HERO HOLMES LEAVES IT LATE
NORTHAMPTON Town manager Chris Wilder was left purring about his side’s title-winning chances after a spectacular comeback against below-par Stevenage.
A double from Luke Wilkinson – his first and second for the club – gave Stevenage a well-earned lead up to the half hour mark, but that was cut four minutes before the break with a headed goal from James Collins – an answer to his critics following his Cheltenham controversy in midweek.
John-Joe O’Toole brought the game level on 51 minutes before Fraser Franks was shown a straight red for pulling down Sam Hoskins as he bore down on goal.
The Cobblers upped the tempo and Ricky Holmes smacked in the winner four minutes into stoppage time, sparking an invasion from the Northampton bench and Wilder could not hide his excitement after moving 11 points clear with nine games remaining.
“It was a difficult 45 minutes for us but we regrouped, and the goal before half-time was a massively important one,” he said.
“In the second half we showed what we’re about. Championship winning teams have those games like this one.
“The second half showed why we put ourselves in a fantastic position to win this league this year.
“Days like this when you drag yourself off the floor and win a game of football is why everyone loves the game.
“It looked as though we would run out of time but the magician comes up at the death with a fantastic goal. To be on 82 points with nine game to go is just mind-boggling.
“The reaction from everybody in the second half was first class and that’s the reason that we’re sitting here with the result we had here.”
Boro started the better of the two sides and Dean Parrett twice was the provider for Wilkinson, before they were pegged back when Nicky Adams found Collins unmarked to head in from close range.
O’Toole brought the game level on 51 minutes, stabbing home unmarked from a Joel Byrom corner, and there were no arguments over Franks’ red card on 78 minutes.
Ricky Holmes provided the grandstand finish, and Stevenage caretaker manager Darren Sarll found it hard to find any positives after seeing his side give up a commanding position.
He said: “The timing of their first goal was absolutely massive and you’re going in at half-time being at 2-1 rather than a 2-0 – and a deserved 2-0.
“But it was a lack of concentration which always comes from experience, and both managers’ team talks completely change at that point.
“Then the third goal the lad has produced a moment of indi- vidual quality, but we had to do better to deal with that situation one-on-one. It was a disappointing moment after the fellas had worked so hard with ten men for ten minutes, but we have to dust ourselves down and go again.”
STAR MAN RICKY HOLME
mpton MATCH WINNER: Northampton’s Ricky Holmes, right, celebrates after scoring the late winner