The Cobblers completed their solid pre-season campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Conference Premier outfit Eastleigh on Friday night.
John-Joe O’Toole scored the only goal of the game after just eight minutes, with Chris Wilder’s men good value for the win, although Matt Duke had to be at his best on a couple of occasions to maintain Town’s advantage.
Once again, Town were solid without being spectacular, and there was also a strange look to the team as Wilder opted to play three trialists in midfield.
With only a Cobblers XI fixture at Daventry Town to be played next Tuesday, it was a surprise move by the Town boss, with the likes of Darren Carter, Ricky Ravenhill and Chris Hackett sitting the match out completely.
The trialists were Andre Boucard, Lawson D’Ath and Andy Robinson, whose most recent clubs have been Notts County, Reading and Bolton Wanderers.
Boucard is a former Kettering Town player and is 29, while Robinson and D’Ath are both 21.
Ivan Toney was selected to lead the line, with John-Joe O’Toole playing off him, while the back five had a familiar look, Matt Duke having Danny Alfei, Zander Diamond, Lee Collins and Gregor Robertson in front of him .
The Cobblers astarted brightly and with attacking intent, and on three minutes O’Toole sent a head just over the tp from a Kaid Mohamed free-kick.
Town went even closer a few minutes later, when D’Ath’s low inswinging cross from the left evaded everybody, including home goalkeeper Ross Flitney, and hit the base of the far post.
On eight minutes the Cobblers took the lead.
Following an Eastleigh corner, the home side felt they should have had a free-kick for a foul on Jai Reason, but as they appealed to referee Colin Lymer, who had already played advantage, the Cobblers played on.
Collins picked out the run down the left from the halfway line of D’Ath, and the youngster did well to keep his cool as he raced into the penalty area, waited for the supporting run of O’Toole and picked out his team-mate who slotted home from 10 yards.
Eastleigh are a handful in attack though, and Duke was soon called into action, tipping over a long-range strike from Jack Midson.
On 23 minutes Duke produced an even better save, touching over a dipping volley from the lively Stuart Fleetwood, who had outmuscled Gregor Robertson on the right wing as they chased a ball over the top.
Although a friendly, there was a competitive edge to the game, and 10 minutes before the break, the referee and players from both sides had to intervene as Collins and James Constable squared up to each other following a sturdy challenge by the Cobblers man in front of the dugouts.
Eastleigh had another chance to level to score on 39 minutes, with Midson breaking between Diamond and Collins to latch on to a through ball, but the former Wimbledon man shot straight at Duke from 12 yards.
The second half was a slow-burner, with nothing of note happening at either end until the 59th minute when Diamond, in attack for a Cobblers corner, sent a right foot a snapshot just over the top from 15 yards.
The Cobblers’ approach play was decent, but there was little goal threat, and the same could be said of Eastleigh, although they were a little more direct.
Town did carve out a chance on 77 minutes, with Robinson feeding the ball into substitute David Moyo, who had made a central run from the right wing, but his shot was weak and straight at Flitney.
Emile Sinclair, another substitute, showed glimpses of his pace playing wide on the left as on a couple of occasions he glided past his opposite number, but, frustratingly, his final ball was lacking.
Eastleigh pressed for a leveller in the closing stages, forcing a few corners, but the Cobblers defence held firm.
Eastleigh: Flitney, Spence, Green, Reid, Beckwith (46m, Evans), Odubade (52m, Stanley), Reason, Strevens, Constable, Midson (52m, Wright), Fleetwood. Subs not used: Evans, McAllister, Todd, Smith, Lee, Weeks
Cobblers: Duke, Alfei, Robertson, Diamond (62m, Tozer), Collins, D’Ath, Boucard, Robinson, Mohamed (62m, Sinclair), O’Toole (62m, Nicholls), Toney (62m, Moyo). Subs not used: Snedker, Carter, Richards, Hackett, Ravenhill, Roberts, Warburton, Jackson.
Goals: 0-1 - 8 mins, O’Toole;
Referee: Colin Lymer