Two years on from relegation down to League Two, Northampton Town are back in League One beating Exeter City 4-0 in the League Two play-off final. Goals from Ryan Watson, Callum Morton, Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams ensured a comfortable victory for Keith Curle’s side at Wembley. For Exeter more play-off despair. Here are my five talking points.
Northampton dominated the game
You couldn’t have asked for a better performance to win a play-off final. Northampton thoroughly deserved to win and just like the semi-final second leg versus Cheltenham they dominated the aerial battle. You’d think that the loss of influential midfielder Nicky Adams might cause a few worries but that didn’t faze the Cobblers one bit. Ryan Watson’s goal took a small deflection, the assist for Callum Morton by Jordan Turnbull was superb and by the time Dean Moxey was sent off for Exeter, the floodgates opened. Morton and Vadaine Oliver just as they did against Cheltenham caused the Exeter back line all sorts of problems and they couldn’t cope with the crosses going into their box. The third was a simple finish by Sam Hoskins after Mark Marshall’s square ball and the fourth was all down to a brilliant long throw by captain Charlie Goode.
A team spirit, a terrific performance in their comeback against Cheltenham, it was another dominant display by Northampton. Keith Curle will be absolutely delighted and how far can he take this club? They have the foundations to kick on and survival in League One next season will be the first aim. Not the first manager to take the Cobblers up to League One after Chris Wilder did it in 2016 and I’m sure Northampton fans are happy to see a record set straight after losing the Wembley final to Bradford in 2013. You feel for the fans not able to walk the Wembley Way, not able to savour the promotion party but they’ve done incredibly well to support the club during the season to reach the third tier.
Callum Morton is a delight to watch
Swindon Town fans have been calling Eoin Doyle the ‘Ginger Pele’ this season and Northampton have their very own equivalent. What a promising young footballer Northampton have had in West Bromwich Albion loanee Callum Morton this season. 8 goals in 12 games and scoring three goals in this year’s play-offs, it’s the way he runs rings around defences and makes himself a nuisance that make him stand out. A superb player and just 20 years of age! Playing in League One with Northampton next season wouldn’t be a bad idea but of course that depends on his contract at West Brom. Talented, takes his goals well, Callum Morton has a very bright future wherever he plays next season.
More play-off heartbreak for Exeter
Another play-off finish, another playoff defeat for the Grecians. They didn’t deal with the deliveries in their box and I’m sure manager Matt Taylor will be pondering why that was the case with a physical side. The red card for Dean Moxey was costly at a time when they started the second half better than the first. Ahead in the possession stats but in the end that wasn’t good enough to win the game and not enough was done with the ball despite a few half chances.
A constant danger with Northampton putting balls in the box from minute one, Randall Williams was kept quiet, the creativity from Nigel Atangana was missing and the sending off itself was reckless. A one-sided affair and Exeter fans will be disappointed at the familiar pattern in losing play-off finals. 2017 against Blackpool and 2018 versus Coventry – the quest for Exeter City to regain their place in League One goes on.
An empty Wembley Stadium
We’re going to have to get used to an empty Wembley Stadium. It was surreal to watch on the television and of course if I was a Northampton fan I would’ve loved to have been there. Promotion via a play-off final is always an occasion to party, to celebrate and to share with the supporters. It is a shame there’ll be a footnote attached to games played at Wembley. More play-off finals to come plus the FA Cup, Wembley is the home of English football and seeing empty red seats was and will continue to be a weird sight.
The League Two season at an end
Congratulations to Swindon, Crewe, Plymouth and now Northampton who will play in League One next season. League Two has been very competitive this season with games tight and no team running away with the season before lockdown was introduced. As I mentioned before it is frustrating not knowing how the season would’ve finished had coronavirus not halted and cancelled the season as it was turning out to be a fascinating final two months. That’s how it is and that’s football during these difficult times.
Tranmere, Southend and Bolton will be joining the fourth tier next season as well as promoted Barrow and another National League playoff champion at the expense of Stevenage. We don’t know when the new season will start and we don’t know whether football clubs in the EFL will survive. What I do know however is that League Two as it does year after year, continues to provide stories, talking points and an appetite for lower league football.
featured image credit sky sports