DELIGHTED Northampton manager Keith Curle saluted his troops after they turned in a five-star show against Southampton U21s in the EFL Trophy group stages in midweek.
Benny Ashley-Seal led the way with a double against the young Saints at a rain-soaked PTS Academy Stadium, while Joseph Mills, Mark Marshall and Caleb Chukwuemeka also got in on the act in the 5-0 thrashing.
It’s put the Cobblers back in with a chance of qualifying from Southern Group C.
Boss Curle was particularly impressed with the displays of young strikers Ashley-Seal, 21, and Chukwuemeka, 18.
“Centre forwards like to score goals and I thought both Benny and Caleb looked bright,” he said. “I left Caleb with the academy at the start of the season because I wanted to see that hunger from him to get into the first team.
“The conditions were very difficult but it was excellent to get game time for some of those players coming back from injury.
“They acquitted themselves well and made it a decent spectacle.”
In the other game in the group, MK Dons won 3-2 at Stevenage to book their place in the knockout stages.
Debutant Jay Bird netted twice, the second an 84th minute winner, and Carlton Morris also scored. A Louis Thompson own goal and Inih Effiong penalty made up Boro’s tally.
There were also plenty of goals in Northern Group A as Sunderland and Fleetwood secured qualification.
Sunderland followed up their 8-1 romp against Aston Villa U21s with an entertaining 5-3 victory against Carlisle.
Chris Maguire (two), Denver Hume, Charlie Wyke and Jack Diamond were on target for the Black Cats with Jon Mellish (two) and Lewis Alessanda (pen) replying for the Cumbrians.
Harvey Saunders hit a hat-trick in the opening 15 minutes as Fleetwood beat Aston Villa U21s 3-0. It was the 23-year-old’s first treble of his professional career.
There were two 4-2 wins in Southern Group H. Peterborough triumphed 4-2 at home against Fulham U21s, while Cambridge ran out victors at Burton, Luke Hannant bagging a double for the U’s. The victories secured qualification for Cambridge (six points) and Posh (five) with a game still left to play.
Tyrese Omotoye helped himself to a hat-trick as Norwich U21s roared to a 5-0 victory at Newport to book their place in the knockout stages. Matthew Dennis and Josh Martin (pen) also joined in the fun in the Southern Group F clash.
Exeter ran out 4-3 victors at Swindon in a thrilling Southern Group E tie. Harry Kite, Ben Seymour (pen), Nigel Atangana and Alex Hartridge were on the mark for the Grecians.
Seymour’s goal had special poignancy as he became the the first Exeter player to score whilst wearing the number nine shirt since January 2010. The Grecians had retired the shirt in memory of former player Adam Stansfield, who died aged 31 of bowel cancer in 2010. However, the club and Stansfield’s family jointly decided to reintroduce the number this season and give it to a homegrown player.
Exeter top the group with six points and are in pole position to qualify, but they can still be caught by Forest Green and West Brom U21s, who are both on three points after two matches.