Six minutes of magic show Gulls' spirit in adversity
THEY SAY you discover the important things about people in adversity, and Torquay United certainly found themselves up against it at Sixfields.
After 45 minutes Alan Knill's men were a goal down, and it could have been more after a first half in which they had been outgunned, admittedly into the wind.
For several individuals little had gone right. It was time to show what they were made of.
So everyone connected with the club, not least the 250-odd Gulls fans who made the trip on a motorway-clogged Bank Holiday weekend, must have drawn huge encouragement from what happened in the second half.
It had been one thing to come from behind to earn points against AFC Wimbledon and Morecambe, but this was Northampton – last season's Play-Off Final losers and widely tipped to push for promotion again this season.
Basically, United stood a match which seemed to be heading only one way completely on its head.
Jordan Chapell's two classy goals in the space of six minutes earned the Gulls their first victory of the season.
But in the end, which came after six minutes of stoppage-time, United could easily have won by three or four.
As Knill said afterwards: "Another game of two halves - that's the third time we've come back from a goal down, but to do it here shows real character and is a great reward for the players."
Nobody was under more pressure in that first-half than United left-back Kevin Nicholson.
It was as if Boothroyd had targeted Nicholson, for Town concentrated their attacks through pacy right-winger Danny Emerton, backed up by former Exeter right-back Kevin Amankwaah.
It was a big day for several individuals, with United's Ben Harding and Courtney Cameron and Town's Ian Morris all facing their old clubs.
But it was Morris, captain too, who must have enjoyed the first half more, for Martin Rice had to pull off one outstanding early save from Emerton and Roy O'Donovan, Jacob Blyth and Morris all went close before the Cobblers took the lead.
On the half-hour mark Emerton chased a long ball into the corner, just kept it in play, delivered a terrific volleyed cross and Blyth, on loan from Leicester City, headed in at the far post.
Even during United's leaner spells Karl Hawley had been a bright spark up front, working hard and doing his best to cause problems.
He shot just wide from Lee Mansell's through-ball before Blyth's goal and he twice went close in the last few minutes of the first half.
The wind had certainly helped Northampton to dominate before the interval, but even they could not have suspected how United were to enjoy having the conditions in their favour in the second half.
Nicholson completely turned round his duel with Emerton, and on United's right wing Dale Tonge pushed forwards to support Chapell at every opportunity.
United also started to find Callum Ball to feet, and the young centre-forward linked up dangerously with Hawley.
Ball, Cameron, Tonge, Krystian Pearce and sub Billy Bodin all went close before the equaliser came in the 72nd minute.
Ball started a counter-attack from just outside his own area, found Hawley just beyond halfway, his pass slipped Chapell away and the 21-year-old winger beat the advancing Matt Duke from 12 yards...1-1.
Six minutes later Bodin cut in from the left wing, stretched the home defence beyond breaking point with a crossfield pass to Chapell, who made ground and then cut back before flicking a clever shot across Duke and into the net with the outside of his right foot...2-1.
In the closing stages Aaron Downes came up with at least two important defensive headers, picking up a head wound for his pains, to stop Northampton equalising.
Rice also made a key close-range block from Ishmel Demontagnac, Nicholson on hand to complete the clearance.
But United continued to look dangerous on the break, and Duke stopped Bodin from making it 3-1 in stoppage-time extended to six minutes after extensive repairs to Downes and Town forward Clive Platt.
"Delighted with the three points, but we all know there's a long way to go," said Knill.
"We worked really hard all week, mornings and afternoons, on team shape, and I thought we were far more disciplined than we have been.
"First half, we all know it could be better, but Karl Hawley and Callum Ball looked a different proposition together in the second half.
"We said at half-time that if we got the next goal, we would win, and that's the way it turned out."
Northampton Town (4-4-2): Duke; Amankwaah, Tozer, Collins, Widdowson; Emerton, Deegan, Carter, Morris (Platt 75); O'Donovan, Blyth (Demontagnac 87); subs not used – Snedker (gk), JJ Hooper, Dias, Toney.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Rice; Tonge, Pearce, Downes, Nicholson; Chapell (N. Thompson 90+3), Mansell, Harding, Cameron (Bodin 51); Hawley (Benyon 82), Ball; subs not used – Lathrope, Cruise, Sullivan, C. Thompson (gk).
Referee: Andrew Madley (W. Yorks).
Attendance: 4,088 (252 Gulls fans).
Statistics: Fouls – Cobblers 8, United 11; Offsides – Cobblers 7, United 5; Corners – Cobblers 7, United 7; Shots/Headers On Target – Cobblers 3, United 8; Off Target – Cobblers 7, United 5; Hit Woodwork – None.