Northampton sing a joyous refrain

Northampton Town 1 Swansea City 0

The game ended dramatically. The slightly better team lost. The match winner was an unlikely hero, and the story of Northampton's rise from the edge of extinction to the heights of Wembley and victory in Saturday's Third Division play-off final was as romantic as you could wish.

The football was appalling. Not that anyone should have expected anything but anti-climax, however, after Wembley attempted to turn even this modest occasion into an hysterically over-hyped, firework dazzling, ear blasting festival of light and sound, with a less than average Third Division game dutifully following on like a street cleaner after the carnival.

The story was far better than the telling. Only five years earlier, Northampton had been pounds 1.6m in debt and seriously waiting the knock on the door from the receivers. After they recovered a little, they should have been relegated from the League three years ago but Kidderminster Harriers, who had qualified to replace them, were told their ground was not up to scratch.

Then, on Saturday, came the personal story of the injury time match-winner, John Frain, who for months at Birmingham City had wondered which would come first, his next first-team appearance or another testimonial. He went on loan to Northampton and was signed permanently just before transfer deadline day - a good move for the player and his new club.

In their first appearance at Wembley, Northampton seemed to set out with the idea that they could consolidate before they had anything to defend. But it worked. Swansea's player-manager, Jan Molby, who everyone thought would use his Wembley experience to ping wonderful passes all over the pitch, got immersed in a cluttered midfield and looked like a old star guest player invited for a five-minute appearance, which was about as long as he appeared fit enough to make a consequential contribution.

In the circumstances, it was appropriate that Frain should score the winning goal with a re-taken free-kick three minutes into injury time. With constructive skill restricted mainly to a few well-intended but rarely finished attempts to thread his way through midfield by Northampton's Christian Lee, it was Frain's persistence, steady defending and opportunistic attacking from deep that summed up the reason why, in the end, Swansea's more ambitious football came to nothing.

No doubt it could all have been different had not Carl Heggs' fifth-minute volley been splendidly tipped over by Andy Woodman. But Swansea rarely followed Molby's advice to use the width.

Northampton turned an occasion into a work day and it worked. Frain had just provided John Gayle with a fine centre, from which the header brushed the crossbar, when he was called on to take a free-kick not far outside the penalty area.

His first effort hit encroaching defenders. By the time the referee had taken the name of Jonathan Coates, his watch had gone beyond normal time. Frain's second attempt found a gap, the ball sinking in the far corner. Swansea had no time to recover.

Goal: Frain (90) 1-0.

Northampton Town (4-2-4): Woodman; Sampson, Rennie (Peer, 40), Warburton, Frain; Hunter, Parrish; Gayle (White, 76), Clarkson, Grayson, Lee. Substitute not used: Gibb.

Swansea City (4-3-3): Freestone; Penney, Edwards, Walker, Moreira; Ampadu, Molby, Coates; Torpey, Heggs, Thomas (Brown, 83). Substitutes not used: Chapple, Lacey.

Referee: T Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).

Bookings: Northampton: Gayle, Hunter, Clarkson, Grayson. Swansea: Ampadu, Thomas, Coates.

Man of the match: Frain.

Attendance: 46,804.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003