Exeter 0-4 Northampton: Cobblers clinch promotion to League One after Wembley win
Report and highlights from the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 30/06/20 8:06am
Northampton won promotion to League One after thumping Exeter 4-0 at Wembley on Monday night.
Two first-half goals from Ryan Watson and Callum Morton set the Cobblers on their way to victory in the League Two play-off final and a return to the third tier for the first time since 2018, while Sam Hoskins and substitute Andy Williams capped things off late on.
It was also third time lucky for boss Keith Curle, who had previously lost as a manager in the League Two play-offs with Mansfield and Carlisle.
For Exeter, who finished with 10 men after Dean Moxey's red card just before the hour, it was a third loss at this stage in four years, having also been beaten at Wembley in 2017 and 2018. They will now prepare for a ninth consecutive season in League Two.
Northampton blast past Exeter at Wembley
Northampton had to make a dramatic comeback to reach the final, but they got off to a far better start at Wembley than they did in the semi-final as Watson fired them in front on 11 minutes. The midfielder had missed a penalty in the first leg of their semi-final at Cheltenham, so would have been particularly delighted to see his deflected effort from the edge of the box sneak beyond Jon Maxted in the Exeter goal.
After 31 minutes, they added a second from a free-kick as Morton, the hero from their semi-final win, showed great awareness in the box to latch onto Jordan Turnbull's glanced header and turn the ball in.
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Matt Taylor made changes after the break but it went from bad to worse for his side on 59 minutes as Moxey saw red for a daft, wild lunging challenge on Watson.
Northampton then romped home. With 10 minutes to go, they put the icing on the cake as Mark Marshall raced into the box and squared for Hoskins to turn home, and in the 89th minute they put the cherry on top of that as Williams poked in from close range after Exeter failed to deal with a long throw into the box.
Man of the Match - Callum Morton
The hero from the semi-final also helped inspire Northampton's win in the final. Morton didn't let up for his near-90 minutes on the pitch, and took his goal well to give his side daylight in the first half. They will do well to get him on loan again in League One next season, as his performances in the play-offs will have turned plenty of heads.
Analysis: 'Exeter got their gameplan wrong'
Sky Sports' Jobi McAnuff...
"For me, he [Matt Taylor] said he put his most physical team out there, but even with Exeter's most physical team, they are never going to a match, physically, for Northampton.
"In my opinion, if you are going to beat them, you have to try something different. You have to come with your own gameplan. Of course you have to stand up to that physical element that they bring, man up and be prepared for that aerial onslaught.
"At the same time, you have to have a little bit more about you to be able to get the ball down, particularly at Wembley, and keep the ball away from Northampton, lessening their opportunities to get the ball in the box and they simply didn't do that."
What the managers said...
Exeter's Matt Taylor: "We got physically dominated. It was there for everyone to see, and we couldn't handle it from start to finish and it turned us into a poor team quickly. We didn't use the ball well enough at times and you've got no platform on the pitch if you can't deal with a long ball into your backline. Time and time again it affected our field position and the personality of the team, and I really didn't like us after the first five or 10 minutes.
"We tried to freshen up at the start of the second half and got on the ball better, but then there was a really poor moment in terms of the sending off. But full credit to Northampton, they absolutely deserved it tonight."
Northampton's Keith Curle: "I've got to be honest, you've got to have belief and as players and staff, we're very proud to be part of the football club.
"We've got an identity and we had to make sure we didn't abandon that. I've got to mention the unity - from the day that I came in, we set about setting a plan in place and they've all bought into that. We're proud to represent the fans. I'll talk and get people believing in what we're trying to build."
Northampton will begin the 2020/21 campaign in League One, while Exeter will remain in League Two.