Harding strike enough as Northampton Town squeeze past Oxford

Ben Harding’s second goal of the season was enough to give the Cobblers a ninth successive home win, at the expense of Oxford United.

GOAL-DEN GUY - Ben Harding is congratulated by Adebayo Akinfenwa after scoring the only goal of the game at Sixfields (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
GOAL-DEN GUY - Ben Harding is congratulated by Adebayo Akinfenwa after scoring the only goal of the game at Sixfields (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

Town rode their luck at times in the snowy conditions and Lee Nicholls made a superb late save to preserve the 1-0 victory.

The win is not enough to push the club back into the npower League Two top three, but does now mean they boast the best home record in the division.

The home side had an early sight of goal when Ben Tozer elected to take a throw short to John Johnson, who picked out Harding to clip a shot narrowly over the bar.

The next one should have been a goal, Clarke Carlisle heading over the ball when well placed at the front post at a Harding corner.

Akinfenwa then headed a Hackett cross straight at Luke McCormick in the Oxford goal after Alfie Potter had struck a shot beyond the post at the other end.

Tom Craddock had a great chance to score on 37 minutes when Sean Rigg slipped him in behind the defence only for the recalled striker to fire straight at Lee Nicholls.

Hackett proceeded to draw a good save from McCormick as the chances continue to come in a gripping first half that ended with the game’s first goal.

Hackett showed quick feet to get outside former Cobbler Liam Davis and provide a cross that was squirmed into the path of Harding by an under-pressure McCormick,

Harding’s shot was not a clean one - understandable in the conditions - but had enough on it to break the deadlock.

Akinfenwa fluffed his lines at the end of a good Ben Harding-led attack as the Cobblers looked to start the second half as strongly as they finished the first, the heavy snowfall necessitating the use of the orange ball, to the crowd’s delight.

It looked for some time as though it might prove a costly miss, with Oxford enjoying several long spells of possession and a steady stream of set-pieces from which to get the ball into the danger zone.

But Northampton pride themselves on their ability to repel the dead ball; they spend a lot of time on the training ground attacking and defending set plays and that investment paid off in this match.

A combination of Nicholls and the imperious Clarke Carlisle then foiled what looked a certain goal when James Constable found himself free in the box and Nicholls made an excellent save low down to deny the striker again in stoppage time.

The rebound could have fallen to any one of four players in Oxford shirts that were pursuing it but it landed at Tozer’s feet and he completed the clearance.

It was one of those ‘rub of the green’ moments that may come to define the side’s season.

Cobblers: Nicholls, Johnson, Carlisle, Langmead, Widdowson, Hackett, Tozer, Harding, Demontagnac, Akinfenwa, Platt

Subs: Collins (for Langmead 12), Guttridge (for Johnson 71), Robinson (for Hackett 83)

Not used: Snedker, Collins, O’Donovan, Hornby, Dias

Oxford: McCormick, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Davis, Potter, Whing, Davies, Rigg, Craddock, Constable

Subs: Smalley (for Rigg 62)

Not used: Duberry, Heslop, Brown, Worley, O’Brien, Parker

Attendance: 6151

Oxford fans: 1176