To be honest, Northampton Town are only considered tricky opponents because they are noisy neighbours.
Barring a large infusion of cash, and a healthy dose of attacking on-field ambition, Cobblers won’t be challenging for promotion from League One this season so a Peterborough United squad targetting promotion should expect to take six points from them without conceding a goal. They shouldn’t even be relying on last minute, out-of-the-blue headers from unlikely sources.
That’s one point of view, but not a popular one in the middle of joyous scenes at Sixfields at 4.50pm yesterday (November 19) as captain Chris Forrester added his name to a list of legends ranging from Simon Davies to Chris Plummer to have secured victory against the deadliest of Posh rivals.
Important goals against Cobblers are never forgotten. Kevin Russell only played seven games for Posh, but he was feted when he returned as Darren Ferguson’s assistant 15 years later purely because one of his three goals arrived in an away game at Northampton.
This latest instalment of Nene derby football was typical. Not easy on the eye, but enthralling nonetheless and with the sweetest of Posh punchlines as Forrester ran unopposed deep into the Cobblers penalty area to glance home Marcus Maddison’s 92nd minute cross as the home defenders and ‘keeper performed an ill-timed ‘mannequin challenge.’
A last-minute winner in front of the biggest Football League crowd this strange-looking stadium has ever hosted to complete a 4-0 aggregate success in just five weeks - and after waiting eight years for Cobblers to catch Posh up standard-wise - no wonder manager Grant McCann and skipper Forrester hailed the last seconds of a scrappy contest as career-high moments. The 1500 travelling fans were pretty happy also as bragging rights were retained for another 12 months at least.
Cobblers can count themselves unlucky, or as unlucky as a team playing one up at home can ever claim to be. They were denied what could have been decisive moments by two fine saves from Posh’s impressive loan goalkeeper Luke McGee, by referee Darren Bond’s failure to award an 18th-minute penalty when Leo Da Silva Lopes appeared to foul Jak McCourt and by the top of the crossbar when a 90th-minute Sam Hoskins took a big nick off Jack Baldwin.
Fine margins indeed, but a Posh side who currently employ two strikers who will usually be lauded more for effort than goal-scoring, now give themselves a chance in tight matches by defending with strength, organisation and discipline.
McGee is excellent, saving with his feet to thwart Alex Revell in the first-half and with his fingertips to keep out Matt Taylor’s superb 86th minute free-kick, but he’s also well protected by the towering presence of Ryan Tafazolli, the combative nature of Jack Baldwin and full-backs in Michael Smith and Andrew Hughes who have mastered the art of defending the back post. For the second game in a row numerous crosses - home right-back Brendan Maloney was a constant source of danger - were delivered into the Posh penalty area, but none led to a clear scoring chance.
They are unusual Posh positives of the Darragh MacAnthony era, but vital ones as McCann continues a managerial learning curve which is creeping ever upwards.
Of course McCann, a quality Posh playmaker on the pitch, will never abandon his footballing principles, but accurate passing both long and short made only fleeting appearances against a team happy to funnel 10 men behind the ball.
Posh didn’t really threaten in the first-half once Da Silva Lopes had finished a Forrester and Maddison break with a 20-yard snapshot over the crossbar in the 10th minute and Tom Nichols had curled a beauty from 25 yards just past a post 10 minutes later.
They controlled the second period much more successfully, but poor decisions when reaching the opposition penalty area, most notably by Shaq Coulthirst failing to spot players charging up on his left after he’d intercepted a wayward John-Joe O’Toole pass, meant Cobblers’ keeper Adam Smith had a quiet afternoon. The best Posh passage of play ended with Forrester’s powerful drive from the edge of the area drawing a fine block from Lewin Nyatanga.
But just when it looked like two eager sides had slugged each other to a standstill, Maddison collected a loose ball on the Posh right and Forrester was on hand to score with his fringe.
Marvellous, simply marvellous.
Posh: Luke McGee, Michael Smith, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Ryan Tafazolli, Michael Bostwick. Chris Forrester, Leo Da Silva Lopes (sub Gwion Edwards, 80 mins), Marcus Maddison, Tom Nichols (sub Paul Taylor, 69 mins), Shaquile Coulthirst (sub Lee Angol 69 mins). Unused substitutes: George Moncur, Mark Tyler, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Hayden White.
Northampton: Adam Smith, Brendan Moloney, Zander Diamond (sub Gaby Zakuani, 25 mins), David Buchanan, Lewin Nyatanga, Paul Anderson, Jon-Joe O’Toole, Jak McCourt (sub Harry Beautyman, 79 mins), Sam Hoskins, Matt Taylor, Alex Revell. Unused substitutes: Marc Richards, Kenji Gorre, Alfie Potter, Raheem Hanley, David Cornell.
Goals: Posh - Forrester (90 + 2 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul).
Referee: Darren Bond 6
Attendance: 7,675 (1,462 Posh).