Holmes’ wonder goal sinks Stevenage as league leaders Northampton Town edge thriller

Fraser Franks is sent off. Photo: Harry Hubbard

Fraser Franks is sent off. Photo: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

Ricky Holmes’ wonder strike deep into injury time fired Northampton Town to all three points against a battling Stevenage side who were reduced to 10 men following a late red card for defender Fraser Franks.

Going into this match Stevenage had not won nor scored in their previous four outings, but here they put in a resilient performance that saw them take a two-goal lead only for the runaway league leaders to claw their way back into the match.

And with the two sides level going into second-half injury-time, Holmes, on the right, cut inside and fired an outstanding shot straight into the top corner to gift the Cobblers all three points.

Boro started the game with two up top as Darren Sarll looked to stop the rut; but while Greg Luer and Byron Harrison, on loan from Hull City and Chesterfield respectively, were charged with getting the goals, they actually came from an unlikely source.

Luke Wilkinson, like much of this Boro side, has not been noted for his scoring prowess since joining the club.

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But he clearly fancied himself to get on the scoresheet against the Cobblers as just moments after hitting one volley well off target he then climbed the highest to head in a Dean Parrett corner to end 430 minutes without a goal for Sarll’s men.

He was then the man who made it two-nil when another Parrett free-kick, this time from near the halfway line, was sent towards the box. The Northampton goalkeeper, Adam Smith, sprinted off his line only to be beaten to it by Wilkinson whose superb header extended his side’s lead.

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Northampton weren’t quite on their holidays; it felt more like a mid-afternoon break. They were sloppy in possession in the first period and their defence lacked cover, a weakness that allowed Parrett to go close himself only to slice his shot off target.

But then Stevenage shot themselves in the foot just before the break. Their goalkeeper, Jamie Jones, hadn’t been troubled all half as Northampton had failed to turn possession into chances. But from a set piece on the right, a quick-thinking Joel Byrom found James Collins and he headed in unmarked for 2-1.

Sarll was furious; for the Boro players it was more shock that the move had happened so quickly.

Luer fired off target when under pressure at the start of the second half, but then Northampton drew level much to the joy of their supporters, a couple of whom ran on to the pitch to celebrate but then struggled to get back over the advertising hoardings.

As for the goal it was from another set piece, a corner, with John-Joe O’Toole sticking out a high foot to make it 2-2.

Stevenage were forced to play the last 11 minutes with 10 men after Franks was sent off for a foul on Sam Hoskins.

The former Boro loanee had come off the bench for the visitors and getting through on goal he was pulled back by Franks, with the referee showing him a red card.

And yet Stevenage went close to taking all three points just moments later, but for two fine saves from Smith.

Luer fired low, with the keeper saving. The Stevenage striker then hit a second low effort on target, but again Smith was there to deny the front man a first goal for the club.

Northampton also went close, but Collins, on the turn, hit his shot into the away end. The striker then went even closer, but his header flew just past Jones’ far post when he really should have at least tested the Stevenage keeper.

Bu then up stepped Holmes to fire the visitors to a last-gasp win and leave Sarll stood hands on hips wondering how his side had come away from this game empty-handed.

Stevenage: Jones, Wilkinson, Franks, Okimo, Gorman, Cox, Parrett, Tonge, Kennedy (Johnson 80), Luer (Conlon 94), Harrison. Subs: Day, Whelpdale, Pett, Marriott, Hedges.

Northampton Town: Smith, Maloney, Diamond, Byrom, Adams (D’Ath 61), Holmes (Taylor 97), Buchanan, Collins, O’Toole, Prosser, Marquis (Hoskins 53). Subs: McDonald, Martin, Rose, Clarke.

Att: 3902

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