KEITH CURLE celebrated a first promotion in his 18-year managerial career after a four-goal super show at Wembley.
First-half strikes from Ryan Watson and Callum Morton caught the Grecians napping.
And Curle’s Cobblers wrapped up an emphatic victory when Sam Hoskins and sub Andy Williams struck in the last ten minutes to rubberstamp next season’s spot in League One.
This was a tough pill to swallow for Exeter, who have now lost three League Two play-off finals in four seasons.
This famous stadium has never before staged such a surreal final. Wembley Way was deserted, the usually-packed concourses empty and there were barely 250 people inside — a handful of journalists, security staff and club officials and guests.
It was as though Wembley was hosting two teams that had won a competition to have an after-work kickabout on the hallowed turf rather than a final with promotion at stake.
Northampton swept into a tenth-minute lead when Charlie Goode’s long throw was nodded away by Nigel Atangana as far as Watson.
The Cobblers midfielder wrong-footed Jake Taylor before firing a low 20-yarder that deflected off Aaron Martin and past keeper Jonathan Maxted.
Northampton were on a roll as Nicky Adams forced a great low save from Maxted with a 25-yard free-kick and Hoskins failed to convert the rebound.
Curle lost his talisman after half an hour, when Adams hobbled off.
His 17 assists this season is only bettered by Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
But within seconds, his side had doubled their lead. Goode’s free-kick found Scott Wharton, whose header was nodded on by Jordan Turnball for Morton to touch home.
Maxted’s saves kept Exeter alive, only for Dean Moxey’s second-half red card — for stupidly taking out Watson with a late lunge — to kill off any hopes of a comeback.
Hoskins steered home from Marshall’s pass and Williams touched home No4 late on.
“We’re going up,” they cried at full-time. Let’s hope they will have some fans to watch them.
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