Full Time: Robins 0, Cobblers 1A fine strike from Luke Gutteridge ends Cheltenham Town's hopes of promtion from npower League Two.
His first half strike from 25-yards was the only difference between the two-sides on a fine evening in Gloucestershire. Marlon Pack came close on three occasions for the home side. The midfielder saw his first half penalty saved by Lee Nicholls and came close from a free kick in each half.
The Robins piled on the pressure and had the most of the opportunities throughout the ninety minues but were unable to find a break through. The result see's Northampton Town face Bradford City in the npower League Two Play-Off Final at Wembley later this month.
The Robins made two changes to Thursday evening's starting eleven. Darryl Duffy started in attack in place of Byron Harrison and Sam Deering returned to the line-up in place of winger Kaid Mohamed.
Today's visitors Northampton Town made one change to the side that played on Thursday evening. Ishmel Demontagnac dropped to the bench and was replaced by John Johnson.
Former Robin's reserve team player, O'Donovan's strike was the only difference between the two-sides on Thursday evening and Cheltenham Town started the evening needing to overturn the 1-0 deficit they suffered from defeat at the Sixfields Stadium in the npower League Two Play-off Semi-Final First Leg.
The Chip Shop Boys got the fans going in style before the match with their rendition of "Hey Cheltenham" [Hey Jude - The Beatles] as the Robins left the field following their pre-match warm-up. Both sets of fans were in great voice with the Cobblers responding strongly to out-sing the tannoy at times.
The Cheltenham fans were in a jubilent mood as before kick-off as a red flare turned the terracing into a sea of red behind the goal in front of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Stand.
The visitors got the game under way in their flourescent green shirts against the Ruby and White of Cheltenham and it was the Robins started the game on the front foot. Attacking the Northampton back line, Deering, McGlashan and Lowe all created space on the flanks but were unable to create a clear cut opportunity.
On-loan striker Paul Benson was the first to get a shot on target. Marlon Pack's 40-yard free kick was floated onto the head of Elliott, the central defender found Benson who was able to neatly control the pass and shoot on the turn. Unfortunately his shot was too weak to trouble the hands of Lee Nicholls in the Cobblers goal.
Former Robins reserve team player O'Donovan responded strongly for the visitors. A neat one-two created space in the box that allowed him to fire a strike that looked destined for the back of the net but for a fine save courtesy of the legs of Cheltenham Town's Player of the Season, Soctt Brown.
Marlon Pack had the perfect opportunity to level the two-legged semi-final after 15 minutes. Russell Penn was judged to have been fowled inside the 18-yard box by Ben Tozer and the referee awarded a penalty for the Robins and a yellow card for the Cobblers midfielder. Malon Pack stepped up to take the penalty, striking low and to the keepers right but Nicholls was quick to react and got down well to save strongly.
The Robins weren't fazed by the penalty miss. Shortly after, Darryl Duffy beat two defenders as he cut into the box and onto his right foot to rifle a right footed shot into the side netting.
However, they were unable to capitalise on their early chances. Pack came close again as his free kick was well saved by Nicholls as it vicously dipped. The resulting corner was met by the head of Steve Elliott who was unable to double his tally against the Cobblers this season as his header fell straight into the hands of Northampton's keeper.
It was the visitors who were first to state their intent at the Abbey Business Stadium.
Northampton doubled their lead over the two legs courtesy of a fine goal from Luke Gutteridge. He linked up with Akinfenwa 25-yards from goal and whipped his shot over the top of Scott Brown and into the roof of the Robins net. It was potentially one of the best goals seen at the ABS this season.
He was in action again shortly after. The Robins failed to clear their lines and the midfielder was first to pounce but could only direct his effort straight at Scott Brown.
Keith Lowe came close to scoring Cheltenham's first goal in what had been a half of football with chances aplenty. His header met Sam Deering's corner but his looping effort was caught under the crossbar by Nicholls.
The visitors looked much more threatening after the goal, Chris Hackett's volley looked destined for the top left corner of Scott Browns net but the midfielder was denied by a fingertip save as Brown nudged his volley over the crossbar.
The Robins went into the break 1-0 down, trailing by two goals over both legs with a lot to play for in the second half.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 0-1 Northampton Town
The Robins got the second half under way kicking towards towards the fans in the terraces of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Stand. In front of them the Cobblers keeper, Lee Nicholls, was cautioned two minutes after the restart for time wasting in an act that could have showed what was set to come for the duration of the second period.
The Robins had plenty of possession in the opening phases of the second half but the visitors were keen to sit behind the ball and limit chances for the home team. The first effort of note came as Keith Lowe's cross evaded everyone in the Northampton 18-yard box as it floated just wide of the Cobblers upright.
Pack came close for the third time in the game from another set piece. This time his 25-yard free kick was inches from the cross bar as it floated over the Northampton goal and with 20 minutes remaining, the Robins were continuing to pile on the pressure. Keith Lowe's cross was met by the head of a sprawling Paul Benson who was unable to direct his effort goal bound.
The visitors still looked dangerous on the break, Chris Hackett was able to break clear of the Robins back line and as he advanced into the box Scott Brown rushed off his goal line to deny the bounding midfielder.
At the other end, Harrad could have have got one back for the home side. Marlon Pack's long throw was flicked on by Paul Benson in the box but Harrad was unable to put any power behind his effort from close range and his effort was easily collected by Nicholls.
Second-half-substitute Kaid Mohamed had the crossbar rattling as his powerful header from Michael Hector's cross rebounded back into play off of the woodwork and Sam Deering was next to come close. He received the ball in space on the right-side of the box. He had time to pick a spot in the back of the net but opted for power and forced a strong save from Nicholls.
Sido Jombatti and Shaun Harrad both had opportunities late on but Cheltenham Town's promotion hopes faded as the game creeped towards the final whistle.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 0-1 Northampton Town
Cheltenham Town FC (4-5-1): Brown; Lowe, Elliott, Hector, Jombatti; McGlashan (Mohamed '72), Pack, Penn (Harrison), Deering, Duffy (Harrad '62); Benson.
Subs not used: Roberts, Jones, Carter, Taylor, Harrison.
Northampton Town FC (4-4-2): Nicholls; Johnson, Carlisle, Cameron, Collins; Hackett, Guttridge (Hornby '75), Harding, Tozer; O’Donovan, Akinfenwa (Langmead '72).
Subs not used: Snedker, Demontagnac, Platt, Robinson, Moult.
Referee: Mr. Andrew Madley
Attendance: 5,955 (1546 away fans)
Robins Star Man: Russell Penn