A goal from Ryan Cresswell was enough to hand play-off hopefuls Northampton victory over a desperate Tranmere Rovers at Sixfields.
Dominant defender Cresswell headed home in the 62nd minute from a corner, firing the Cobblers to just three points from the play-off places and condemning Tranmere to their fifth successive defeat in League Two.
Northampton thoroughly deserved the win. They dominated the first half without breaking the deadlock, as Lawson D’Ath came closest with a curling effort that struck the crossbar after 38 minutes.
After a sustained spell of pressure and a succession of corners, just after the hour mark Darren Carter’s outswinging free-kick was met by Cresswell eight yards from goal, who profited from slack marking to head firmly beyond Owain Fon Williams.
Micky Adams made a number of attacking substitutions and switched to a three-man defence in an attempt to force home an equaliser. They very nearly did, with Janoi Donacien watching his glancing header palmed onto the bar by Matt Duke in the final minutes.
Northampton saw out an impressive victory at a buoyant Sixfields, where hope of a late play-off push is springing. Tranmere, quite conversely, must draw on any remaining dredges of their sapped confidence with some challenging fixtures lying in wait.
|Matt Duke- Was barely called into action, until the closing minutes when he showed tremendous concentration and anticipation to get a hand to Donacien’s goalbound header. A commanding presence.||7.5|
|Brendon Moloney- A very solid, primarily defensive minded, right-back. Kept it very simple with the ball and didn’t allow many dangerous attacks to fester down his flank, for which he held a tigerish responsibility.||7.0|
|Ryan Cresswell- Named sponsor’s man of the match, his header was the ultimate difference between the two sides, although the gulf was wider than this suggests. Could have scored in the first half. Defended well.||8.0|
|Lee Collins- Committed and alert throughout. Duke’s save could have meant nothing had he not put his head where it hurts to turn the rebound behind for a corner, an intervention which sums up his fearless approach.||7.5|
|Evan Horwood- Was troubled by the wily Myrie-Williams in the first-half and bore the brunt of most of Tranmere’s counter punches. This was a test of his mettle and one he largely passed.||6.5|
|Jason Taylor- His rigid role in this system is to sit in front of the back four, to pick up scraps and put out fires. His discipline allows players further forward to express themselves.||6.5|
|Darren Carter– An experienced campaigner, Carter reads the game very well and managed to stymie a number of promising counter-attacks- a well-timed tackle and superb through ball set up D’Ath for his excellent chance. Carter’s set-piece delivery is exceptional.||7.5|
|Ricky Holmes- A cut above. The 27 year-old is a mesmeric dribbler, able to operate in tight spaces and effortlessly glide past defenders. Pummelled Ridehalgh to within an inch of his life. Maybe final ball wasn’t always there, but lovely to watch all the same.||9.0|
|John-Joe O’Toole- The popular midfielder was not afraid to let fly from long range, and clearly knew his role well with and without the ball. If anything, could have looked to drop into unoccupied space around the penalty spot when his wingers reached the byline.||7.0|
|Lawson D’Ath- Adopted the mantle of attacking trequartista, so to speak, after Holmes’ withdrawal. Roamed around to good effect throughout, hitting the bar in the first half, and looked even more of a threat later on.||8.0|
|James Gray- Making his home debut, the Accrington loanee delivered a praiseworthy display in filling the huge gap left by Richards. He kept the game stretched and prodded at gaps in Tranmere’s back four, opening up space for Holmes and D’Ath.||7.0|
|Chris Hackett- A very valuable player to bring on, the Cobblers profited from his versatility and direct approach as they tweaked their formation in the closing stages to deal with Tranmere’s advances.||7.0|
|Ivan Toney- Proclaimed as ‘one of our own’, the youngster made a couple of poor decisions with the ball but looked to have raw qualities.||5.5|
|Tom Newey- Brought on to facilitate a move to a five-man defence in the closing stages.||6.0|
|Owain Fon Williams- Did his best to keep out the home side, and made a number of good, if not spectacular, saves in the first half. Couldn’t have done anything for the goal.||7.0|
|Michael Ihiekwe- Stayed very narrow to the extent where he was holding Thompson’s hand at times. He battled away manfully though and cleared the ball with intent.||6.5|
|Josh Thompson- Somewhat cumbersome at the back and befuddled by the intricacies of Northampton’s attacking trident. Held Tranmere’s deep defensive line well, however, and offered a keen threat from set pieces.||6.0|
|Janoi Donacien- The Aston Villa loanee and St Lucian international is quick for a defender and hit the bar with a glanced header late on. Defensively, his balance and execution were inconsistent.||6.5|
|Liam Ridehalgh- Given a torrid time by Holmes in the opening exchanges and never really recovered.||5.5|
|Steve Jennings- Rovers skipper Jennings didn’t really have much of a influence in the midfield posturings and failed to infuse his team’s backbone with experience or, pertinently, leadership. Didn’t notice he was captain until he took his armband off when substituted.||5.0|
|Max Power- An energetic presence and the more creative-minded of the defensive midfield partnership, Power’s attacking designs saw him caught out of position on a couple of occasions.||6.5|
|Jennison Myrie-Williams- One visiting player who made the Cobblers sit up and take notice, Myrie-Williams can go both ways, cross the ball and has searing pace. Had a penalty shout correctly waved away.||7.5|
|Dan Gardner- Worked in some interesting areas and offered tangible support to the lone striker, but ineffectual facing goal. Burst to the byline minutes after the break only to screw a side-footed shot out for a throw-in.||5.5|
|Rob Taylor- Didn’t know who he was before the game and still don’t know. Anonymous and hauled off at half-time.||4.5|
|Kayode Odejayi- The journeyman striker occupied Northampton’s centre-backs and was a handful at times, but didn’t have the fleet of foot or anticipation to latch onto a promising chance with five minutes to play.||7.0|
|George Donnelly- Came at half-time and shifted to right wing-back in the closing stages. Couldn’t really turn the tide.||6.0|
|Jordan Hugill- Brought on to play alongside Odejayi up front.||5.5|
|Chris Shuker- Didn’t have enough time to impact the game.||6.0|
Man of the Match
|Ricky Holmes- The game suffered when he went off injured. Cobblers fans will be crossing each and every limb that his knee injury is not too serious. A direct, stealthy runner.||8.5|