Four! Out of the way, the Cobblers are on the way to League 1. Northampton picked up their seventh straight win to increase their lead to 5 points at the top of the table. Four second half goals brushed aside play off hopefuls Leyton Orient who dropped to ninth after the defeat. Rod McDonald hooked in the opener before Ricky Holmes’s fantastic volley doubled the advantage. A late James Collins double added icing to what looks like a promotion cake for the Cobblers who have a 15 point lead over fourth placed Wycombe with a game in hand.
Northampton made a late change to their side with Danny Rose coming in for Joel Byrom who got injured in the warm up while Kevin Nolan named an unchanged after his side’s victory at Portsmouth last weekend.
In an even start both sides enjoyed spells of possession but were unable to create any clear cut openings. The Cobblers, who had won their previous 6 league matches, were full of confidence passing the ball around nicely. James Collins should have given the away side the lead after Ricky Holmes did well on the right, his cross found Collins unmarked at the back post but his volley went wide of the target.
Orient created many chances at Portsmouth last weekend, but struggled to create going forward with the forward balls being dealt with easily by the Northampton defense. It appeared that the home sides tactic was to try and find Simpson and Nolan over the top with through balls. It did create Orient’s first chance of the game, Nolan dispossessed David Buchanan on the right, he found Jobi McAnuff but his shot was saved well by Adam Smith.
The game opened up a bit more after the half hour mark with Orient enjoying more possession but were failing to trouble the Northampton goal. After a succession of blocked shots in the Northampton penalty area, Sammy Moore picked up the loose ball however his driven cross went just past the head of Jay Simpson.
Neither side made any changes at the break but it was the away side who came out the blocks firing and took the lead after 54 minutes. After Lee Martin lost possession on the left wing, Sammy Moore and Jack Payne failed to clear the ball presenting it back to Martin. The former Millwall man reached the byline crossing in to the center, the ball then fell to Rod McDonald who executed an overhead kick leaving Alex Cisak helpless in the Orient goal.
After taking the lead it was clear that the away side did not want to let the lead slip with the midfield four working extremely hard defensively. The goal seemed to increase their confidence and they doubled their lead 9 minutes after their first. A long ball from Adam Smith was headed away by Fraser Shaw, Ricky Holmes gambled on picking up the loose ball. Holmes took the ball down and unleashed a stunning dipping volley which beat Cisak.
Armand Gnanduillet was brought on in place of Calaum Jahraldo-Martin as they went to a 4-4-2 formation. Northampton were comfortable with Orient still finding it hard to break down the well drilled side. Gnanduillet nearly created a way back into the game for Orient though, after being found by McAnuff in the penalty area, his cross shot went agonizingly past the boot of Kevin Nolan.
Orient continued to press for a route back into the game with Simpson seeing an effort go just past the post. After a cross from Fraser Shaw the ball fell to Simpson with his back to goal, he turned well but his effort crept just wide of the mark. The away side still looked like adding to their two goals and did from a corner. After the ball was whipped it, the ball fell to James Collins who had the easy task of slotting home from 3 yards.
It got worse for the home side when Northampton added a fourth, a break from substitute Lawson D’Ath carving the home side open. He played in James Collins who kept himself onside and he fired low beyond Cisak to add gloss to a clinical victory for the league leaders.
1 step forward and 2 steps back. After what was a brilliant away victory last weekend, Orient always seem to encourage you before letting you down once more. There was nothing between the sides in the first half with neither side able to create any clear cut openings. However the second half was a different story where the League leaders wanted the game more, first to every second ball, winning tackles, strong in the air, winning the 50/50 challenges.
The first goal was the killer but again it was Orient’s own downfall which presented the chance for them. If in doubt, kick the ball out, a lot happened after the cross into the box but you can reduce the chance of conceding. It was a great finish by the center half who will probably tell you it was the sweetest overhead kick he has ever hit.
The goal saw Northampton go into cruise control and they never looked likely to concede an equaliser. The quality they showed in the second half highlights why they are top of the league and sometimes you just have to put your hands up when Ricky Holmes unleashes a wonderful dipping volley.
The worrying thing for Kevin Nolan is when Orient concede a goal, the floodgates open and it’s 2,3,4. Northampton didn’t create chance after chance but the key to any game and why they are top is how clinical they are in attacking areas. It is a wake up call for Orient, who have been shown exactly what you need in order to be in touching distance of promotion.
I think Nolan will realise that you can’t play a 4-5-1 formation at home, it works in away matches but you struggle to create at home. In home games, teams expect you to be on the front foot and you won’t have space to break like last weekend. With Nolan at Orient, teams must come to Brisbane Road and looking for a scalp and I think playing Nolan from the start increases the pressure on the side.
Nolan looked off the pace in the second half and really should have been taken off. Nolan states that Andy Hessenhaler makes the decisions if he starts the game. However Nolan must of realised that he was off the pace yesterday? Well, time to put the game to bed and like he said last week, it is only one game, time to get back on the front foot next weekend at Notts County.