Northampton Town stunned Premier League West Brom as they won through to the third round of the EFL Cup with a dramatic 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory in an enthralling cup tie at Sixfields that had ended 2-2 after extra-time.
Following 120 minutes of thrilling, frantic football that swung one way and then the other, the tie boiled down to penalties and it was Kenji Gorre’s spot-kick that sealed a famous win for the Cobblers as the young winger sent Boaz Myhill the wrong way to score and spark wild scenes of jubilation and send Town through to the third round.
Fifty-four places separated these sides in the final standings last season, but there was no evidence of that apparent gulf in quality during a pulsating cup tie.
Northampton dominated for long periods.in the first-half as the home side moved the ball around with confidence and purpose and went ahead through Zander Diamond’s header on 35 minutes.
But as soon as they hit the front, Northampton dropped back and invited pressure and that was always going to be a risky tactic against a side of such quality, and so it proved when Adam Smith somehow failed to keep out James McClean’s long-range effort.
The half-time score flattered West Brom but they wasted no time in completing the turnaround when Gareth McAuley headed home a free-kick almost straight from the restart.
That might have been the cue for the visitors to go on and secure their passage through to round three, but Northampton refused to go away and they forced extra-time through Alex Revell’s 81st minute leveller.
Extra-time was a frenetic, end-to-end affair and both sides had their chances to win it but neither could convert and that meant a penalty shoot-out, and Smith was the hero as he saved from James Morrison before Gorre coolly converted the following penalty to seal a dramatic but deserved victory.
Lewin Nyatanga and Jak McCourt both made their full Northampton debuts for the visit of the Baggies and they were two of four changes from Rob Page’s last team with Brendan Moloney featuring for the first time this season and Harry Beautyman also coming back in.
Tony Pulis fielded close to a full-strength Baggies team that included the likes of Rickie Lambert and James Morrison as well as Saido Berahino, who returned to where his senior career all began having played on loan at Sixfields in 2011/12.
Despite the calibre of the opposition, Northampton made an assured start and enjoyed plenty of early possession, and that almost brought an early opener but Nyatanga directed his header off target from Matty Taylor’s in-swinging free-kick.
Set up 4-1-4-1, the Cobblers remained on the front foot with McCourt particularly impressive in the holding role as some patient build-up play and crisp passing brought about two quickfire long-range attempts; Gorre whizzing one over before Myhill saved low down from Moloney.
But West Brom were unlikely to remain quiet for long and the Premier League side improved as the half wore on with Lambert blazing a shot over and a corner almost being forced home after a scramble in the Northampton penalty area.
Smith had remained untested in the home goal for the first half-hour but a minute later, he got down sharply to tip wide Berahino’s powerful drive that seemed set to nestle in the bottom corner following a sustained spell of possession by the visitors.
Despite the away side’s improvement, there was no doubt that his had been a much improved showing from Town who continued to hold their own and Beautyman almost had the home side ahead with a sweetly-struck first-time volley that Brendon Galloway brilliantly headed off the line.
The disappointment of that near miss didn’t last long, though, as Northampton drew first blood from the following corner when Diamond got up well to power home a header from Moloney’s perfectly-placed cross, Myhill given no chance in the Albion goal.
Predictably, West Brom rallied immediately and they almost got back on level terms but Diamond positioned himself well to prevent Berahino from getting in behind before Jonas Olsson flicked his free-header over from the subsequent corner.
The visitors were not to be denied a leveller prior to half-time, however as just when Northampton appeared to have survived the onslaught, McClean let fly from 25 yards and his shot somehow squirmed through Smith’s hands and into the bottom corner.
Things were to get worse for Northampton within two minutes of the restart when West Brom completed the turnaround.
Albion won a contentious free-kick midway inside the Cobblers half and Matt Phillips whipped in a wicked cross that was just begging to be finished off and McAuley obliged, heading into the bottom corner.
Northampton had been guilty of dropping too deep since half-time but they responded well to going behind and won a string of corners, one of which almost saw Alex Revell equaliser but his header drifted harmlessly wide.
Good interplay on the right between McCourt and Taylor culminated in the former whipping in an inviting cross that just evaded the reach of a sliding Revell while the ever-lively Berahino kept Smith on his toes at the other end with a snapshot.
Berahino and Smith resumed their personal dual a few moments later and again the Cobblers keeper came out on top after saving well with his feet following an exquisite over-the-top through ball from Lambert.
Northampton were struggling to build much forward momentum but then, out of nothing, came the equaliser.
It arrived on 81 minutes when Sam Hoskins, who had only just been introduced, had a volley deflected towards the bottom corner, Myhill parried and the rebound fell beautifully to Revell who duly hammered into an unguarded net.
That set up a frantic finish with both sides feeling they could win it - and West Brom so nearly did but once again Smith, who had more than redeemed himself after his earlier mistake, thwarted Berahino after the striker had raced through on goal.
That meant the scores remained level at the end of normal time, and within two minutes of the start of extra-time, Taylor almost put Northampton back in front when dragging his left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
The game became more and more stretched as both teams tired but still they couldn’t be separated with Phillips flashing a shot wide in the closest West Brom came to retaking the lead before half-time in extra-time.
Once under way for a fourth and final time, Myhill gathered Revell’s shot at the second attempt and Phillips drilled another cross-shot inches wide in a frenetic, end-to-end passage of play..
Gorre went as close as anyone to winning it before penalties when the young winger burst to the touchline, cut inside past two defenders and sent a low drive towards the bottom corner, with Myhill reacting well to divert behind for a corner.
Back came West Brom through 16-year-old substitute Kane Wilson who had Smith sprawling to his left but thankfully for the Town goalkeeper, the shot whistled wide, before Berhaino skied over when unmarked inside the penalty area.
A frantic goalmouth scramble in the very last minute had heart in mouths but Northampton held on for the shoot-out.
Salomon Rondon and Hoskins scored their opening penalties but Berahino then missed for Albion and Taylor converted for the Cobblers to put them 2-1 ahead after two penalties each.
Darren Fletcher pulled West Brom level and Myhill saved John-Joe O’Toole’s penalty to keep it at 2-2 before Phillips drilled his penalty down the middle and Revell also netted to make it 3-3 after four apiece.
But then came the fatal miss as Smith saved Morrison’s tame penalty and it was all down to Gorre, who kept his cool to roll into the bottom corner.
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney (Phillips 90), Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan (c), Beautyman (Potter 75), O’Toole, Taylor, McCourt (Hoskins 75), Gorre, Revell
Subs not used: Cornell, McDonald, D’Ath, Richards
West Brom: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley (c), Olsson, Galloway (Wilson 70), Phillips, Morrison, Field, McClean (Fletcher 62), Berahino, Lambert (Rondon 85)
Subs not used: Palmer, Yacob, Gardner, Leko
Referee: Darren Bond
West Brom fans: 1,549