Live Commentary: Northampton Town 1-0 Cheltenham Town - as it happened

Sixfields
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Live text commentary as Northampton Town hosted Cheltenham Town in the first leg of the League Two semi-final.

Northampton Town hosted Cheltenham Town in the first leg of their League Two playoff semi-final and came away with a 1-0 lead to hang on to for the return leg.

There were chances for both sides in the opening 45 minutes but it was Roy O'Donovan who broke the deadlock with a volley from a Chris Hackett cross.

In the second half Northampton should have added more goals, but Scott Brown made a fine save from an Ade Akinfenwa header.

The hosts could not find the second goal to give them a cushion and had to settle for the 1-0 win.


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6.46pmHello everyone and thanks for joining me tonight for this first leg of the League Two playoff between Northampton and Cheltenham.

6.49pmThere is also the other semi-final taking place tonight, with Bradford City and Burton Albion also looking to book their place in the final.

6.53pmIn terms of the league this season, Cheltenham won both encounters which is unusual for teams at the top of the table. The Sixfields encounter was a thriller, with the away side winning 3-2. They then claimed the home tie 1-0.

6.56pmIt could have been so much better for Northampton, though. They suffered a poor October and an inconsistent start to the season, but rallied to bring themselves into automatic promotion contention. However, another poor run put paid to those thoughts and here they are with three huge games ahead of them.

7pmThey will certainly be hoping the inconsistency won't come back to haunt them over the next week or so. It can't be said that they deserved to finish in the league's top three - they were never too far from a defeat. Throughout the league season their biggest unbeaten stretch was five games, which came in February.

7.05pmCheltenham's main problem has been their struggle to turn draws into wins. Throughout the league season they have drawn 15 of their 46 games and had just two more of those been converted into three points they would be celebrating automatic promotion.

7.07pmInstead, as is usually the case when teams just don't quite do enough, they have had to settle for the playoffs. It can be a cruel stage, too, with some sides and managers seemingly having luck and others finding it desert them at their moment of need.

7.11pmAs a club, the Cobblers haven't had the best of times in their playoff attempts. It started well when they won promotion to what is now League One in 1997, but since then it has ended in tears. Four further attempts - the final in the third tier the very next season and two semi-final defeats in the fourth tier in 2004 and 2005 all ended in disappointment.

7.15pmHowever their manager Aidy Boothroyd enjoyed success the year after Nothampton's most recent disappointment as he impressively guided Watford to the Premier League.

7.17pmBefore I go on any more, I've got some team news for you..

7.20pmNORTHAMPTON XI: Nicholls; Tozer, Carlisle, Cameron, Collins; Hackett, Guttridge, Harding, Demontagnac; O’Donovan, Akinfenwa

7.22pmCHELTENHAM XI: Brown; Lowe, Hector, Elliott, Jombati; McGlashan, Pack, Penn, Mohamed; Benson, Harrison

7.26pmSo for the hosts, that means skipper Kelvin Langmead is fit, but not quite enough to start. He is named on the bench, however. Clive Platt too returns but is also on the bench, while Ishmel Demontagnac comes into the XI. Subs coming up.

7.28pmNorthampton subs: Snedker, Johnson, Langmead, Hornby, Platt, Ribonson, Moult.

7.30pmCheltenham subs: Roberts, Jones, Carter, Deering, Taylor, Duffy, Harrad.

7.33pmSo for the Robins it's also two changes. For them Keith Lowe and Paul Benson come in for Billy Jones and Jason Taylor.

7.36pmJust about 10 minutes until kickoff now. Time for a new more stats and facts I reckon. Here's one: Northampton have won eight and Cheltenham 10 of the 24 games between the sides. That means just six draws. There have also been 36 goals apiece, so here's hoping for more of the same tonight.

7.40pmAll of the Robins' four playoff adventures have been in the fourth tier. Last year they were unsuccessful last year as losing finalists but they were promoted in both 2002 and 2006 - so they are a force to be reckoned with in League Two playoffs.

