Stevenage fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Northampton this afternoon in Sky Bet League 2, despite an improved second half showing at Sixfields.
A low-par first half saw Marc Richards put the Cobblers into the lead but for all their dominance they failed to build on their advantage. Stevenage came out fighting in the second half and had a handful of golden chances late on to equalise but were denied by either goalkeeper Jordan Archer or the crossbar.
With the defeat at Maidstone less than 48 hours before, Graham Westley made four changes to his side with Bira Dembele, Jon Ashton, Jack Jebb and Charlie Adams all handed starts.
Having had two extra days rest after their own midweek FA Cup defeat, Northampton started the brightest and bar one Stevenage corner, controlled the opening 10 minutes.
With five minutes on the clock Alex Nicholls burst into the area before going down under Ashton’s challenge. It looked a strong challenge but referee D’Urso waved away penalty appeals.
Northampton enjoyed most of the ball and were looking particularly dangerous down the flanks where Mohamed down the left and Hackett down the right were giving Henry and in particular Dembele plenty to think about with.
Twenty minutes in and Northampton took the lead. Dembele was caught out on the left and when Murdoch’s cut his cross back to the edge of the area, there was Marc Richards to sweep home.
A minute later the same player nearly doubled the lead when he met a Hackett cross at the back post, but his header hit the bar and was scrambled clear.
Still the Cobblers came forward and it took a good low save from Day to deny a Robertson header from increasing the advantage after Hackett had done well to chase a ball out wide, keep the ball in and deliver a good cross.
Stevenage gradually came into the half and began to create some bright openings going forward in the seven minutes before the break. Good approach play by Adams and Jebb saw the ball played out to Lee whose cross was just over hit. However Boro quickly regained possession from the goal-kick and when Adams played in Darius down the left, his low cross between keeper and defence just missed Barnard.
The on-loan striker then went close with a 42nd minute diving header from McAllister’s cross, albeit the linesman’s flag would have denied the Southend man.
As it was, for all their dominance the Cobblers went in with just the single goal advantage.
Stevenage started much brighter in the second half and after going close with a couple of through-balls for Barnard and Charles, created their best chance of the game so far five minutes in. Adams did superbly to dodge and weave his way into the box and then found Lee, whose first touch saw him take the ball away from his marker and his second a shot blocked by Archer.
It sparked Boro into life and Northampton, without a win since the start of the month, begin to drop further back to defend their lead. On 54 minutes Lee evaded two players on the edge of the box and saw a low effort gathered by Archer, with Adams then again firing straight at Archer moments later.
The Cobblers fought back and tried in vain to seek a second but Boro’s back four stood strong with Dembele a much more assured figure, putting in some good challenges.
Graham Westley threw on Parrett, Deacon and Whelpdale in the closing stages and the subs had the desired effect as Boro pushed late on for that equaliser. One cross from Whelpdale on 84 mins found its way through to Barnard who swung a boot but hit wide, with Dembele then blocking well twice at the other end as the Cobblers pushed forward seeking a killer second.
Five minutes of injury time were indicated in which Boro laid siege to the charmed Cobblers goal. A long kick down the middle from Day bounced over the defence for Barnard, but his volley rattled the crossbar when it looked easier to score. Moments later a perfect cross to the back post by Dembele found Whelpdale, who somehow hit wide. Still the visitors poured forward but had only a Barnard header, comfortably gathered by Archer, to show in the final seconds as they fell to a narrow defeat.
Northampton: Archer, Tozer, Collins, Langmead, Robertson, Hackett (Ravenhill 84), Murdoch, Carter, Mohamed (Byrom 84), Richards, Nicholls (Toney 57)
Subs not used: Duke, Alfei, Sinclair, Moyo
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Ashton, Dembele, Lee (Whelpdale 83), McAllister, Jebb (Parrett 68), Adams, Barnard, Charles (Deacon 77)
Subs not used: Beasant, Bond, Walton, Okimo
Referee: Andy D’Urso
Attendance: 4,431 (309 away)