Exeter City’s promotion hopes were comprehensively undone at the hands of Northampton Town as the Cobblers emerged 4-0 winners at Wembley Stadium.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made a single change to the side that started the second leg victory over Colchester United, with Nigel Atangana returning to the side in place of Archie Collins, who dropped to the bench, while the Cobblers’ manager Keith Curle named an unchanged side from their second-leg victory over Cheltenham.
Randell Williams drew a foul, and a yellow card, out of Scott Wharton in the early stages with his first run at the Northampton backline, and the resulting free-kick was cleared at the last minute as City pressed for the opener.
But then Northampton took the lead after 11 minutes as Charlie Goode’s throw-in was cleared but only to Ryan Watson, whose effort took a cruel deflection that took it beyond the outstretched palm of Jonny Maxted.
Maxted then got an important fist to the ball to deny Vadaine Oliver the chance to shoot with 22 minutes played to keep the score at 1-0. City struggled to impose themselves on the game in its opening stages and were punished, going 2-0 down after 31 minutes as Callum Morton improvised a finish from close range following a flick by Jordan Turnbull.
The Grecians’ goalkeeper made another important save from Scott Wharton, backpedalling to tip over a dangerous header from the Northampton defender, before holding onto the ball following the same player’s header from the resulting corner.
Ryan Bowman had City’s best chance in injury time at the end of the first-half as he broke on the Northampton goal, but he couldn’t sort his feet out in time. Northampton replied and nearly scored a third as Oliver met a cross with a powerful header, though Maxted was again equal to it with a superb save.
A great challenge from Atangana stopped Hoskins from breaking for a third eight minutes into the second half as the Cobblers pushed for a third. Dean Moxey was then sent off on 60 minutes for a late challenge shortly after an incident in which Jake Taylor went down following a challenge off the ball from Alan McCormack that the referee did not judge to be a foul.
Northampton had another big chance as Morton broke onto a ball through from Oliver, but the West Brom loanee opted for an early shot that beat Maxted but also rolled past the post with 70 minutes on the clock.
Sam Hoskins added a third after 80 minutes after Tom Parkes lost the ball, and Marshall slid the ball to Hoskins who made no mistake from close range with a simple finish.
Substitute Andy Williams added a fourth in the 89th minute following another throw-in routine, getting on the end of Smith’s header and beating Maxted with an improvised finish.
Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney (Dickenson 83), Atangana (Sparkes 62), A Martin, Law, Williams, Bowman, Fisher (Collins 52), Richardson (Parkes 52), Moxey, Taylor ©.
Subs not used: Ward, L Martin, Ajose, Jay, Seymour.
Booked: A Martin
Sent off: Moxey
Northampton Town: Arnold, McCormack (Olayinka 75), Goode ©, Turnbull, Hoskins, Watson (Anderson 88), Adams (Marshall 31), Wharton, Oliver (Smith 75), Harriman, Morton (A Williams 88).
Subs not used: Cornell, J Martin, Lines, Warburton.
Booked: Wharton, Watson