0 minHere we go then. We're off!

2 minIt's a bright start from Northampton and Akinfenwa in particular. He wins a corner with a driving run, before meeting it himself and nodding it over the bar.

6 minIt's a bit nervy still from the visitors. Akinfenwa again is nearly let in with a sip-up at the back, but a shot is sliced wide from the striker.

8 minLuke Guttridge is battling in the midfield for Northampton. Twice in a minute he wins the ball with crunching tackles - the sort that the crowd really enjoy. His ball towards Roy O'Donovan, however, is not gathered in by the Irishman.

10 minJust a reminder that I'll be keeping you updated with tonight's other playoff semi-final, as Hackett fires a free kick well over the bar. If you want to read the updates from that game also, then Barney Corkhill is on hand here.

12 minBen Tozer gets his first chance with a long throw from the right. It just floats down and a number of bodies are after it, but eventually Cheltenham are able to clear. It's a more loopy delivery Tozer has rather than an arrowed throw.

14 minCheltenham really are struggling to get into the game. They're resorting to long balls only at the moment, which the strikers Benson and Harrison are unable to do much with.

16 minThere's the first hint of the pace of Jermaine McGlashan there as Benson tries to thread him through down the right, but he had just too much to do and it's nudged back to Nicholls by Collins. At the other end, more nervous Cheltenham defending ends in a corner, which Akinfenwa again meets but it's deflected straight to Brown.

18 minCheltenham win a couple of corners of their own, which is the longest they have been in the hosts half so far. From the second one Elliott is just beaten to it and a Pack shot is blocked for a throw. They're finally in this game.

20 minIt's the Cobblers' turn to be shaky at the back. The ball is lumped into the box and Nicholls delays coming for it, Carlisle heads back into the air before eventually the keeper makes the claim.

22 minPenn arrives late in the box to meet a Lowe cross, but he's nearly on the edge of the box and it would have taken a huge effort to score from there. It goes wide, but now the visitors are seeing a lot more of the ball.

23 minGOAL UPDATE: Burton Albion, the away side, have broken the deadlock at Valley Parade. They lead Bradford City 1-0 courtesy of Calvin Zola.

24 minAkinfenwa again causing problems in the away box and he forces a very dodgy looking Elliott clearance. Very little quality from either side so far.

26 minGOAL! Northampton 1-0 Cheltenham (Roy O'Donovan)

26 minHackett is found with a fantastic pass and he hooks in a cross towards O'Donovan who is lurking around the penalty spot. The striker sweeps a volley with the ball slightly behind him and Brown gets a touch, but cannot keep it out. Possibly poor goalkeeping.

28 minCHANCE! Immediate chance for the equaliser as Benson is free in the box but directs a cross wide when he really should have found the target! Should be 1-1 and it's come to life now.

30 minNow Northampton have a free kick right on the edge of the box. It was a poor sliding lunge from Elliott, but Demontagnac with one of his first touches clips the effort right at the keeper.

31 minCHANCE! Hackett finds O'Donovan on the right side of the box. His cross is a bit deep but Demontagnac manages to poke an effort towards goal. His shot is blocked, though, and it's a corner, from which nothing comes.

32 minGOAL UPDATE: It's now 2-0 to Burton in the other semi-final and it's Zola again, who is having a fantastic day! It has been the perfect opening 30 minutes for Burton.

34 minMcGlashan tries to take things into his own hand with a driving run down the right, but Northampton are doubling up on him and he runs is out of play. The wide threat is being quelled on both sides and it seems through the middle too as Cameron wins a good header away.

35 minCHANCE! Cameron heads away but only as far as Penn, who flicks over the advancing defender with one touch before finding Mohamed to his left, but the winger slices his shot wide of the near post.

36 minNow Northampton come again at the other end with Tozer finding Hackett, but the excellent Penn wins the ball with a crunching slide tackle. He's been the away side's best player so far.

