Momentum, revenge, game time for certain players - the Barnet game was a useful exercise in box-ticking for a Cobblers squad for whom, as Aidy Boothroyd says, ‘the season starts here’.
Despite being played in front of Sixfields’ third-largest ever crowd (only the visit of Manchester City in September 1998 and the play-off semi-final against Bristol Rovers earlier that year drew bigger numbers), this was a game played against a backdrop of almost complete silence.
The Barnet fans were as lacklustre as their team, finding their voices with the same kind of scarcity with which the visiting players mounted attacks. This morning, both may wish they had put more into it.
It was not until the second half that the Sixfields faithful made some noise of their own, as Adebayo Akinfenwa was introduced to give the team a pivot in the forward line.
He was not responsible for the first goal, another excellent and nerveless finish by the continually-improving Roy O’Donovan, but his hold-up and slipped, Iniesta-like pass to Luke Guttridge for the second was reminiscent of the kind of interplay the two used to enjoy towards the end of the big man’s first spell with the club.
Would the team have scored these goals a month ago, when Guttridge was being forced to watch games in their entirety from the substitutes’ bench?
Probably not. And we may never know the real reasons for his exclusion from the side.
Boothroyd maintained it was a form thing but the conspiracy theorists - as is usually the case - were unhappy with that reasoning and hinted at something more sinister.
Has the absence made Guttridge’s heart grow fonder for first-team action? Absolutely. He has played like a man possessed in the past three games and has made a big difference to a midfield that can now thread its way through teams as well as bullying them with the set-piece.
Boothroyd deserves credit for his handling of the situation; his policy has kept Guttridge hungry and provided him with a real point to prove.
It also shows the flexibility with which the team can play - against Barnet there was virtually none of the ‘hoofball’ for which the team is regularly maligned by opposing managers and both goals were a result of patient, passing football.
There will have been broad smiles on the supporters’ faces - especially those who went to Underhill - as Barnet’s relegation to the non-league realm was confirmed.
The manager too, will have been pleased that his team picked up a win and some extra momentum for the play-off campaign to come.
Beneath all of the major plots, is Guttridge’s angle. He might be Northampton’s key player going into the games against Cheltenham. He’s certainly in form. And, on this evidence, capable of making the key contributions during the fine margins that settle matches.
Jefferson’s player ratings
Exemplary handling and made the right decisions when called upon to think on his own feet ...7
Had his hands full with the impressive Gambin but dealt with him well enough and got outside on a few overlaps ...7
Another rock-solid and commanding display from the captain; the clean sheet never looked in any doubt ...8
Will benefit a lot from these 90 minutes and even found time to put in a hefty challenge on Edgar Davids ...6
The defender is fast becoming the signing of the season and was as impressive at left-back as he has been as a central defender ...8
Another fairly quiet game but took his goal with a glacier-cool head in what was the game’s breaking point ...7
Was the least worked of the midfield three but can still feel enormously proud of his contribution to the game ...6
Supplied a neat pass for O’Donovan’s goal and then buried one of his own. A first-rate performance and his best since returning to the side ...8
Was running the game for the first third of it and although he faded in the second half this was still a major step forward ...7
His missed chance early in the contest seemed to set the tone for his afternoon and the harder he tried the worse it got ...5
Found it hard to get into the game during its formative stages and saw his afternoon ended early by a tactical reshuffle ...6
ADEBAYO AKINFENWA (for Moyo, 56mins)
His introduction was a contributing factor in the changing of the game’s pattern and he reproduced plenty of the old magic ...7
CLAUDIO DIAS (for Guttridge, 76mins)
No real opportunities to use his speed but the involvement will benefit him in the future ...6
Not used: Johnson, Hackett, Snedker, Wilson, Moult