Northampton Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0 – match review, player ratings and highlights

Danny Rose finds the top corner of Ryan Allsop's net (pictures by Sharon Lucey)
Danny Rose finds the top corner of Ryan Allsop's net (pictures by Sharon Lucey)

Though not achieved in quite the same swashbuckling manner as many of the previous eight, this ninth win on the trot came in typically efficient fashion in keeping with Cobblers’ record-breaking run.

Not even the most optimistic of Northampton fans could have predicted how spectacularly their team would respond to the defeat against Portsmouth back in December.

The Cobblers had won five in a row going into that game but the result brought fourth-placed Portsmouth to within three points of leaders Plymouth and the pre-season favourites were expected to seize control of the title race, only for the Cobblers to instead go on a barnstorming, record-breaking rampage towards the League Two title.

Northampton were a mere three points ahead of Portsmouth at that stage but nine games, nine wins and two months later, the Cobblers find themselves cruising towards promotion, an incredible 21 points clear of Pompey.

Wycombe Wanderers were another team to come to Sixfields and put up a spirited fight but as so many before them, they left empty-handed as Town capped off a dream week in perfect fashion.

Ahead of three games against three promotion rivals in seven days – two being away – a return of six or even five points would have been viewed as an excellent but attainable return, yet the Cobblers have taken all nine to strengthen their own position to an almost unassailable one.

Whilst a club record of nine straight wins is of course highly impressive in its own right, the fact that five of those results came against current top nine sides makes it all the more staggering.

Whatever the opposition, whatever the circumstances, even gale-force winds and driving rain, nothing is going to stop the Cobblers from playing League One football next season.

On Saturday, the final scoreline suggests this was a tight game but although Wycombe more than played their part in an entertaining contest, the Cobblers could easily have won by a greater margin.

All afternoon their superior pace, movement and attacking fluency in the final third always gave them the edge over Wycombe, and finally their patience and persistence paid off just after the hour-mark.

Before that, Ricky Holmes, James Collins and John-Joe O’Toole all had chances in a frenetic and action-packed first half that saw Northampton produce some excellent attacking football although the final touch was often missing.

Holmes and Lee Martin were influential, as they have been ever since the latter’s arrival at Sixfields, but the game remained goalless at half-time due to a mixture of poor finishing and questionable refereeing decisions with Graham Salisbury turning down two strong penalty shouts for the home side.

The first was particularly baffling when Nicky Adams, on his return to the team, fed Martin inside the penalty and the winger’s nimble footwork and quick-thinking tied Marcus Bean in knots, only for the Wycombe man to seemingly chop his opponent down.

The whistle went to the referee’s mouth and all around Sixfields were expecting a point to the spot to follow, even Wycombe’s players seemed resigned, only for Salisbury to book Martin for an apparent dive, much to many people’s bemusement and Martin’s incredulity.

Ultimately that would not matter but the Chairboys did improve as the game wore on and Jason McCathy spurned their best chance when left unmarked at a free-kick, however Town gradually shifted through the gears, upped the tempo and made the breakthrough.

After Collins and Holmes each went close early in the second half, it was no surprise that the latter played an instrumental role in the goal when he got free on the right and squared to Martin who teed up Danny Rose and the midfielder stroked into the top corner.

Lawson D’Ath blazed over in the only really clear-cut chance of what remained although Adam Smith pulled off a terrific low stop from Anthony Stewart’s 25-yarder, one of the very few top class saves he’s had to make over the past few weeks, to preserve the clean sheet.

Though it was not a vintage display, the hosts always seemed in control especially once the impressive Rose had fired them ahead.

The fact that there’s several man of the match contenders after almost every game is a mark of just how good this Northampton team is, and Saturday was no different, though it was hard to look past Rod McDonald whose exceptional reading of the game was again to key to keeping a fourth clean sheet on the spin.

Northampton’s new-found defensive resolve has gone somewhat under the radar, which is little surprise given their attacking flair, but Smith’s reduced workload has been noticeable in recent weeks and months, and much of that is down to the blossoming centre-back partnership between Zander Diamond and McDonald.

Diamond’s front-foot defending and aerial presence combined with McDonald’s anticipation makes them an excellent partnership which has thwarted three promotion-chasing teams in the past week.

The consistency and tireless work-rate of the two full-backs is another contributing factor, David Buchanan is Northampton’s only ever-present this season while Brendan Moloney has been especially impressive recently, and the energy of box-to-box midfielders O’Toole and Rose lends a helping hand whenever required.

Factor in the team’s exciting attacking play and it all adds up to a 10-point lead at the top of the table.

If Northampton had overcome Portsmouth in December – a tight game that could have gone either way – they wouldn’t have just made their own club history on Saturday, they also would have broken a Football League record for most consecutive wins, which currently stands at 14 and is shared by Preston, Man United and Bristol City.

That’ll have to wait.... for now.

How they rated...

Adam Smith - Far from a busy afternoon but did pull off a top class save to thwart Anthony Stewart and preserve a fourth clean sheet in a row... 7

Brendan Moloney - Twice rescued his team-mates when caught light at the back and did well to prevent Wood from reaching O’Nein’s cutback. Didn’t put a foot wrong... 8

Zander Diamond - Dominant in the air and steady on the floor as he continued his fine run of form... 8

Rod McDonald - Concrete Rod delivered again with another classy outing, time and again bailing his side out with timely and crucial interventions. Aerially commanding and calm in possession too... 9 CHRON STAR MAN

David Buchanan - Skipper for the day and this was another highly competent display to add to his growing collection this season... 8

John-Joe O’Toole - Rare occasion where he was outshone by his midfield partner but still influential in the win with his ability to get from box-to-box... 7

Danny Rose - A Rolls-Royce of a midfield performance. His third Cobblers start and a third impressive game, capped off by a well-taken goal... 8

Ricky Holmes - Wycombe were the latest team to struggle to contain his movement and trickery. Influential throughout, not least in the winning goal... 8

Lee Martin - Very harshly booked for diving but that didn’t deter him from wanting to get on the ball and make things happen as his pace and movement stretched the Wycombe defence all afternoon... 8

Nicky Adams - Understandably rusty on his return to the team but linked up well with his team-mates and put in a couple of dangerous crosses... 7

James Collins - Had an off day in front of goal but hold-up play was immaculate as he linked up effectively with the three creative players behind him. Worked his socks off too... 7

Substitutes

Lawson D’Ath - 6

Jason Taylor - 6

Sam Hoskins - 6