Cobblers boss Rob Page was one happy man after his side’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over rivals Oxford United in Boxing Day’s dramatic clash at the Kassam Stadium.
Skipper Marc Richards was the hero of the day when he turned a hard-fought draw into a much-needed victory by coolly steering home Harry Beautyman’s wayward volley with a smart backheel.
The win was all set up by a dogged defensive display, led by the outstanding Gabriel Zakuani, as Northampton kept in-form Oxford to half chances whilst always carrying a threat at the other end.
Indeed, it was the visitors who created the four clearest openings and finally, after seeing several opportunities go begging at various stages of a scrappy affair, Richards pounced to send the near-1,200 away fans into bedlam.
“It’s fantastic,” said a relieved Page, whose side had lost six of their seven previous games.
“It’s great to win any game of football but to win it late on, against the so-called better team of last season, is credit to the boys and they thoroughly deserve it.
“He (Richards) is there when you need him. Rico has worked his socks off today with Revs up top and they epitomise what we’re all about as a group.
“We haven’t had the rub of the green of late but that’s now two wins in three games so we’re pleased with the response we’ve had and it’s about building on that performance today.”
Richards may have won it but this was a team performance and every Northampton man played their part in their third successive 1-0 victory over United.
“All of them played a part, every single one of them – Zakuani making blocks, Aaron, Lewin, Buchs – everybody,” added Page.
“They all worked their absolute socks off today and deserve to be on the winning team.”
At one point it seemed the Cobblers would once again be left to rue missed chances as Lewin Nyatanga, Alfie Potter and Paul Anderson all went close, only for Richards to save the day.
Page continued: “The first thing Lewin said at half-time was to apologise for not giving us a lead with his header, so we were disappointed not to come in ahead.
“But we didn’t let Oxford get into the game and that’s credit to my players because we didn’t let them get a foothold and we imposed ourselves on them and built on that.
“They had a few chances in the second-half but they were from long-range and we were throwing bodies in the way and made some great blocks to protect Smudge, and then when we had the chance at the end, we took it.”