The first-team squad stepped up their pre-season preparations on Wednesday afternoon with a behind-closed-doors inter-club fixture against the under 18’s at the PTS Academy Stadium. The under 18's played with a man advantage, 12 v 11.
There were first appearances in Cobblers colours for recent signings Christopher Missilou and Fraser Horsfall from the start, whilst Jon Brady fielded a mixture of first and second year scholars and a couple of players from the younger age groups.
Morgan Roberts had the game’s first opening, looking lively on the right as he cut inside and curled a deflected effort just wide of the far-post. Harry Smith then headed wide from the resulting corner.
Moments later, the ball was worked into the penalty area to Chris Lines but his first-time effort at the back-post fell narrowly over the cross bar.
Harry Smith opened the scoring for the first-team on 10 minutes, taking a lovely touch from a right-sided cross before composing himself and finding the bottom corner from 10 yards. Minutes later, a ball over the top was well controlled and finished by a trialist to double the score.
The under 18’s then worked a good chance on the edge of the box, Caleb Chukwuemeka picked out his team-mate with a pass but a last-ditch block prevented his strike from troubling Steve Arnold.
Smith added his second on 25 minutes, wing-back Jacob Ballinger delivered a superb curling cross from the left to pick out Smith’s run, with the forward finding the net with a powerful header from close range.
Youth team striker Chukwuemeka showed neat skill to beat his marker and move into the penalty area, but his low cross/shot was blocked on the edge of the six-yard box before firing wide moments later.
Smith’s hat-trick was sealed just before half-time, nodding in Lines’ corner from the left to make it 4-0.
Keith Curle freshened his side up for the second half with goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell, Ethan Johnston, Ryan Watson, Matt Warburton and Michael Harriman among the players coming on.
Warburton came close after a neat move on the edge of the area, letting fly from 20 yards but Max Dyche was well-positioned to put in an important block and divert the ball away from goal.
There was a chance on the break for the under 18’s on 55 minutes, winning possession back high up before the ball was squared to Peter Abimbola, but his strike went wide.
Johnston came close to finding the back of the net on the hour mark following a one-two with Warburton inside the penalty area, but his effort was well saved by 18’s ‘keeper Dylan Berry.
Joseph Mills was introduced just after the hour-mark, along with Sam Hoskins and Mark Marshall – with the latter two almost combining for a fifth goal but Hoskins couldn’t quite direct his shot on target from 20 yards.
There was another chance moments later, Smith latched on to a pass down the right channel before pulling the ball back for Warburton, with his attempt hitting the outside of the post.
Chukwuemeka came close to pulling a goal back for the 18’s, showing good feet to work space for a shot only to be denied by a couple of smart Mitchell saves, before Abimbola fired wide as the match ticked towards 90.
A superb late volley from Marshall saw the Cobblers add another goal, with the winger being found at the back-post by an excellent Roberts cross, before the first team switched to play ten against twelve for the closing minutes.
That strike from Marshall, along with Smith’s hat-trick and the goal from a trialist saw the game finish 5-0. The next test comes this Saturday as the Cobblers host Leyton Orient at the PTS Academy Stadium in their next behind closed doors work out.