On a windy day in a deserted Wembley Stadium, it was Northampton Town who triumphed over Exeter City and secured promotion to League One. It was a match that epitomised the phrase ‘they simply wanted it more’. Northampton’s 4-0 victory was well-deserved.
Northampton were, for many, the underdogs in these Play-Offs, but produced a blood and thunder performance that meant that Exeter were blown out of the water.
From the first whistle Northampton’s game plan was clear: they pelted in high balls that caused havoc amongst the Exeter defence. Northampton were clearly a very different fish to fry for Exeter, who had come into the final after beating Colchester United over two legs, an opponent whose preferred method of destruction is played out on the floor.
Watson’s deflected strike dribbled past Maxted into the back of the net
It was obvious, therefore, that Exeter were wholly unprepared for this onslaught, as they struggled to clear their lines on numerous occasions, with keeper Jonny Maxted to thank for keeping the scores at nil-nil before the eleventh minute.
The deadlock was finally broken by a new method of aerial onslaught, a Charlie Goode long throw was launched, Rory Delap-esque, into the box, and Nigel Atangana could only head partially away. The ball fell to Ryan Watson, one of the major driving forces behind Northampton’s late surge, and his deflected strike from outside the area dribbled past Maxted into the back of the net.
The shouts of joy that erupted as a result of this goal would have been nothing compared to the celebrations of fans on what would have been a fantastic Wembley day out, but Northampton’s players had to make do with the muffled swear words and exclamations that reverberated around the echoey Wembley Stadium.
And this was only the beginning, as the water-break on 22 minutes provided no rest bite for a beleaguered Exeter, who were perhaps affected by having to play an extra thirty minutes of extra-time against Colchester a week prior. This time, a long free kick was twice flicked on by Northampton players, and Northampton’s ginger hero Callum Morton finished calmly after breaking the Exeter offside trap.
Matt Taylor was understandably raging as a result of this tackle
It was not only that Northampton’s juggernaut of an attack was too much for Exeter to deal with—they also only managed to strike one shot on target, despite possessing 60% of the ball, unable to break Northampton’s deadlocked centre-half pairing of Turnbull and Goode.
This wall seemed determined to block everything that came their way, something that clearly frustrated Exeter, a factor which culminated in the sending off of the experienced Dean Moxey, as he produced a violent two footed tackle from behind.
Matt Taylor, the Exeter manager, was understandably raging as a result of this tackle.
From that point on, it was a foregone conclusion, and Northampton continued to barricade the Exeter goal. Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams finishing relatively easy chances as gaps started to appear in the Exeter defence as they desperately tried to find a way back into the game.
Curle’s motivational powers always seem to get the job done
The beneficiaries of this crazy mini campaign that has been the League Two play-offs are, therefore, Northampton, a result that is perhaps fitting in line with the ideals of what we should all think League Two should aspire to.
Northampton’s effort throughout the play-offs, reaching the final after recovering from losing 2-0 against Cheltenham at home, can only be admired. Although Keith Curle never puts out the most aesthetically pleasing of teams, his motivational powers always seem to get the job done as they fought harder and longer than Exeter, and they did, truly, want it more.
After all is said and done, they have done enough to prove that their place in League One for next season is absolutely deserved.