Newcastle United showcased their Premier League quality to comfortably overcome a spirited Northampton Town outfit 4-1 in an enthralling and topsy-turvy Capital One Cup second round tie at St James’ Park.
A breathtaking start saw three goals inside the opening nine minutes as Newcastle raced into a 2-0 lead before Marc Richards pegged them back with a penalty.
The Cobblers grew into the game and had their moments, though Ryan Clarke in the away goal made a string of fabulous saves to keep the deficit at one and keep the away side’s hopes alive going into half-time.
But there was to be no repeat of Northampton’s memorable cup shock over Liverpool at Anfield five years ago as Newcastle scored twice more in the second half to book their place in the third round.
The Cobblers gave as good as they got throughout and troubled the Magpies at times, but the home side’s Premier League quality ultimately shone through with Florian Thauvin, on his full Newcastle debut, outstanding throughout as he set up three and scored another to spoil any chance of a cup shock.
Aside from Richards’ goal, the highlight of the night for Northampton were the terrific 989 travelling fans, who were in fine voice throughout.
Northampton manager Chris Wilder brought Port Vale loanee Adam Yates straight in at right-back for his Cobblers debut while Clarke was named in goal with Rod McDonald and Jason Taylor also returning to the starting line-up.
For Newcastle, French Under-21 international Thauvin was given his full Magpies debut in a team that also contained the highly-rated Ayoze Perez and Rolando Aarons, while former England boss Steve McClaren named former Cobblers favourite Ivan Toney on the bench.
In a lightning start to the game, United came flying out of the traps and wasted no time in stamping their authority on proceedings.
They required less than three minutes to make their mark when Aarons’ enticing whipped cross was turned home by Thauvin at the back post.
Things then turned from bad to worse for the visitors when the utterly dominant hosts made it 2-0 inside just eight minutes as Thauvin turned provider when his excellent free-kick was nodded home by Siem De Jong.
Having made the long journey north, the noisy away supporters may have been fearing the worst, but Northampton refused to buckle and showed tremendous character to hit straight back and immediately half the deficit.
A free-kick played into the area was handled by Cheick Tiote, resulting in a penalty which was confidently dispatched by Richards.
The goal was welcome relief for the previously shell-shocked visitors and it clearly lifted them as they were able to get a foothold in the game.
They were indebted to Clarke moments later, though, with the Cobblers keeper quick off his line to smother Perez’s shot after the United striker had got behind the away defence.
Northampton went straight back up the other end in what was a breathless and action-packed opening quarter, and they were agonisingly close to pulling level when Richards headed Joel Byrom’s cross inches wide following a cleverly-worked free-kick routine.
Finally the game then settled down, allowing both sides to catch their breath, although Town were visibly growing in confidence with Nicky Adams’ long-range effort sailing over before Ryan Watson also tried his luck from distance, his low shot comfortably gathered by Newcastle Northampton-born goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
Northampton were seeing plenty of the ball but Newcastle, and Thauvin in particular, looked dangerous at the other end with Clarke using his feet well to deny Daryl Janmaat.
Though Northampton remained unfazed by the occassion and enjoyed lots of possession, the Premier League side continued to carve out chances and they were getting plenty of joy down the Northampton left and Ryan Cresswell had to come to the rescue to clear off the line after Janmaat had slipped in Perez, whose dinked effort over Clarke was heading for the net before Cresswell intervened.
Clarke was in defiant mood in the Cobblers goal as his third fine save of the evening denied Perez before Thauvin put the rebound in, only for the offside flag to go up.
Northampton were firmly under the cosh as half-time neared and they were again grateful to their goalkeeper when De Jong, who headed just wide minutes earlier, went through on goal after a superb first touch, only to be thwarted by Clarke once more.
The half-time whistle eventually sounded to end a thrilling half, much to the relief of the visitors who remained in with a shout, trailing by just one.
However, the second half began as the first had ended with De Jong firing a low effort into the side-setting before Clarke came flying out to gather after Byrom had given the ball away.
Eventually the pressure told and Clarke could do little about United’s third as the home side’s dominance paid off when the impressive Thauvin slipped through Janmaat, who finally beat the visiting keeper.
That signalled the end of Northampton’s hopes with Newcastle now intent on racking up more, and they didn’t need much time to add a fourth when some slack defending allowed Mike Williamson a free header from Thauvin’s free-kick.
To their credit, Northampton never buckled and continued to come forward, and they were almost rewarded with a second but Williamson’s header landed on the roof of the net having beaten Darlow.
There was also time left for Toney to be given a Newcastle debut against his former club, replacing Massadio Haidara on 78 minutes, and he made an instant impact, playing his part in a slick team move which almost culminated in a second goal for Janmaat.
The game then rather petered out with Newcastle monopolising possession for the final few minutes, knowing they had done enough to secure a third round berth.
Newcastle: Darlow, Janmat, Lascelles, Williamson, Haidara (Toney 79), Tiote, Gouffran, Aarons, De Jong (c), Thauvin (Mitrovic 65), Perez (Colback 72)
Subs not used: Wijnaldum, Mbemba, Dummett, Elliot
Cobblers: Clarke, Yates, Cresswell, McDonald, Buchanan, Byrom, Watson (Hoskins 62), Potter (D’Ath 62), Taylor, Adams, Richards © (Calvert-Lewin 75)
Subs not used: Smith, Corry, O’Toole, Hackett
Referee: David Coote
Cobblers fans: 989