Chris Wilder had a few harsh words for his side after Monday’s below-par display against Accrington, but there was little he could be critical of following this stylish 3-0 win over Barnet, some wayward finishing aside, as the rampant Cobblers cranked up the heat on leaders Plymouth.
Wilder was looking for a swift response following that previous showing at Sixfields and his Northampton players certainly delivered as they stepped through the gears to swat aside an abject Bees outfit who could barely register a single genuine chance of note.
The gulf in quality between these two was evident from as early as Sam Hoskins’ fifth-minute strike as the Cobblers utterly dominated thereafter, bar the odd Barnet attack, with Ricky Holmes and Marc Richards also on target.
The fact that goalkeeper Ian Lawlor, who only signed on an emergency loan from Manchester City a few weeks ago, was by far Barnet’s best player despite the 3-0 final scoreline is indicative of just how one-sided this game was.
Around the three goals, Lawlor had to be at his very best to twice deny both Lawson D’Ath and Holmes as he single-handedly ensured his side left Sixfields with a modicum of respectability intact, rather than an embarrassing defeat which would have been in keeping with Barnet’s woeful away record.
Indeed, the final shot count, with Cobblers registering nine on target – and 20 in all – to Barnet’s one, underlined the home side’s dominance.
The decision to bring in Holmes and Hoskins was fully vindicated as the two added verve, pace and a spark which was missing on Monday when the Cobblers rather laboured to a 1-0 win over Accrington.
Holmes’ undeniable quality had Barnet rapidly back-peddling right from the word go and any fears that he’d be rusty on his first start of the season were quickly extinguished.
While Holmes was working his way back to full fitness, Hoskins must have been wondering what he had to go to nail down a regular starting berth but surely this display, full of energy, pace and movement, will be rewarded with more game time.
It was Hoskins who got the ball rolling with a fifth-minute breakthrough as he guided D’Ath’s low cutback into the bottom corner in what was the game’s first meaningful chance.
It was just the start that most of those inside Sixfields wanted and it set the tone for Northampton to go on and dictate the remainder of the first half as Hoskins, Holmes and John-Joe O’Toole were all instrumental in the Cobblers outclassing a beleaguered Barnet side.
Even in the slippery conditions, Northampton were able to string together some fluent attacking football with only the end product lacking, though that would quickly change after half-time.
The second goal arrived via what will be one of the more unorthodox assists this season, Marc Richards putting Holmes away on goal by slide-tackling the ball through, with the winger predictably finishing coolly beyond a helpless Lawlor.
A third quickly followed as Holmes turned provider with a more conventional assist, this time one of his typical bursts forward ended with a delicate through ball to Richards, who swept into the bottom corner first-time.
A now rampant Cobblers side sensed blood and looked capable of scoring every time they ventured into Barnet’s half with D’Ath, Holmes and Brendan Moloney all thwarted by Lawlor.
But three goals would have to suffice as a raft of substitutions, coupled with the increasingly wet conditions, saw the game rather peter out.
It mattered not, though, and the damage had been well and truly done as Northampton maintained their promotion charge with a ninth win in 10 games.
But as well as Wilder’s men played, it must be said that this was a pitiful Barnet side who offered nothing in the way of an attacking threat, bar the odd set-piece.
The Bees came into this game with the tag of League Two’s worst travellers, managing just five points from 12 games on the road, and it’s no wonder judging by this evidence as Martin Allen’s side were completely outclassed.
The only disappointment for Northampton, aside from the fact it should have been more than three, came elsewhere with the news that promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle, Oxford United and Portsmouth had all won.
But that won’t bother Cobblers fans who can now look forward to a tasty top-of-the-table clash at leaders Plymouth next Tuesday.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Thankfully a much quieter day for Monday’s hero who claimed back-to-back clean sheets for only the second time this season... 7
Brendan Moloney - First goal stemmed from one of his many dangerous crosses on the day. Back to near his best after a few off days... 7
Ryan Cresswell - Much more solid display as he kept the troublesome Akinde quiet for the majority... 7
Zander Diamond - One crucial close-range block comes to mind in an assured performance at the heart of Cobblers’ defence... 7
David Buchanan - Barely troubled defensively and came close to his first Town goal at the other end, firing into the side-setting... 7
John-Joe O’Toole - Ran the show from midfield with a series of neat flicks, turns and dummies. Would have been man of the match on any other day... 8
Joel Byrom - Perfect partner for O’Toole. So composed when in possession no matter what position he finds himself in on the pitch, even the horrid conditions didn’t appear to affect him... 7
Lawson D’Ath - Another to up his game from Monday. Added quality to his industry with a pinpoint cutback for the opener, though will be frustrated not to have scored himself having missed two clear-cut chances... 7
Sam Hoskins - Marked his return to the side with a well-taken, if slightly scruffy goal. Always gives opposing teams headaches with his pace, energy and movement... 8
Ricky Holmes - Lively from minute one. A constant threat. Lovely finish for his well-deserved goal before he turned provider with a perfectly-weighted through ball for Richards... 9 CHRON STAR MAN
Marc Richards - Now 15 goals in 15 different games this season, the latest a typically sweet first-time finish into the bottom corner... 8
Nicky Adams - 6
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6
Jason Taylor - 6