A diving header from Matt Green was to be decisive as The Imps got their SkyBet League Two season off to a winning start. City’s number ten scored the only goal of the game to seal the points in a very tight game at the PTS Academy Stadium.
There were a trio of debutants in the Imps’ starting eleven, with Harry Toffolo, Shay McCartan and John Akinde starting at the PTS Academy Stadium, Scott Wharton was in the heart of the defence to make his City return meanwhile the other summer acquisitions into the squad, Michael O’Connor, Bruno Andrade, Grant Smith and Adam Crookes all took a place on the substitutes bench.
Under the blistering hot afternoon sun City kicked towards the bank of Imps supporters behind David Cornell’s goal, with just under 1,500 of them making the trip to support Danny Cowley’s side.
However, it was the Cobblers who got the first effort on target. A ball down the right found Sam Hoskins who pinged a low ball into the box, which Josh Vickers dove bravely at under pressure to deflect away from the six yard box, but it fell to the feet of John-Joe O’Toole however Vickers was alert to the danger, grasping the ball at the second attempt. With ten minutes on the clock the atmosphere matched the temperature in the stadium as the game went end to end very quickly. Matt Green couldn’t get onto the end of a bouncing ball which David Cornell grasped over the strikers head before the Cobblers unleashed a quick attack and Hoskins was through but again Vickers stood tall, staying on his feet as long as he could, proving to be too big an obstacle for the Northampton number seven to beat.
Vickers was in imperious form as he soon was to deny Daniel Powell who tried to capitalise after the Imps lost possession just outside their own area. The City number one making almost a carbon copy of the save that denied Hoskins a few minutes earlier.
City took their time to impose themselves on proceedings but the presence of John Akinde was a threat, he linked well with Neal Eardley but the latter just couldn’t get his foot wrapped around the ball to centre into the area. Moments later though The Imps were within inches of breaking the deadlock, Matt Green racing away down the right before the ball was fed across the box by Lee Freecklington to Harry Toffolo who tried an audacious half volley which spun agonisingly off target with Cornell well beaten.
Powell almost put the home side ahead, however he was once again frustrated by Vickers who made a tremendous save with his feet, adjusting his footing quickly as the low drive came through a host of bodies in front of him. Both teams really struggled with the heat and took advantage of almost every break in play to rehydrate with half time looming.
City forced the home side onto the back foot right at the half time whistle when Vickers played a ball onto the head of Akinde who kept the ball moving, Green leapt with Ash Taylor and won the challenge, Cornell though kept his eyes firmly on the ball and claimed the looping header which would have found the net.
Northampton Town 0 The Imps 0
The Cobblers started the second half quickly, but Toffolo was alert and did well to deny Hoskins a chance to cross as he matched his opponent stride for stride down the left. The home side were to rue that miss as The Imps got themselves ahead with just three minutes gone, Michael Bostwick played the ball out wide to the right where Neal Eardley took a touch, looked up and lofted a perfect ball onto the head of GREEN who nodded home.
Northampton seemed shell shocked, The Imps were confident and looking for a second goal. Shay McCartan was using his pace to his advantage and he almost fashioned a chance for Green to get a second but Hakeem Odoffin stepped in to clear at the last as things opened right up. The Cobbler’s number four then read play perfectly with his outstretched right leg keeping the ball away from Toffolo who was left with his head in his hands in disbelief as he though he was going to get the right wing centre. The home side broke at pace and Andy Williams tried his luck, his daisycutter wasn’t to trouble Vickers.
The hosts were trying their best to get back on level terms but City continued to be resolute and honest in the tackle, determined to win every challenge. The Imps changed formation slightly with the introduction of Bruno Andrade, with goalscorer Green leaving the field to an ovation from the visiting supporters. Northampton Town were becoming more and more frustrated, with passes not reaching their intended target with as much frequency due to the industry being shown by Danny Cowley’s men.
The home side introduced Dean Bowditch for Powell with just over ten minutes left and the sub almost created the equaliser for the Cobblers, Bowditch’s low pull back was turned goalwards by O’Toole only to be deflected wide inside the box. Northampton continued to push as Hoskins was the next to have a go, Vickers was untroubled though as the turn and shot from just inside the box was to loop over the top.
City were almost to snatch a second arguably against the run of play when two subs linked inside the final ten minutes, Matt Rhead fed Bruno Andrade, the latter took a touch before firing a low effort right across the face of goal seemingly caught in two minds between a cross and a shot, letting the home side off the hook.
The Cobblers pushed harder for the equaliser, first Jack Bridge had a shot blocked before Odoffin curled the ball in for Williams to thump a header goalwards, but much like the first half Vickers was expertly placed to save. During a final five minutes of time added on for stoppages the home side poured forward, putting City under immense pressure and almost stole an equaliser right at the death but Vickers denied Williams with a wonderful save to ensure the Imps left with all three points.
Northampton Town 0 The Imps 1
1 David CORNELL
3 David BUCHANAN
4 Hakeem ODOFFIN
6 Ash TAYLOR
7 Sam HOSKINS
9 Andy WILLIAMS
11 Daniel POWELL
16 Aaron PIERRE
17 Shaun McWILLIAMS
21 John-Joe O’TOOLE
22 Matt CROOKES
34 Lewis WARD
5 Leon BARNETT
8 Sam FOLEY
10 Kevin VAN VEEN
15 Dean BOWDITCH (78’ for Powell)
19 Jack BRIDGE (22’ for McWilliams)
20 Billy WATERS
1 Josh VICKERS
5 Luke WATERFALL
6 Scott WHARTON
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
10 Matt GREEN
14 Harry TOFFOLO
15 James WILSON
16 Michael BOSTWICK
17 Shay McCARTAN
23 Neal EARDLEY
29 John AKINDE
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
7 Tom PETT
9 Matt RHEAD (73’ for Akinde)
11 Bruno ANDRADE (64’ for Green)
20 Adam CROOKES
26 Harry ANDERSON (70’ for McCartan)
Booked: Green 39’ Frecklington 90'
GOAL: Green 48’
Referee: Lee Swabey
Assistants: Lisa Rashid & Gregory Read
4th Official: Stuart Butler
Attendance: 6,242 (1,453 Imps’ supporters)