If ever a goal belonged on a grander stage than a near-empty stadium in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy, it was Lewis McGugan’s sensational volley in Tuesday’s tie against Southampton U21s.
With the Cobblers in need of some inspiration to fight their way back into the game having trailed 3-0, McGugan delivered in spectacular style.
Sam Foley had already pulled one goal back when, from a half-cleared corner, the midfielder showcased supreme technique to send a vicious, dipping, swerving volley crashing past Alex McCarthy in the Southampton net.
It was a goal of such skill that it belonged in front of a far bigger audience than the 1,118 fans inside Sixfields, but it was the clearest demonstration yet of McGugan’s obvious quality - and it was with his supposedly weaker left foot!
What’s more, the goal also brought the Cobblers to within striking distance of their visitors, with Ash Taylor completing the comeback six minutes into added time - sending Town through.
“It’s up there, I’ve got to be honest,” admitted McGugan when asked where his wonder strike ranks among his goals. “As soon as it left my foot I knew I had caught it well and I was really happy to see it hit the back of the net.
“It’s always nice to score a goal like that. I do take pride in my technique and it’s a massive part of my game.
“As soon as I saw the ball get headed out, my first instinct was to shoot. To be honest, I just thought about trying to get a good contact and get it on target and then hope for the best.”
It was some way for McGugan to open his account for the club, and now he’s hoping it will be the first of many at Sixfields.
“It’s massive for me,” he added. “It’s been a big part of my career, trying to add goals and get assists, so it’s nice to get off the mark and it’s nice to do it like that and hopefully there’s more to come.”
His muted celebration did not match the goal itself though, and the 29-year-old explained: “It was just the time of the game. It was a goal to get us back in the game.
“The most important thing was getting the game started again and try and get another goal.
“Everyone is here to help each other and we got back into the game and managed to get a result out of it.”
“I don’t think we’d like to be in that position again where we have to comeback. We don’t want to be 3-0 down, but we showed bottle and we showed character and we showed our grit as a team and as a squad.”