Ricky Miller scored twice as Corby Town inflicted a 2-1 pre-season friendly defeat on the Cobblers at Steel Park on Saturday.
The livewire frontman, who has yet to sign a deal with the Steelmen, struck twice in the first-half - the opener due to a Neal Kitson goalkeeping error - as Aidy Boothroyd’s men were beaten in their first pre-season clash on home soil.
Jake Robinson pulled a goal back for Town as they put in a much-improved second-half performance, but they couldn’t find an equaliser as the hosts secured an excellent victory.
The Cobblers were 6-1 winners over Novigrad in Croatia last weekend, but they found Corby a much tougher nut to crack at a sun-kissed Steel Park.
Town started the game brightly – although not as bright as their lime green kit - with an early Luke Guttridge strike being saved by Paul Walker, one of five ex-Town men in the Corby starting line-up.
Clive Platt was a prominent presence in the early exchanges, linking up well with fellow new man Alex Nicholls, and the former Coventry City striker saw a powerful header from a Chris Hackett corner deflected wide.
Hackett, who lined up at right-back, brought a good save out of Walker on 18 minutes who parried away the former Millwall man’s curling 25-yard free kick.
But moments later it was 1-0 to Corby, with Kitson at fault.
The goalkeeper tried to drag the ball back into his penalty area on the right hand side so he could pick it up, but the livewire Miller was lurking and toe-poked the ball away from Kitson, who felt he had two hands on the ball.
The Corby striker then ran in on goal, and despite Kitson’s pointless efforts to pull him down, he rolled the ball into the empty net.
Whether Kitson did have two hands on the ball or not is debatable, but he should never have allowed the situation to develop in the first place he should have just belted the ball to safety.
Miller was proving a real handful for Town centre-backs Kelvin Langmead and Anthony Charles, and too often he was given a sight of goal.
The diminutive frontman could have twice doubled the Steelmen’s lead, but he volleyed wide with his left foot when clean through after a Leon McKenzie flick on, and then saw his looping header from Ryan Semple’s cross cleared off the line by Langmead.
But he was to make no mistake on 43 minutes, latching on to another McKenzie flick on the right side of the penalty area, shrugging off Charles, and lashing a cross-shot beyond Kitson and into the net.
It was a high quality finish, but he was given too much time and space by Charles.
Thankfully for the Cobblers, Miller was withdrawn by Steelmen boss Ian Sampson at half-time as both teams made a clutch of changes with Adebayo Akinfenwa, Jake Robinson and Lewis Wilson joining the fray for Town to try and pep up the play in the attacking third.
And it worked as the Cobblers largely dominated the second-half, although in the opening stages they struggled to carve out clear-cut chances.
Ishmel Demontagnac, operating on the right wing, struck the bar with a left-foot strike from 20 yards. It was one of a few flashes of the winger’s talent, but he seemed handicapped by being asked to play on the right rather than his natural left.
Town got back into the game on 69 minutes, Robinson, who scored a hat-trick against Novigrad last weekend, driving his penalty low to Walker’s left after John Johnson had been tripped by Lewis Webb.
The Cobblers were in the ascendancy now and Akinfenwa twice missed with headers from lovely crosses from trialist Michael Hoganson who also forced Walker into a good stop with a low drive.
In stoppage time Hoganson, who was anonnymous in the first 45 minutes but much more lively in the final half-hour, had one final chance to level the match, but he blazed over after being teed up by a Robinson pass, and that was game over.
Cobblers: Kitson (46m, Snedker), Hackett (46m, Johnson), Langmead, Charles, Widdowson, Demontagnac (60m, Hoganson), Guttridge (60m, Turnbull), Tozer (60m. Hornby), Hoganson (46m, Robinson), Platt (46m, Akinfenwa), Nicholls (46m, Wilson). Corby Town (starting 11): Walker, Horne, Holt, Malone, Pierrick, McGowan, Semple, Crowe, Miller, McKenzie, Kaziboni. Attendance: 830