Cheltenham Town 0-3 Northampton Town: Cobblers stage memorable comeback to reach play-off final
Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images

TIn one of the most memorable games in EFL League Two play-off history, Northampton Town secured their place in the play-off final with an improbable 3-0 victory over Cheltenham Town at Jonny-Rocks Stadium, the Cobblers first win in Gloucestershire in seven years. 

Vadaine Oliver put Northampton in the lead nine minutes into the contest and a poor clearance by Cheltenham defender Ben Tozer gave Callum Morton the opportunity to level the tie in the 57th minute and the comeback was complete when he tapped in on 77 minutes as Northampton booked a spot against Exeter City in a weekend's time for a place in EFL League One next season.

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Story of the match

Northampton welcomed Sam Hoskins back from suspension, as he took James Olayinka's spot in the lineup while Cheltenham boss Michael Duff inserted Alfie May and Jonte Smith in place of Tom Nichols and Reuben Reid.

The Cobblers applied the early pressure, Hoskins having his shot blocked and Morton saw his header saved by Robins goalkeeper Owen Evans. They were rewarded when Nicky Adams sent in an inviting cross that Oliver got on the end of to send past Evans and reduce the deficit to 2-1 on aggregate.

The visitor continued to press, Morton sent through by Alan McCormack, but he couldn't control his shot. Adams had his effort blocked and the lively Morton saw his latest chance deflected out of harm's way and Adams had another opportunity, but volleyed just over after Smith curled wide for the hosts.

Oliver had a chance to square the tie just before halftime as Charlie Goode picked him out with a cross, but he couldn't control his header and Cheltenham hung on to their slim advantage despite being thoroughly outplayed on the night.

Reid was introduced by the Robins after halftime, taking Smith's spot and the hosts had the first sight of goal, Northampton goalkeeper Steve Arnold saving from Jake Doyle-Hayes and he was alert to the danger from a Will Boyle header.

Adams sent in a cross that Goode played back across goal with Morton getting the final touch past Evans to give the visitors a two-goal lead and level the tie on aggregate. The Cobblers were nearly ahead shortly thereafter, but Ryan Watson saw his shot charge down.

Olayinka came on for McCormack in Northampton's first change and the comeback was complete 13 minutes from time as Morton was first to a loose ball in the box to poke home. He nearly completed his hat-trick on a quickfire counterattack, Evans denying the 20-year old.

Suddenly behind, Cheltenham desperately tried to send the tie into extra time, substitute Rohan Ince having his shot blocked by Jordan Turnbull and after May fired over, Northampton saw out the match and celebrated a famous victory.

Man of the Match: Callum Morton

While the whole of the Northampton side were dangerous throughout the match, it was Morton who tied and put the Cobblers ahead, showing off his finishing skills on the first goal and alertness on the second. With plenty of other chances, a performance like this in a weekend's time may see the Cobblers in the third tier next year.

Takeaways

All credit must be given to Northampton as they knew they had to be aggressive from the start and they came out as such. Bright, sharp and inventive, the Cobblers were well and truly in control while Cheltenham were surprisingly flat, especially considering their home form on the season.

The playoff final is in seven days and Curle will have a chance to re-focus his side as they prepare to face an Exeter squad that also rallies from a first-leg deficit while Duff will be left to wonder where it all went wrong for the Robins after such an impressive first leg.

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