Jefferson Lake’s Northampton Town v Portsmouth view and player ratings - includes video highlights

MIDFIELD GENERAL - Jason Taylor put in his best Cobblers performance in the win over Portsmouth
MIDFIELD GENERAL - Jason Taylor put in his best Cobblers performance in the win over Portsmouth
  • Cobblers forced to dig deep to claim important victory
  • Midfielder Taylor was the key man with battling display
  • Town looking capable of launching serious promotion play-off challenge
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The Cobblers dipped into their playbook of methods to win matches on Tuesday night with yet another three points to add to their rapidly-growing collection.

There was, the first 15 minutes or so aside, little of the attacking verve which has been the cornerstone of other successes, notably the rampaging 5-1 win at Accrington and the 3-0 victory over York City which was so one-sided it was a contest in name only.

And it was not really like the carefully-managed 2-1 win at Shrewsbury which preceded it, in which Northampton coldly executed a game plan for 80 minutes then survived a 10-minute onslaught of pressure at the end.

Instead it was more of a resilient display in which the accent was placed firmly on being good in defensive situations and negating a Portsmouth threat which bubbled away throughout the match and reached full boil at around the 75-minute mark.

During that spell of pressure it seemed inevitable that they would score and their manager Andy Awford was perhaps right to contemplate afterwards quite how they did not.

Matt Duke produced a superb save to keep out a Matt Tubbs effort towards the end of the second half and when he was finally beaten, Ryan Cresswell was on hand to mop up on his own goal line.

Both of those players performed well, as did their defensive partners, but the ring of steel was provided in central midfield, and provided again by Jason Taylor.

Throughout the team’s superb recent run (and eight wins in 10 games can be classified as superb), it has been the attacking players who have been in the spotlight.

True, Ricky Holmes was again the talk of the Town at Sixfields on Tuesday, capping a strong and predictably determined performance with the game’s only goal.

But it was Taylor who was central to the victory.

He covered vast amounts of ground with a sweat-soaked performance which was maintained deep into injury time and put in several challenges (ranging in degrees of legality) which stemmed the blue tide.

He has formed a good partnership with the creative Joel Byrom, and it will be interesting to see how Northampton cope with the absence of the latter for the next two games as he serves a suspension for 10 bookings.

Not that they have struggled when losing a key player before.

Marc Richards didn’t play at all at Shrewsbury on Saturday and against Portsmouth, both Ivan Toney and Lawson D’Ath had ‘off nights’ and yet the team still won both games.

This is a team which finds ways to win matches and wins them with regularity and a brutal efficiency.

They have been the best team in the division for the first two months of 2015 and are now within just three points of the play-off places.

After Saturday’s trip to Plymouth they play the teams placed 22nd and 21st in the division, Tranmere and Carlisle, both at home.

All token respect aside, that has to be seen as six points on the table and ready to be consumed.

Is it time to start contemplating a promotion push? Quite possibly. It’s certainly going to be an interesting finish to the season.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE

Made a superb save towards the end of the first half to deny Tubbs and keep the Cobblers in front and played his part in the clean sheet ...7

BRENDAN MOLONEY

Was measured in his attacking play in the first half and made some vital challenges in the second in another good outing ...7

RYAN CRESSWELL

Kept Taylor very quiet, especially in the early exchanges, through his physical presence, and made a vital clearance on his own line late in the game ...7

LEE COLLINS

Continues to perform well both as a central defender and as a leader in his role as the team’s captain and is not likely to find himself out of the team on this form ...7

EVAN HORWOOD

Another of the team’s unsung heroes, the left-back has been a crucial addition to the side since returning from injury and is growing in stature each week ...7

JASON TAYLOR

Ran after and chased everything and made a succession of tackles to provide the solid midfield foundations for the victory. His best performance to date - STAR MAN...8

JOEL BYROM

As good as ever on the ball, although his set-piece delivery was slightly out and he will be frustrated with the booking which now leads to a suspension ...7

CHRIS HACKETT

Had some bright moments but was a little slack in possession at times, especially in the second half, and inadvertently put his team in trouble once or twice …6

LAWSON D’ATH

Didn’t seem to be quite right and could just be tired because he has played a lot of football in his first senior season. Was deservedly taken off ...6

RICKY HOLMES

Punctured the visiting defence several times before scoring the only goal of the game, a neat dribble and well-taken shot to settle the contest ...7

IVAN TONEY

Struggled to pick up the rhythm of the game and was dominated by the experienced back three of Portsmouth, although he did improve when paired with Richards ...6

Substitutes:

MARC RICHARDS (for D’Ath 55)

Didn’t look anywhere near fit and was actually quite immobile for a period but still managed to nearly score after outwitting Jones on a clearance ...7

DARREN CARTER (for Hackett 67)

Provided good energy at both left midfield and then in the centre and is likely to now come in for the suspended Byrom ...6

TOM NEWEY (for Holmes 83)

Not used: Jalal, Bodin, Diamond, Clifton.