League Two

On a day when the Arctic freeze was enough to chill the bones, Colchester United added some fire to their League Two promotion campaign with a warming display at Northampton Town.

Among the crowd of 4,796 at the PTS Academy Stadium, there were 405 who braved the bitterly cold conditions in coming from Colchester and they were rewarded with a super display by their team.

The U’s had endured a poor January when they had dropped out of the top seven, but they were clinical in putting the Cobblers to the sword.

They had to see off early pressure from the hosts and keeper Rene Gilmartin made a couple of crucial saves at key moments, but, in truth, Northampton had no answer to some scintillating attacking play from the U’s.

Frank Nouble’s close-range finish gave Colchester the half-time lead, but they pulled clear after the break with tremendous goals from Abo Eise – on his debut – Kane Vincent-Young and Sammie Szmodics.

It could have been more as well as Harry Pell saw an 85th minute penalty saved by home keeper David Cornell, but that couldn’t take the shine off a wonderful – if very cold – afternoon for the U’s.

The U’s made two changes from the side that started the 2-1 defeat at Crewe Alexandra seven days before.

Tom Eastman and Tom Lapslie dropped to the bench from that line-up, while Ben Stevenson came straight in after his move from Wolves in the week and Frankie Kent returned to the side.

While Stevenson made an immediate start, two other new additions – Eisa and Callum Roberts – were among the list of substitutes after loan moves from Shrewsbury and Newcastle respectively.

The Cobblers, meanwhile, had four changes from their side after a 1-1 draw with Morecambe the week before.

Among their players coming in were former U’s players John-Joe O’Toole and Marvin Sordell, who had joined Northampton on loan from Burton Albion on transfer deadline day.

It was a fairly quiet start to the game as both sides looked to settle into it and neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled in the opening minutes.

That was changed in the 11th minute as Northampton began to step up their pressure and put the U’s on the back foot.

Great persistence down the left by Junior Morias saw him skip past a couple of challenges and the ball was teed up for Sordell at the near post, but he could only turn it just wide.

The hosts went close again two minutes later when a free-kick was played into the U's area and headed down by Aaron Pierre to where Charlie Goode prodded the ball into the arms of U’s keeper Rene Gilmartin.

Colchester did respond with Sammie Szmodics firing just over the bar, but the main pressure was directed towards the visitors’ goal.

The Cobblers were unable to turn that into clear-cut opportunities, though, and they were left to rue that on 25 minutes after Ryan Jackson won a corner on the right.

It was swung in by Stevenson and met by the head of Mikael Mandron, who brought the ball down for Frank Nouble to hit on the turn and into the net from close range.

It was a goal that came against the run of the early play, but Colchester weren’t going to complain and it allowed them to take the sting out of the home advances.

In fact it was the U’s who began to see more of the possession and they pushed the home side back with some excellent movement of the ball.

Frankie Kent’s cross-cum-shot that ended on the roof of the Cobblers’ net was the closest they came to adding to their lead, though, and Northampton started to press more as the half drew to a close.

It took a great save by Gilmartin on 41 minutes to preserve the advantage at the break.

A good ball was played in from the right to Goode, who had a superb first touch and unleashed a fierce drive that the U's keeper had to turn away at his near post as Colchester held on to their slender lead when the half ended.

And it took another spectacular stop from the U’s keeper to maintain the 1-0 situation just after the restart.

Less than 20 seconds were on the clock when Goode's ball over the top saw Sordell skip away from a rather sluggish U’s back line but a truly fantastic save by Gilmartin kept him out.

And what a moment that proved to be as Colchester quickly took full advantage of their keeper’s heroics by doubling their lead on 50 minutes.

Eisa had replaced Mandron at half-time and the Shrewbury man was quick to make a mark on his Colchester debut as he slotted the ball away to make it 2-0.

It was a really composed finish from the new U's man but it was a goal made by the skill and awareness of Sammie Szmodics.

His neat play on the edge of the box and unselfish pass to set up Eisa to side-foot the ball past Cobblers keeper David Cornell to place Colchester more firmly in the driving seat.

That position was made even more solid three minutes later thanks to another classy finish from the U's as they went 3-0 ahead.

The third goal came as a great team move saw the ball worked in to where Kane Vincent-Young showed a great touch and clinical finish to slot the ball past Cornell and open a comfortable buffer for the visitors.

That became even more comfy on 67 minutes when Szmodics got on the scoresheet to make it 4-0.

It was another excellent goal as a quick break opened wide the Cobblers’ defence.

It was started when Frank Nouble's pass out to Brennan Dickenson, who had only just come on, saw the substitute into the action almost immediately and his low cross teed the ball up perfectly for the inrushing Szmodics to hammer in from close range.

It was a very well-deserved goal for Szmodics after his unselfish play had set up the second and he was afforded a handsome round of applause from the travelling fans as he made way for Roberts late on.

The Newcastle man was quickly into the action and it was his trickery that won an 85th minute penalty.

Cornell guessed right to keep out Pell’s effort from the spot, but it couldn’t wipe the smile off the faces of Colchester’s players, staff and supporters at the final whistle.

Colchester United: Rene Gilmartin, Ryan Jackson, Frankie Kent, Luke Prosser, Kane Vincent-Young, Harry Pell, Ben Stevenson, Courtney Senior (Brennan Dickenson 65), Sammie Szmodics (Callum Roberts 81), Frank Nouble, Mikael Mandron (Abo Eisa 45).

Subs not used: Dillon Barnes, Tom Eastman, Tom Lapslie, Brandon Comley.

Northampton Town: David Cornell, Shay Facey, Charlie Goode, Ash Taylor, Junior Morias, Aaron Pierre, Shaun McWilliams, Jack Bridge, John-Joe O’Toole (Daniel Powell 55), Timi Elsnik, Marvin Sordell (Andy Williams 64). Subs not used: Luke Coddington, David Buchanan, Jay Williams, Joe Powell, Dean Bowditch.

Referee: Ross Joyce.