37 minGOAL UPDATE: Bradford have pulled a goal back in the other semi-final. Nahki Wells has buried a penalty to halve the deficit.

38 minBack to this game, Nicholls commits to a good delivery from Pack to punch clear with one hand amid a sea of bodies. Good goalkeeping.

40 minNeither side has been on top of this since the goal. There have been chances at either end and a lot of committed challenges as well. McGlashan has drifted across to the left and gets the better of Tozer before Carlisle gets in with a thunderous challenge to take the ball.

42 minCHANCE! Benson should probably do better. He gets a yard on Carlisle and nods goalwards, but it was always a difficult header trying to put it back into the far corner and is comfortable for Nicholls in the end.

44 minBrilliant from Carlisle who ends a Cheltenham break with a commanding chest down. He sets Hackett away down the right and his cross finds Akinfenwa, who just cannot turn to shoot. Northampton are finishing the half strongly as the lively O'Donovan pulls all over Elliott, who refuses to go down to his credit.

44 minGOAL UPDATE: Burton have restored their two-goal lead and are now 3-1 up thanks to Robbie Weir!

45 minPack sprays the ball right to left for McGlashan, but this time Tozer does well to win the ball but only at the expense of a corner.

45 minOne minute of time has been added on.

45+1 minHALF-TIME: Northampton 1-0 Cheltenham

8.33pmThere hasn't been a huge amount of quality but there has been plenty of commitment. Hackett did well down the right to cross for O'Donovan, who showed technique to volley at goal. The visitors' goalkeeper Brown probably should have kept it out, but in all the hosts are just about value for their lead.

8.37pmAkinfenwa started very well indeed for the hosts, causing trouble with his strength and aerial ability, but he did fade towards the end. For the visitors, McGlashan and Mohamed have really struggled on the wing, but Penn has done his best to influence play from the middle. They've had a couple of chances, but nothing quite enough to worry the scorers.

8.41pmBoth defences have had nervy moments, but the Cobblers' has been stronger certainly. Carlisle in particular has won some big headers and has nipped a couple of breaks in the bud. Even so, Boothroyd will be wanting more goal from his side and Mark Yates won't be too disappointed.

8.42pmIn the other tie, Burton have taken that 3-1 lead into the break, and you feel one more goal could see the tie all but over. It's a huge half for Bradford, and so too for both the sides here.

8.46pmSo it's almost time for the second half and I doubt the scoring is finished here. With just one goal in it Cheltenham will always fancy their chances of getting back in it, but Northampton have looked confident in front of a packed Sixfields.

45 minKICKOFF: Cheltenham get us back underway. McGlashan, it seems, is back on the right flank where he had little joy in the opening 45.

46 minEarly effort from distance for Lowe on the volley. However, he's leaning back and the right-back slices it well wide. No-one was closing him down, though.

48 minSAVE: O'Donovan bursts clear down the right but with Akinfenwa lurking he fires a cross right into the gloves of Brown. At the other end, McGlashan turns Collins inside out before rifling a shot that is tipped over by Nicholls.

50 minHector is down for Cheltenham after coming off worse in a duel with Carlisle. He's on his feet but looks a little groggy. I'll let you know if he comes back on or needs replacing.

52 minHere's Tozer again to launch a throw into the box. Brown half-clears and Guttridge loops it back in but eventually the away defence manages to clear. Hector is down again and surely he will have to come off now. It looks like he is holding his ribs after the earlier knee in his chest.

53 minCHELTENHAM SUB: It is indeed the last action for Hector, as Billy Jones comes on for him.

54 minHackett again whips in a good delivery, but Elliott defends very well to nod it off the head of Akinfenwa.

56 minStill Cheltenham are struggling to create chances. Penn takes matters into his own hands with a low drive from range, but it would have taken a spill from Nicholls for that to go in.

58 minBOOKING: Jombati is all over Demontagnac there as the winger cuts into the box, but the Cobblers man was too honest and didn't go to ground when he maybe could have done. At the other end Hackett does as his name suggests and brings down Mohamed late to pick up the first booking of the day.

