Adams who had pulled a hamstring and been replaced by Mark Marshall. It showed Town’s strength in depth that the superlative crosser Adams was barely missed and Marshall was able to set up Sam Hoskins for Northampton’s third with ten to play.
Fireman Sam Hoskins brandishes fire extinguishers for his social media goal gif celebration and he put the tin hat on the win with a cool right footed finish from a Marshall square ball.
For Northampton, this was a performance of individual quality, mental strength and players that grew throughout the season to show it on the big stage. A win worthy of the playoff concept.
Exeter, however were bereft of the technique that had seen them in the top 3 for decent periods of the season and put in a performance as paper thin as the cardboard cutout fans in the stands.
Northampton’s squad strength showed in the last knockings as Cobblers pummelled Exeter with a classic Keith Curle fourth. Charlie Goode, the centre-back who barely put a foot wrong all evening, hurled a long throw onto the head of lofty substitute forward Harry Smith before Andy Williams volleyed home.
The result was somewhat harsh on Exeter who have performed well all season but then again it wasn’t. Football isn’t a fair sport and sometimes life isn’t pretty and it was a beautifully ugly performance from Cobblers that takes them a rung higher in the league ladder.
The debate about whether to award a new contract to Keith Curle has been put to be quicker than a stepson caught raiding the biscuit tin. He deserves the chance to take Northampton forwards.
Curle’s champagne soaked celebrations as Town received their trophy was enough to bring joy to even the most socially distant of hearts. His side had put in a Dom Perignon performance, laced with a bit of rough cider, while Exeter fell flat.