Jefferson Lake’s Port Vale v Cobblers view and player ratings: Town rise to the occasion

SILENCING THE CROWD - the Cobblers players celebrate Clarke Carlisle's opener at Port Vale (Picture: Kelly Cooper)
SILENCING THE CROWD - the Cobblers players celebrate Clarke Carlisle's opener at Port Vale (Picture: Kelly Cooper)

Saturday’s game at Port Vale was the perfect dress rehearsal for the high-pressure environment of the play-offs that awaits the Cobblers.

And on this evidence they are well equipped to deal with the intensity of such a situation when everything is done and dusted - in terms of the regular season - next weekend..

The team is unlikely to play in front of as big and as expectant a crowd as the one that saw them draw 2-2 at Vale Park until the final itself, should they reach Wembley.

They cannot play the heavily-supported Bradford City, a team whose attendance record Vale were looking to surpass on Saturday but ultimately came up short.

Instead it looks like either Cheltenham or Burton Albion, both well backed sides but neither of whom will be able to conjure the kind of noise generated by the 11,000 thirsty fans in Burslem at the weekend.

It would have been easy to crumble in such a situation, especially considering that there was not really a huge amount at stake for Northampton - a position underlined when Cheltenham took a lead against Exeter from which they never looked back.

And the number of younger players in the side would have been forgiven for not producing their best in such a situation - in the event, the opposite was true.

Debutant David Moyo, an eyebrow-raising selection at centre-forward, showed signs of his potential value to the team in the future (and now). He played with courage and commitment, and was still going strong at the end of a full 90-minute shift.

At risk of going overboard, Lewis Hornby is a star in the making.

He has inherited Michael Jacobs’ ‘one of our own’ terrace song but a better comparison would be that of Luke Chambers, an emerging player in a good side with the footballing world at his feet.

They both performed well in this game, as did every member of the side. It was an improvement on the Wycombe outing (which in itself was an improvement) and bodes well for the end-of-season shenanigans.

Experienced and sturdy campaigners like Adebayo Akinfenwa, Clive Platt, Kelvin Langmead and Joe Widdowson were all missing and all will gradually be added to the fray before the first leg of the semi-finals.

A game against Barnet will take place between now and then and against such opposition motivation is unlikely to be hard to come by.

The team will also need to use it to build some more momentum for the three games that lay in wait once the season has formally finished.

They are getting better on the pitch with every passing game; they look more likely to create chances and score goals in open play, as evidenced by Roy O’Donovan’s excellent goal at the end of some neat midfield interplay.

At Port Vale on Saturday they also proved they have the mental strength to cope with the pressure of big games.

That hasn’t always been the case this season, and doubts had crept in during recent fixtures at Bradford City and Cheltenham Town.

Hope, though, was renewed at Vale Park. The season is set for an exciting finish.

Jeff’s ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

Clean handling throughout and had no chance with either goal - the first from a cross that bounced in no man’s land ...7

BEN TOZER

A very sensible and disciplined performance and really had his hands full with Dodds and the overlapping Jones ...7

CLARKE CARLISLE

Really got stuck into his task, played on the edges and with physicality and took his goal like a seasoned professional ...8

LEE COLLINS

So unlucky to concede the late own goal but that was more or less the only thing he did wrong in another excellent display ...8

JOHN JOHNSON

Had his work cut out with Myrie-Williams, who is possibly the best winger in the division, but passed the test with flying colours ...7

CHRIS HACKETT

Showed signs of the old magic and his individual battle with the talented Jones was one of the game’s key plot lines ...7

BEN HARDING

Seems so much more comfortable and confident with the extra man in midfield and got to lots of loose balls first ...7

LEWIS HORNBY

Was not fazed by the occasion at all and actually seemed to rise to it; cool and calm in possession and provided the pass for O’Donovan’s goal ...8

LUKE GUTTRIDGE

Enjoyed a blood-and-thunder midfield battle with fellow schemer Griffith in which no quarter was asked or given ...8

ROY O’DONOVAN

The wide role limited his ability to influence the game in sustained periods but the goal was a first-rate striker that gladdened the heart ...7

DAVID MOYO

Was given no real chances to use his fabled pace but can still be hugely pleased with the contribution he made to the game ...7

Substitutes not used: Snedker, Akinfenwa, Cameron, Dias, Wilson, Robinson