60 minCHANCE! Benson dives at the far post on to a Pack cross that was flicked on by Benson, but at full stretch he cannot quite direct it on target at the far post. Agonising for the striker, who has been a threat in the air tonight.

62 minBOOKING: Second card of the game goes to Demontagnac, who took out McGlashan as the winger went to break. Cynical, and a rightful yellow.

64 minA quick update on Hector, who was subbed off earlier in the half. He is being taken to hospital with suspected cracked ribs. I defy anyone not to break a rib after taking Clarke Carlisle's flying knee to their midriff.

66 minNorthampton break with pace through Hackett down the right, who was played in by Akinfenwa. The winger's cross is easily cut out though, with two teammates steaming to the far stick.

68 minSAVE! What a save that is by Brown! Hackett again causes trouble down the right and this time Akinfenwa rises high to nod it down to the bottom corner, but Brown is there to get a strong arm on it to keep it out. That could be a huge save in this tie!

69 minBOOKING: O'Donovan vs. Elliott in a straight sprint. There's only likely to be one winner in that race and as such the defender brings the Irishman down to rightly go into the book.

70 minCHELTENHAM SUBS: Harrison is coming off for Taylor.

74 minAkinfenwa has another chance with his head, but it goes over the bar when well placed. Northampton are completely in control of this now, and Cheltenham would certainly take a 1-0 defeat! The hosts will really want the second goal that their play deserves.

76 minMcGlashan is furious at being denied a penalty. Firstly the clash with Collins was outside the box, and secondly it was soft. The winger is booked for his protests as Johnson comes on for Demontagnac.

78 minNorthampton are still hammering on the door. Cheltenham are just about getting heads on the crosses, but they can't stop the balls coming in as Hackett again shows some skill on the right flank before mishitting his ball into the box.

79 minGOAL UPDATE: The crucial fifth goal has gone to Bradford in the other match tonight as Garry Thompson again pulls the hosts to within a goal.

80 minA rare chance at the other end as Penn finds himself on the left wing to cross, but on the stretch he could not keep it in play.

82 minMcGlashan is getting roundly booed by the Northampton fans, presumably for his antics a moment ago in trying to win a penalty. His side have just steadied the ship slightly, until Hackett crosses deep and Jombati slices a clearance out of play.

84 minLowe is receiving treatment for a nasty looking cut on his head. He's back on now with a blank short as Cameron fells Penn, who had done well to get forward and win the free kick.

86 minNorthampton have possibly had their chances to win this by a bigger margin. A few minutes ago they had the vast majority of possession, but have now become a little sloppy in defence and midfield.

88 minMcGlashan is several yards offside as Cheltenham try to work a flowing passing move. That's inexcusable from the winger; really poor positioning. At the other end Akinfenwa finds Hackett, who lays it back to Tozer, whose cross is too deep for the striker and he can only nod it back into the box.

90 minCHANCE! Big chance for Guttridge. The midfielder first controls the ball on the edge of the box, before finding Hackett again in space. The winger crosses back to Guttridge but can only head over the bar. That could be the last chance as we have four minutes of stoppage time.

90 minCHELTENHAM SUB: Meanwhile, Sam Deering has come on for McGlashan, who is still livid at something.

90+2 minOne more cross from Hackett, this time finds its way through to O'Donovan at the far post. He takes it on the half-volley but hits it into the ground and Brown gathers.

90+4 minA late corner for the Robins is dealt with by Northampton. Deering hoofs one into the mix and this time Hackett clears. Cheltenham are finishing strong but the chance has gone with the ball in Nicholls's hands.

90+4 minFULL-TIME: Northampton 1-0 Cheltenham

9.39pmOddly, a pitch invasion greets the final whistle. It's a win for Northampton, but it probably should have been more. There is all to play for on Sunday's second leg. Join us then, won't you? Goodnight.

Don Valley Stadium
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