Town: Dean Henderson, Mat Sadler, Shaun Whalley (Arthur Gnahoua 79), Abu Ogogo, Carlton Morris (Lenell John-Lewis 79), Junior Brown, James Bolton, Bryn Morris, Jon Nolan, Aristote Nsiala, Alex Rodman
Subs: Craig MacGillivray, Louis Dodds, Arthur Gnahoua, Ebou Adams, Zak Jules, Niall Ennis, Lenell John-Lewis
Northampton Town: David Cornell, David Buchanan, Leon Barnett, Ash Taylor, Billy Waters (Chris Long 64), Marc Richards (Alex Revell 73), Daniel Powell, Dean Bowditch, Aaron Pierre, Matt Crooks, Matt Taylor (Yaser Kasim 64)
Subs: James Goff, Yaser Kasim, Alex Revell, Leon Lobjoit, Aaron Phillips, Chris Long, Regan Poole
Assistants: Gareth Mellor and Craig Taylor
Fourth Official: Oliver Bickle
Attendance: 5736 (1053)
A 92nd minute goal from Lenell John-Lewis gave Town a thrilling opening day win. Town had been the better side throughout, but the game appeared to be heading for a stalemate, until John-Lewis met an Alex Rodman to send the Montgomery Waters Meadow into pandemonium.
Paul Hurst starts four of the eleven new signings this summer. Dean Henderson starts in goal, James Bolton at right-back, Jon Nolan in central midfield and Carlton Morris on the bench. Bryn Morris is given the nod ahead of Louis Dodds, who starts on the bench, as Town start with a 4-5-1 formation. Six of the new signings make up the bench, with only Dan James missing out.
There were just two minutes on the clock when Town created the first chance of the game. A Junior Brown throw-in found its way to Alex Rodman who ran past a couple of defenders before playing in Jon Nolan, but his shot was well blocked from the edge of the box.
It was certainly Town who had the better of the opening 10 minutes and they managed to get around the sides of the Northampton back three on a couple of occasions, but the likes of Whalley and Brown couldn’t find a blue and amber body with the final ball.
Despite Town’s early dominance it was Northampton that came closest to taking the lead when Dean Henderson was beaten to a through ball by Dean Bowditch, Bowditch rounded the Town ‘keeper but his shot was cleared off the line by Toto Nsiala.
Nsiala almost turned goalscorer at the other end when Jon Nolan recycled a Town free-kick and cut the ball back for the big centre-half, but his shot was blocked behind for a corner, which he headed wide from Shaun Whalley’s delivery.
Carlton Morris had the difficult task of leading the line against a Northampton back-three who all towered above 6ft. However, the Norwich loanee stuck to his task well in the opening 45 minutes and had a couple of half-chances without really testing David Cornell in the Cobblers goal.
With less than five minutes of the half remaining Town had a decent penalty shout turned down. Some intricate passing between Whalley, Rodman and Nolan on the Town left presented Whalley with a great shooting opportunity and his powerful drive appeared to be blocked by the arm of Matt Taylor, but referee Stockbridge waved away the appeals.
Half Time: 0-0
Town started the second half on the front foot and made good break within the opening minute of the half as Alex Rodman released Jon Nolan down the right. Nolan got to the edge of the box before cutting it back for Rodman, but his first time shot was blocked by Ash Taylor.
Rodman was looking Town’s biggest threat and he created another good chance when he played a delicious through ball into the path of Carlton Morris in the left channel. Morris did well to cut the ball back for Shaun Whalley, but he couldn’t make the necessary connection from eight yards out and it trickled agonisingly wide.
On 64 minutes the whole crowd rose to applaud Chris Smith. The club legend sadly passed away this summer and as a mark of respect a minute’s applause was held with his picture donning the big screen.
Town were denied a penalty for a second time on 67 minutes when neat interplay down the Town left allowed Rodman to cut the ball back for Abu Ogogo. Ogogo appeared to be tripped by a Northampton man as he made a late run into the box, but Stockbridge saw it as a dive and awarded a yellow card to the Town skipper.
Northampton offered little in attached and Dean Henderson’s first save of the second half came with just 15 minutes remaining when substitute Alex Revell headed towards goal from a corner, but Henderson comfortably gathered the effort.
With the game beginning to peter out, Town made their first substitutions of the game with just 11 minutes left on the clock as Lenell John-Lewis replaced Carlton Morris and Arthur Gnahoua came on for Shaun Whalley.
Despite the changes, it was Northampton who would have their best spell of the game as the game ticked towards its conclusion, with Leon Barnett having two acrobatic efforts well blocked in quick succession.
Town pushed for a winner and they won a corner as the clock ticked over the 90 minute mark, but David Cornell was able to gather after headers from James Bolton and Junior Brown.
With just three minutes of stoppage time Town didn’t have long to find a winner, but they did so as Alex Rodman broke down the left before crossing for Lenell John-Lewis who side footed past Cornell much to the delight of the Town crowd.
There was still time for a heart in the mouths moment as Nsiala committed a foul right on the edge of the box, but the Northampton effort was blocked and Town managed to scramble it to safety.
Full Time: 1-0