Cobblers cruise past Exeter to claim Wembley play-off glory
Cobblers have romped their way into League One following a magnificent performance In the League Two play-off final as they thrashed shell-shocked Exeter City 4-0 on a memorable evening at Wembley Stadium.
Predictions of a tight and cagey affair were blown out of the water by Keith Curle's superb men who were mature, efficient, professional and utterly ruthless in marching their way to a sensational 4-0 victory.
They picked up from where they left off against Cheltenham Town last week, racing out of the blocks and marching into a two-goal advantage thanks to strikes from Ryan Watson and Callum Morton.
Exeter, who lost Dean Moxey to a red card on the hour, were run ragged throughout the contest, so much so the final scoreline certainly did not flatter the Cobblers.
Sam Hoskins' easy finish nine minutes from time completed the victory and the cherry was added by substitute Andy Williams, who put the seal on a wonderful evening as Curle secured his first ever promotion as a manager.
This will be a sweet, sweet success for the Cobblers. Written off after losing 2-0 to Cheltenham in the first leg, they have responded with two faultless performances and can now look forward to hosting the likes of Sunderland, Ipswich and rivals Peterborough United in League One next season.
Curle unsurprisingly went with the same team that dismantled Cheltenham a week earlier and his side, brimming with confidence, made a quick start at an eerily vacant Wembley Stadium.
Exeter's dangerous Randell Williams showed his threat with a couple of penetrating runs early on, but Town made the stronger, more purposeful start and they were rewarded on just 11 minutes.
The Grecians cleared a set-piece only as far as Watson on the edge of the box and he kept his cool to get the ball under control, make room for a shot and fire into the corner via a deflection, giving Maxted no chance.
With Town's tails up, Maxted was needed to prevent them adding a quick second when making a decent double save from Nicky Adams' free-kick and then a follow-up effort from Sam Hoskins.
The Cobblers suffered a huge blow on the half-hour when key man Adams was forced off with a hamstring problem, replaced by Mark Marshall.
But the disappointment of losing their creative fulcrum was replaced by ecstasy just seconds later. Cobblers sent a long ball into the penalty box and won two headers through Scott Wharton and Jordan Turnbull before Morton poked into the net with a brilliant first-time volley.
The Cobblers were in dreamland and Exeter continued to struggle with balls into their box, requiring another save from their goalkeeper to tip over Wharton's header.
The side from Devon had moments of danger, most notably when Ryan Bowman escaped Town's defence, but they were only still in the tie thanks to Maxted.
He produced his best stop of the half in stoppage-time when reacting brilliantly to thwart Oliver from close-range, and he was called upon again at the subsequent corner to tip over Charlie Goode's header.
The only disappointment for the Cobblers at half-time was that they weren't further in front, and Exeter sought to punish them with their best spell of the game at the start of the second period.
But just as the Grecians were taking a hold on proceedings, their already difficult task was made even harder by the idiocy of Moxey who slid in dangerously on Watson and saw red for his troubles.
That halted City's momentum, and Cobblers wasted a golden chance to kill the tie once and fall with 20 minutes to go, sliding wide of the far post after being slid in by Oliver.
However, Town were not going to mess this one up and they could finally celebrate a memorable victory thanks to Hoskins as he was left with simple finish following good work by Marshall.
Amazingly, it got even better for the Cobblers in the final couple of minutes. Williams, only just on as a sub, latched onto a flick inside the penalty box and made no mistake, putting the gloss on a night that will go down in history.
Exeter: Maxted, Moxey, Sweeney (Dickenson 82), A Martin, Richardson (Parkes 51), Taylor (c), Atangana (Sparkes 61), Williams, Law, Fisher (Collins 51), Bowman
Subs not used: Ward, Ajose, Jay, Seymour, L Martin
Cobblers: Arnold, Goode (c), Turnbull, Wharton, Harriman, McCormack (Olayinka 74), Watson (Anderson 88), Adams (Marshall 30), Hoskins, Morton (Williams 88), Oliver (Smith 74)
Subs not used: Cornell, Martin, Lines, Marshall, Warburton
Referee: Michael Salisbury