CHESTERFIELD kept their first clean sheet of the season and their first on the road since March to make it eight games unbeaten.
In a generally scrappy game, Tommy Wright’s Chesterfield had the better chances. The closest they game to grabbing maximum points came when Jack Lester hit the bar from just inside the box a few moments before the break.
Aidy Boothroyd’s Northampton offered a different challenge to Accrington Stanley, who played some lovely football a few days earlier but were still beaten.
Their attack of man mountain Adebayo Akinfenwa and here, there and everywhere Alex Nicholls was kept at bay by more than solid shows by skipper Sam Hird and Neal Trotman. Wright had slated his defence and keeper after the Stanley win, but he was full of praise for them after this hard-working shut-out.
He said: “It was our first clean sheet of the season. It’s a difficult place to come against a team that’s doing well, especially at home. We knew what we had to deal with and I thought the back four, who I was very disappointed with on Tuesday, were excellent today.”
With Marc Richards’ ankle injury set to keep him on the side-lines for four to six weeks, Wright drafted in 20-year-old Tendayi Darikwa for only his third career start. The former midfielder who now mostly plays at right-back was selected on the right of midfield. Drew Talbot moved to the left and Craig Westcarr switched from there to attack alongside Lester.
Caretaker boss Wright: “I knew Northampton were strong on the flanks and I thought Drew and Tendayi either side would have the energy to help the full-backs and counter-attack. I thought they did that quite well.
“Tendayi’s a very fit lad, he’s a good athlete, but obviously when you play against good players who move the ball quickly you’ve got to be bright upstairs as well. I thought he got caught one or two times early on in the game, but as the game went on I thought he got stronger.”
Luke Guttridge hit high early on for the hosts and Westcarr shot on target but Lee Nicholls saved easily. The striker was immediately booked for attempting to block the keeper’s punt away.
Sam Togwell ran a distance and seemed to run out of steam when he shot, his effort flying wide, whilst Cobblers’ out-field Nicholls forced O’Donnell into action with a low shot ahead of volleying wide from a corner.
Lester’s woodwork-hitter was the final action of note in a generally drab opening 45 and his left-footer, a minute after the re-start, was only just wide. He then twice found the target but Nicholls saved both times, the second effort stinging his palms.
O’Donnell saw the ball hit him and ricochet clear after a flying boot clipped Kelvin Langmead’s header.
There’ll be plenty of eyes on the midweek reserves fixture at Oldham when ex-Owl Etienne Esajas will play for the first time during his lengthy trial.
Northampton (4-4-2): Nicholls 7, East 6, Langmead 7, Artell 7, Widdowson 6, Hackett 6, Guttridge 8, Tozer 6, Demontagnac 5, Akinfenwa 5 (Moult 77), Nicholls 7. Subs (not used): Shedker, Johnson, Charles, Mukendi, Wilson.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): O’Donnell 7, Forbes 7, Hird 8, Trotman 7, Ridehalgh 6, Darikwa 6, Atkinson 6 (Allott 90+2), Togwell 7, Talbot 6, Westcarr 6, Lester 6 (Whitaker 77). Subs (not used): Wilson, Clay, Hazel, Wafula, Randall.
Bookings: Westcarr, Trotman, Forbes, Atkinson (Chesterfield).