Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v Torquay ratings: O’Donovan’s touch of class proves the difference

LATE SHOW! - John Johnson (left) and Ben Tozer (right) are first on the scene to congratulate scorer Roy O'Donovan at Sixfields on Friday (Picture: Kelly Cooper)
LATE SHOW! - John Johnson (left) and Ben Tozer (right) are first on the scene to congratulate scorer Roy O'Donovan at Sixfields on Friday (Picture: Kelly Cooper)
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Somewhere on Friday night, Kelvin Langmead would have received news of Roy O’Donovan’s late winning goal for the Cobblers and smiled to himself.

Minutes later, he would have been delighted with his defensive colleagues at the acquisition of a clean sheet, a fifth in their past seven outings and one well earned by the players against a Torquay side that performed to a much higher standard than their league position would suggest.

And he would also have been pleased to see O’Donovan taking up his mantle as the provider of important late goals.

On eight occasions this season, Langmead has scored and on every single one of those occasions the goal has meant something. The team has never lost in a game in which their captain has scored.

He has come to typify the spirit of the squad this season, a spirit that has taken them to the doorstep of promotion to league one.

But last night he was missing with a knee injury and with 20 minutes of the match to go, a ripple of confidence went through the Torquay side, who began to believe that they just might get something at the fortress.

It was mirrored by a nervousness in the stands that the team’s incredible run of home victories might be about to come to an end.

As the clock ticked around to 80 minutes, both of those feelings amplified. With every passing second, Torquay grew in stature and Northampton looked increasingly a side running out of ideas.

They’d given the Gulls the full kitchen sink treatment from Ben Tozer’s throws and the well-auditioned corner kick routines. All of it had been dealt with.

Ishmel Demontagnac and Chris Hackett had whipped a couple of delicious crosses apiece in from their respective wings. Nothing.

Even the goalmouth scrambles, when they fell the way of a claret shirt, ended with skewed shots that were only ever going to trouble the crowd.

How Aidy Boothroyd must have wished he had Langmead in his side at that point - a centre-back who retains some of the penalty-box instinct he had in his early career as a striker, and who scores late goals with a seemingly consummate ease.

Ultimately, Hackett conjured a piece of quality to deliver a flighted cross with his weaker left foot that O’Donovan planted beyond Michael Poke with adroit skill and expert heading technique.

Tight games such as this one are generally won by an error or a moment of magic - in this case it was the latter, with the class telling of O’Donovan after a night in which he made some intelligent runs that looked like going unrewarded.

Still, it would not have been enough but for some class at the other end. Lee Nicholls, arguably Aidy Boothroyd’s best loan signing at Sixfields, produced a fine stop to preserve the clean sheet and put the seal on a superb 10th successive victory.

Captain fantastic Langmead would have given the youngster a huge pat on the back for that interception. And he would also have been pleased to see someone else grabbing the late goals with which he has made his name this season.

The skipper will be back before the end of the season. The team is in good hands until then.

Jeff’s player ratings

LEE NICHOLLS

Another top-drawer performance with immaculate handling and kicking, capped with a superb late save ...8

JOHN JOHNSON

Played with his typical aggression and threw himself into a couple of full-blooded challenges ...7

LEE COLLINS

Given plenty of food for thought by the industrious Benyon but can be pleased with his evening’s work ...7

CLARKE CARLISLE

Remains in as good a form as ever, although he rode his luck to not concede a penalty in the second half ...8

JOE WIDDOWSON

Seemed to struggle with his timing and endured something of a rare off-night ...6

CHRIS HACKETT

Played well in spells and looked to be flagging in the second half but then provided the killer ball for O’Donovan’s goal ...7

BEN HARDING

Didn’t have his shooting boots on and scuffed a number of good chances that fell to him in central midfield ...6

BEN TOZER

Unlucky to see a goal chalked off for what looked a marginal offside and the pitchside snowdrifts limited the throw’s effectiveness ...7

ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC

Another good outing - showed signs of his pace and a growing confidence and played some good balls in from the left ...7

CLIVE PLATT

Was causing the visiting defence all kinds of problems with his control and link-up play and was badly missed when substituted through injury ...8

ROY O’DONOVAN

Played with intensity all game and created numerous opportunities with his intelligent movement. Took the goal like a seasoned striker ...8

Substitutes:

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA (for Platt 46 mins)

More sprightly than in recent weeks although Torquay’s defence dealt with him fairly effectively ...6

JAKE ROBINSON (for Demontagnac 82 mins)

NATHAN CAMERON (for Hackett 86 mins)

Not used: Snedker, Guttridge, Hornby, Dias