hree goals in a thrilling first half were enough to see County secure all three points against Northampton Town at Rodney Parade.
Having dominated the early stages, it took just fives minutes for County to break the deadlock. Often the Exiles’ best option going forward, Dan Butler cut in from the left-hand side and slid the ball across the edge of the box for the returning Josh Sheehan; the midfielder guided it first time, left-footed into the far corner of the net. It was a brilliant finish and was arguably foreseeable too, having had a similar attempt a moment before and set the tone for his first half, the home side would have numerous opportunities throughout.
The lead wouldn’t last long though, as only half a dozen minutes later, Northampton were level. Sam Hoskins was awarded a free kick in a wide right position – to say it was soft is like Andrew Crofts is Welsh. After it was whipped in, County were guilty of not clearing their lines and Andy Williams was on hand to fire the ball past Joe Day. It was a smash and grab from the visitors, who had offered nothing to that point and off the back of an undoubtedly poor refereeing decision, it was a bitter pill to swallow for the men in Amber.
County had slipped to 5th in the league table following Saturday’s defeat at Cheltenham and when the atmosphere and standard of play both dropped, it began to have the feeling of “this isn’t going to go well.” The Exiles would not have any of it though…
Jamille Matt has really hit the ground running since his arrival in the summer; he ought to have done better just before the half-hour mark. A missed header when unmarked turned out to be of complete insignificance however as just a couple of minutes later, he found himself on the scoresheet. Dan Butler earned himself a free kick on the left, which he delivered high to the back post; Mickey Demetriou got on the end of it to loop a header back across goal where Jamille Matt was lurking to score his 12th of the season; the highlight of what was another excellent performance from the big man.
The scoring for the half wasn’t complete there though. Less than five minutes later, Tyreeq Bakinson was able to break down the left-hand side and use his gangly frame to get him into the box, whereupon he squared the squared the ball for an onrushing Padraig Amond who clinically finished into the roof of the net to make it 3-1 with just over half an hour played, the scoreline which emblazoned the scoreboard at halftime. Time for an Ireland call-up for Podge maybe? You couldn’t rule it out on current form…
The second half began very quietly with Northampton unable to create anything with the amount of ball they had and County somewhat trying to take the sting out of the game. The only thing of real note in the early stages was a shot from Kevin van Veen which was far too tame to trouble Joe Day, who had time to lay down to gather it safely.
With around 20 minutes left, good interplay down the right-hand side saw Jamille Matt played in again but he struggled to get the ball out of his feet, allowing the defender to block what was likely a goal-scoring shot on goal.
It was apparent that, while keeping the same XI, County were sent out to perform a different task in the second period. Where the first half had all the energy, commitment and productivity that lacked on Saturday, it was very much a containing job in the second. They were careful not to over-commit going forward, relying on the ability of the front players to make something happen but equally careful not to let Northampton Town have the time to keep the ball.
Being a side that always gives its all to the end, this was something that was done with relative ease, even things did get a bit squeaky late on when Joe Day was forced into a one-on-one save and Franks was forced to clear one away from behind his ‘keeper.
All three points staying at Rodney Parade then; now for a pair of away cup matches before Swindon away a week on Saturday. Que sera sera….
Man of the Match: Jamille Matt
Player Ratings: Day 6, Pipe 7, Butler 7, Franks 7, Amond 8, Matt 8 (Semenyo 6), Bakinson 8, Sheehan 7, Crofts (c) 7, O’Brien 7, Demetriou 7
Attendance: 2,730 (214 away)