TWO goals in two minutes meant York City recorded a trio of victories for the first time in nine months.
Not since the fabulous late run in April that saved the Minstermen from League Two relegation have Nigel Worthington’s men managed to grab a maximum point haul from three successive fixtures.
Ironically, that sequence last year began at Northampton and it was back at Sixfields on Saturday where York recorded only their second away win of this campaign.
It was well deserved too. They soaked up pressure early in both halves before gradually getting more adventurous – taking the lead in the 68th minute with an instinctive goal from Ryan Bowman, a looping back header from Josh Carson’s cross which dipped into the net.
Wes Fletcher’s penalty, barely 120 seconds later, after Kevin Amankwaah chopped down Michael Coulson in the box, put the sheen on a clinical away display.
It might have been different had former York winger Matty Blair, making his debut with the Cobblers on loan from Fleetwood, made more of a glorious chance at the far post ten minutes into the second half.
One of the few crosses an otherwise immaculate Michael Ingham missed, Hallam Hope’s centre from the right hand side fell to a waiting Blair at the back post.
But the Wembley hero in both York’s FA Trophy and play-off final wins in 2012, with an open goal at his mercy, couldn’t direct his header on target.
Russell Penn came straight into the starting 11 following his move from Cheltenham, while fellow recruit Adam Reed was among the substitutes.
Nip and tuck early on, the home side soon started to assert themselves and, on 18 minutes, Ishmel Demontagnac’s mazy run saw him cut inside Carson and strike a low shot towards Ingham’s right corner. City’s custodian was equal to it.
Coulson similarly left a Northampton defender dumped on his backside in the Cobblers’ box only for his shot to be blocked and, midway through the first period, Matt Duke got down well to tip behind a low Carson free-kick that was arrowing into his bottom right corner from about 20 yards.
But the most nervous moment in a first half largely bereft of incident came at the Minstermen end when David McGurk found himself facing two-against-one after Keith Lowe’s attempted pass was intercepted.
The veteran City defender took one for the team, though, flattening Hope and receiving a yellow card for the foul.
The home side came out the stronger again after the interval – McGurk dealing confidently with two dangerous crosses and Hope crashing a shot into the side netting.
Those chances paled, though, compared to Blair’s miss. The winger would later say he didn’t believe Ingham would miss the cross and, caught off guard, he was slightly behind the arc of the ball when it arrived.
He would still have expected to head it goalwards – instead only managing to put it back across the area where it was easily cleared.
It may have been the jolt City needed. Ben Tozer soon had to produce a fantastic clearing header, on 65 minutes, after Carson’s delicious cross from the right looked pinpoint for the waiting Fletcher.
And, a couple of minutes later, the Minstermen were in front.
Coulson started the move, rattling down the left wing before finding Montrose in the centre of the pitch.
The midfielder engaged in some patient passing with Carlson and Lanre Oyebanjo and, with Northampton unwilling to close, Carson hit a measured cross into the 16-yard box.
Bowman met it strongly and his back header looped up and over Duke and into the net – a clever finish.
Before the home side had time to draw breath, they were two goals down. Bowman headed into the centre of the area from a throw in and Amankwaah lunged at Coulson, sending him sprawling in the penalty area. Referee Graham Scott pointed straight at the spot.
Duke guessed the right way, but Fletcher’s penalty was exquisite – smacked high and away from the Northampton ’keeper into the right side of the net.
That extinguished any hopes the Cobblers had of getting a result and allowed an increasingly impressive City to soak up some token pressure while looking like they could hit their opponents at will on the counter.
Now, who’s next?
Northampton 0, York City 2 (Bowman 68; Fletcher 70 (pen))
Michael Ingham 7
Missed the cross that let in Blair but, otherwise, handling and kicking was almost immaculate.
Lanre Oyebanjo 7
Shackled Northampton’s attempts at wide play and tried to get forward when possible.
Keith Lowe 8
Almost caught out on a couple of occasions but no nonsense style and strong tackling were essential in this win.
David McGurk 9
Took a booking for the team and his timing, particularly in the air, was impeccable.
Ben Davies 8
Tested by Blair and proved up to the challenge.
Josh Carson 7
Visibly frustrated in the first half but showed composure to find the cross for Bowman’s opener.
Lewis Montrose 7
Took a back seat to a marauding Penn in the early stages but grew in authority as the match went on.
Russell Penn 9
Star man – a dream debut. Snapped into tackles, linked play well and made his presence felt all over the pitch.
Michael Coulson 8
Assisted Davies with Blair, defensively sound, and delivered a couple of wicked set-pieces in the first half. Won the penalty.
Ryan Bowman 8
Fought for scraps throughout and supplied instinctive finish for the crucial first goal.
Wes Fletcher 8
Always an outlet for a quick ball, took his penalty exceptionally well.
Subs: Ryan Jarvis (for Fletcher, 87), Tom Platt (for Jarvis, 90). Not used: Jamal Fyfield, Shaquille McDonald, Tom Allan, Chris Dickinson, Adam Reed.
Matt Duke, Kevin Amankwaah (Matty Harriott, 75), Lee Collins, Ben Tozer, Sean McGinty, Matty Blair, Gary Deegan, Darren Carter, Ishmel Demontagnac (Danny Emerton, 62), Antonio German, Hallam Hope (David Moyo, 70). Subs not used: Dean Snedker, JJ Hooper, Paul Reid, Ivan Toney.
Star man: German – quick feet and physical presence. A handful.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).
Rating: 6/10 – got the penalty decision spot on but awarded some curious fouls.
Booked: McGurk 32, Oyebanjo 84, Tozer 90.
Sent off: None.
Attendance: 4,448 (464 from York).
Shots on target: Northampton 3, City 5.
Shots off target: Northampton 5, City 1.
Corners: Northampton 3, City 1.
Fouls conceded: Northampton 14, City 6.
Offsides: Northampton 2, City 2.