Jefferson Lake’s Exeter v Northampton Town preview: More of the same will do nicely

KILLER BLOW - Ben Harding's late winner flies into the Bristol Rovers net at Sixfields on Tuesday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
KILLER BLOW - Ben Harding's late winner flies into the Bristol Rovers net at Sixfields on Tuesday (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
Share this article

The Cobblers might have just about found the perfect model for playing away from home - and they’ve used it in their past two home matches.

The wins against Plymouth Argyle and Bristol Rovers were ones in which the end product of league points justified the means of low-entertainment performances.

Neither was pretty to watch and in both cases the concept of winning ugly was taken to new levels.

Just look at the goals that decided them - a goalkeeping error under pressure at a corner leading to a tap-in and a hooked finish after a long throw-in had been flicked into the danger zone.

Neither is likely to get Barcelona despatching the scouts to west Northampton but they were enough to bank six precious league points and ensure the Cobblers stayed in the upper reaches of the play-offs.

They have also generated some more belief, namely the kind associated with a team that wins matches regardless of their actual performance in them, like a more rudimentary version of Manchester United if you like.

What they have done, too, is provide a blue print for how the team should play away from home.

The way Northampton beat Plymouth and Bristol Rovers was exactly the way promotion teams have won at Sixfields in recent years.

The policy is safety first - keep things tight and ensure your defence is stable and solid at all times.

It helped that Clarke Carlisle had a really good game on Tuesday night and that Lee Collins continues to improve (Kelvin Langmead always has a good game, as does Lee Nicholls, so there are no concerns there).

With the defence taken care of, the next facet is scoring goals.

Aidy Boothroyd commented in his weekly press conference that he feels the current side is always capable of scoring, a statement backed up by the fact they have drawn just two blanks in their past 21 league games.

That is a good record and one that has its roots in a first-rate set-piece game.

Ben Tozer’s throw-in ability means the number of opportunities to get the ball into the box is often doubled (or even more) during a game, and there is no way opposing teams can dedicate enough preparation time to defending both throws and corners without the rest of their game suffering.

So at Exeter this weekend, the Cobblers just need to do exactly what they’ve done at Sixfields in the past week.

Keep it tight, don’t concede, and get a set-piece.

It’s a big game but one Northampton are fully capable of winning.

Especially if they can take not just their form at home but also their tactics there, away with them.