Winning return for Wilder as Cobblers suffer Sheffield United defeat
The Cobblers suffered their second Steel City pre-season friendly defeat in a matter of days as they were beaten 2-0 by Premier League new boys Sheffield United at the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday.
On Tuesday night, Town were outclassed in a 4-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday, and this time it was two Oliver Norwood penalties that proved to be the difference as Chris Wilder's Blades travelled back up the M1 with a comfortable win under their belts.
Keith Curle's men put in a stronger performance than they did against the Owls, and there will again be positives for the manager to take, with perhaps the biggest one being the fact skipper Charlie Goode played his first minutes of pre-season.
The summer signing from Scunthorpe played just under an hour at the heart of the Town defence, and looked sharp.
The Cobblers actually started very brightly, with a fired-up Goode dispossessing David McGoldrick to launch an early attack, which saw Andy Williams shoot weakly at Simon Moore from 25 yards.
The better option would have been to feed strike partner Harry Smith, who was unmarked on the edge of the box to his left.
Moments later, Williams flicked on a Joe Martin cross from the left that Moore saved, before Smith tried his luck from 20 yards, but it was straight at the Blades goalkeeper.
The visitors started to get into the game, and enjoyed plenty of possession, but they had just one chance to show for their efforts early on, Cornell saving well from a John Fleck drive.
The Blades gradually started to dominate though, and they took the lead on 23 minutes.
Skipper Norwood confident slotted home from the penalty spot after Hutton had tripped Callum Robinson in the penalty area, Northampton referee Andy Woolmer immediately pointing to the spot.
Cornell did well to keep out a well struck shot from McGoldrick a few minutes later, with the striker having beaten the Town offside trap - Jordan Turnbull looked to have played him on.
Just before the break, the Blades doubled their advantage and again they did it from the penalty spot after Martin was adjudged to have tripped Kieron Freeman by referee Woolmer.
It looked a soft award, and the home fans let Woolmer know they weren't happy, but Norwood stepped up and produced a carbon copy of his first spot-kick, hammering the ball into the left-hand corner.
Cornell was quickly back in the action in the second half, once again denying McGoldrick after the front man had turned Goode inside out.
On 52 minutes, the Cobblers almost halved the deficit, but Ryan Watson's curling free-kick from the left side of the penalty area hit the post, with the ball bouncing to safety.
Blades keeper Moore was forced into his first serious save of the afternoon, getting down to parry away a low shot from Sam Hoskins after good work by the lively Matt Warburton.
The Town man didn't properly get hold of the shot, but it was a chance created in open play.
A flurry of substitutions for both sides midway through the second half seriously upset any rhythm the game did have, with both sets of players taking time to settle back into things.
The Blades did it quicker though, and once again started to control proceedings with their passing game, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Norwood was denied his hat-trick by the legs of substititute Jay Williams with 12 minutes remaining, the Town man blocking the Blades skipper's thumping volley from 15 yards.
Both sides were going through the motions towards the end, although the Blades nearly made it 3-0 late on when George Baldock headed Leon Clarke's low cross just wide.
But it stayed 2-0 as Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill enjoyed a winning return to the home of the Cobblers.
Cobblers: Cornell, Hutton (68m, Pollock), Goode (58m. Hall-Johnson), Turnbull, Martin (64m, J Williams), Bunney, Hoskins (67m, Simpson), Lines (46m, Yebli), Watson (62 mins, McWilliams), Smith (46m, Warburton), A Williams (46m, Oliver). Subs not used: Arnold, Hughes
Sheffield United starting team: Moore, Stevens, Fleck, O'Connell, Lundstram, Robinson, Egan Jagielka, Norwood, McGoldrick, K Freeman. Subs: Dewhurst, Baldock, Sharp, Stearman, Bryan, Brunt, Slater, Clarke, Boyes, Basham, L Freeman
Sheffield United fans: 1,143
Referee: Andy Woolmer