SKY BET LEAGUE 2 PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL FIRST LEG
Thursday June 18th, 7.45pm
PTS Academy Stadium
NORTHAMPTON TOWN 0
CHELTENHAM TOWN 2
Charlie Raglan 26
Conor Thomas 86
Cobblers: Steve Arnold, Michael Harriman, Charlie Goode, Jordan Turnbull, Scott Wharton, Ryan Watson, Alan McCormack (sub Paul Anderson 67), James Olayinka, Nicky Adams, Callum Morton (sub Andy Williams 67), Vadaine Oliver (sub Harry Smith 76)
Subs not used: David Cornell, Morgan Roberts, Joe Martin, Mark Marshall, Chris Lines, Scott Pollock
Cheltenham: Owen Evans, Sean Long, Chris Hussey, Ben Tozer, Charlie Raglan, Conor Thomas, Reuben Reid (sub Jonte Smith 74), Ryan Broom (sub Rohan Ince 81), William Boyle, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Tom Nichols (sub Alfie May 74)
Subs not used: Chris Clements, Max Sheaf, Josh Debayo, Rhys Lovett, Jacob Greaves, Luke Varney
Referee: Marc Edwards
Cobblers: Charlie Goode (20)
Cheltenham: Chris Hussey (45)
Over 100 days after the regular season was curtailed by the Coronavirus pandemic football returned to the PTS Academy Stadium with the Cobblers taking on Cheltenham Town in the Sky Bet League 2 play off semi-final first leg. With no fans allowed inside the stadium the occasion was bound to be a little bit different to previous play-off campaigns but for both teams there was still the incentive of a Wembley final and possible promotion.
On-loan Arsenal midfielder James Olayinka made just his second start for the Cobblers having picked up an injury on his debut in late January while a suspension carried over from the curtailed season meant Sam Hoskins was unavailable for selection for the first leg.
Nine subs were allowed for both sides and for the first time ever goal-line technology was in operation at the PTS. Before kick-off there was a minutes applause to show appreciation for the NHS. All players and officials also showed their support to Black Lives Matter by 'taking the knee'.
The Cobblers started the game at a good tempo but with less than a quarter of an hour played there was a break in play with the fourth official having to replace one of the assistant referees who had picked up an injury.
Play had only just resumed when the Cobblers were awarded a penalty, Ryan Broom bringing down Michael Harriman. Ryan Watson stepped up to take the spot kick but a good low save from Cheltenham goalkeeper Owen Evans kept the score at 0-0.
Charlie Raglan made the breakthrough for Cheltenham on 27 minutes, heading home from a Conor Thomas corner. Steve Arnold saved from Reuben Reid and Tom Nichols curled over as the Robins sensed a second but the Cobblers claim close to an equaliser before half-time when Vadaine Oliver drew a smart stop from Evans.
Deep in first half stoppage time Olayinka curled a delightful effort that looked destined for the top corner only for Evans to make the save.
Having ended the first half strongly the Cobblers maintained that tempo early in the second half with Oliver again denied after being played in by Callum Morton. Scott Wharton saw a header deflected behind and Alan McCormack had a shot blocked as the Cobblers continued to press, forcing three corners in succession.
Arnold tipped over an effort from Reuben Reid before Keith Curle made a double change, Andy Williams and Paul Anderson on for Morton and McCormack. Olayinka then again went close when the ball fell to him on the edge of the area but his shot went just over the bar.
Cheltenham doubled their lead four minutes from time, Arnold making a good initial save before Conor Thomas scored from close range, leaving the Cobblers needing to overturn a two goal deficit going into Monday night’s second leg at the Jonny Rocks Stadium.
COBBLERS MATCH STATS (first half in brackets, match total out of brackets)
SHOTS ON TARGET: (4) 7
SHOTS OFF TARGET: (0) 2
CORNERS: (5) 9
FOULS: (7) 15
CAUGHT OFFSIDE: (0) 1
CHELTENHAM MATCH STATS (first half in brackets, match total out of brackets)
SHOTS ON TARGET: (2) 6
SHOTS OFF TARGET: (1) 3
CORNERS: (2) 3
FOULS: (6) 11
CAUGHT OFFSIDE: (0) 2