Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers verdict and ratings: Duke the difference between defeat and victory

Matt Duke was in superb against Newport (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Matt Duke was in superb against Newport (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saturday’s win over Newport County provided further evidence of two elements of the current Northampton side that are very quickly becoming accepted facts.

The first is that Matt Duke is an exceptional goalkeeper. In this game he was clearly and unequivocally the difference between defeat and victory.

He made at least three reflex saves that he really had no right to and although they are only whispering at this stage there are already people who are stating he is a better option between the sticks than Lee Nicholls was last season.

Certainly, it is hard to remember Nicholls having this kind of rich seam of form – Duke has been the Cobblers’ best player in their first three matches and without him the Sixfields mood would be remarkably different.

The other ongoing storyling involves Roy O’Donovan, who served further notice at the weekend of both his intention and ability to reach the magical 20-goal mark.

A lot has been made of whether the club will be able to replace the goals scored by Adebayo Akinfenwa this season and by which source – O’Donovan, to use dreadful cliché, has definitely stepped up to the plate in that regard.

He now has two in the season’s first three games and it really should have been three in three; few would bet against him reaching Akinfenwa’s mark of 18 while he is in such rude health.

Solid contributions, too, came from Gary Deegan and Ian Morris, who was marginalised at times but highly effective when he needed to be.

The afternoon, though, belonged to Duke. It would have been a very different result without his excellence in goal.

In fact, it is possible to be more certain than that, and say that if he hadn’t played the way he had, then the Cobblers would have lost.

MATT DUKE

Without question, he was the Cobblers’ best player and it is hard to recall a goalkeeping display as good as this one for some time ...9

KEVIN AMANKWAAH

Once he had settled into his groove he was very good defensively; offered less at the other end but very consistent in the tackle ...7

BEN TOZER

Acclimitised well to the late team change that saw him moved from right-back to centre-back and performed well in the role ...7

LEE COLLINS

Showed a cool head on the ball that could have been mistaken for being ponderous; dealt with Zebroski pretty well ...7

JOE WIDDOWSON

Sloppy booking for kicking the ball away blotted his copybook but was fine otherwise and joined in with several attacks ...6

DANNY EMERTON

Looked lively but, as is often the case with wingers, it was a bits-and-pieces game with bursts of activity following by spells out of the game ...6

DARREN CARTER

Offered dynamism in the centre but the feeling is there is still more to come from the central midfielder ...6

GARY DEEGAN

A nuisance all afternoon for the visitors and fully deserved his well-taken goal – seems to be growing in confidence ...7

IAN MORRIS

Created both goals, the first with his weaker right side and the second through initial brute force and persistence. End product was vital ...8

JACOB BLYTH

Led the line well and showed he could be the man to play the ‘big striker’ role. Timing was good for the goal and can be forgiven for running out of steam ...7

ROY O’DONOVAN

His involvement in the game was limited but he executed well when he had to, producing a fine finish with what was arguably the result-sealing goal ...7

Substitutes:

IVAN TONEY (for Blyth, 73mins)

Added some energy to the forward line and can be forgiven for taking the wrong option once or twice ...6

ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC (for Emerton, 77mins)

None of the fireworks of midweek – not with the ball, that is, as a bizarre and unnecessary confrontation with Sandell was his most notable contribution ...5

Not used: Snedker, Moyo, Dias, Hooper