Champions Cobblers coast to victory over Hatters
Champions Cobblers rounded off their home campaign in fine style on Saturday afternoon when they completed their first ever league double over Luton Town with a dominant a and thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory at Sixfields.
This was the type of performance that illustrated just why Northampton have blown all before them away this season as they outplayed and outclassed a Luton side who failed to once test Adam Smith in the home goal.
Zander Diamond’s thumping header gave Cobblers the dream start before John Marquis finished off a well-worked move to put the hosts in total control at half-time.
Luton posed more of a threat after the break with Joe Pigott three times going close but Northampton also had chances and the final scoreline could have been more one-sided but for some wayward finishing.
No matter, Northampton easily held on for the points to take their tally to 96 for the season and put the gloss on a wonderful home campaign which has seen them hit the 50-point mark at Sixfields - more home points than anyone else in League Two.
With recent wins at Leyton Orient, Plymouth, Oxford and Carlisle, Luton came into this game with a track record of upsetting the form book but as many teams have discovered to their expense this season, Northampton were simply too good and coasted to an overwhelming victory.
The game then took a back seat to events after full-time when Cobblers club captain Marc Richards lifted the League Two trophy alongside stand-in skipper David Buchanan - greeted by a huge roar from a record Sixfields crowd - and the party could well and truly commence.
Rod McDonald, Brendan Moloney and Joel Byrom all missed out against Luton with various knocks, which meant starts for Josh Lelan and Luke Prosser in defence, while 17-year-old academy midfielder Shaun McWilliams started on the bench.
Safe in the knowledge they will be lifting the League Two trophy after Saturday’s game regardless of the result, Northampton made a confident start and looked every inch a team who’ve romped away with the title.
Marquis almost latched onto a deflected Ricky Holmes shot inside the opening 90 seconds and that set the tone for the first-half, with the home side not requiring a mere four minutes to make the breakthrough.
It stemmed from a Danny Rose corner as he whipped in a teasing cross and Diamond rose highest to thump home his first goal of the season.
Danny Green fizzed a long-range effort wide in response for Luton but the Cobblers were bossing possession in the early stages and reduced their visitors to sporadic opportunities on the counter.
An entertaining opening 20 minutes was then brought to an abrupt halt when Green and Lelan clashed heavily on the halfway line with the Luton man coming off worse and in visible agony.
Green, who began his career at Sixfields, received oxygen and had to be stretchered off in a five-minute delay before the match could resume with Northampton picking up from where they left off.
The hosts remained in the ascendency and appeared in little danger against a toothless Luton outfit, however they should have been pegged back on the half-hour mark when Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu did brilliantly to skin Buchanan and put a cross on a plate for Joe Pigott but, from inside the six-yard box, the striker somehow headed over the crossbar with the goal gaping, and that miss proved doubly costly barely moments later.
Just as it appeared Luton had got a foothold and were stifling their hosts, they were then sliced open by a beautifully-constructed Northampton move that ended with a second goal.
Holmes was the architect when he burst from midfield and and then fed John-Joe O’Toole who, from the right side of the penalty area, slipped the ball through Elliot Justham’s legs and Marquis timed his run to perfection and easily tapped home to double the lead.
It was a goal that epitomised the quality that this Cobblers team have displayed all season and put the home side in cruise control.
It could have been 3-0 at half-time too but, in the six additional minutes at the end of the first-half, Sam Hoskins side-footed against the woodwork after the ball fell invitingly to him inside the penalty area.
Cobblers had to be content with just the two going into half-time before Hoskins again missed a glorious chance to score a third moments after the restart when scuffing wide after a superb breakaway led by Holmes and then carried on by Marquis.
Luton showed more ambition after half-time and they were almost rewarded with a route back into the game when Pigott spun neatly inside the area and sent a fabulous curling effort cannoning back off the woodwork.
Rose then pulled off a brilliant last-ditch tackle as Luton’s new-found attacking approach made for a much more open, end-to-end contest.
Northampton always looked a threat on the break, exemplified by Hoskins who was denied by a fine Justham save following a fine threaded through ball from Holmes, while Pigott continued to get chances at the other end and he continued to miss them, this time side-footing wide after the ball had dropped into his path.
Luton’s threat gradually diminished as the second-half progressed, however, while Cobblers strung together some brilliantly-worked passages of play as Holmes and Hoskins both saw pot shots drift harmlessly wide.
With the destiny of the three points never in doubt, the last 10 minutes petered out before the full-time whistle left the stage set for Cobblers to lift the League Two trophy.
Cobblers: Smith, Lelan, Diamond, Prosser, Buchanan (c), O’Toole, Rose, Holmes, Adams (D’Ath 57), Marquis (Collins 57), Hoskins (Taylor 84)
Subs not used: Clarke, Cresswell, McWilliams, Potter
Luton: Justham, O’Donnell, Sheehan (c), Rea, Potts, Smith, Lee (Marriott 45), Green (McQuoid 21), McGeehan, Ruddock-Mpanzu (Howells 84), Pigott
Subs not used: King, Musonda, Lawless, Benson
Referee: Darren Bond
Luton fans: 841