Northampton Town will compete in League 1 in the 2020-21 season after a comfortable 4-0 win over Exeter City.
First half goals from Ryan Watson and Callum Morton put Northampton in a commanding position against the Devonians.
Exeter’s miserable evening then saw Dean Moxey sent off after the break, before Northampton got two goals through Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams in the last 10 minutes to add gloss to a productive evening.
The result means Keith Curle’s side are promoted to League One two years after Northampton suffered relegation. They will follow Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth into the third tier for the planned 2020-21 season, whenever it kicks off.
The play-off final at Wembley Stadium was again played behind closed doors, with a place in League One on offer to two sides that produced comebacks to make the final. Exeter came from a first goal deficit to defeat Colchester, while Northampton produced an impressive comeback to get past Cheltenham.
Before the game, the two teams observed a moments silence for Theo Foley, who played for both clubs and later managed Northampton, and who died earlier this month.
After a few half-chances, it was Northampton who struck the opening goal. Watson would grab it, as the midfielder intercepted a clearance before rifling a shot that deflected into the Exeter goal.
Things were nearly even better for Northampton, as Exeter goalkeeper Jon Maxted made a double step to thwart Nicky Adams’ free-kick and a Hoskins rebound.
Northampton continued to press, with Maxted denying Hoskins and the Grecians keeper just punching away a cross before it could reach Vadaine Oliver.
After the first-half drinks break, Exeter had a spell of attacking pressure, while the Cobblers lost Adams to a muscle issue.
But within seconds of losing the winger, Northampton went 2-0 up. A long ball into the penalty area was flicked on by Scott Wharton and Jordan Turnbull to Morton, who flicked the ball past Maxted. This added to the West Brom loanee’s great record in the play-offs, after he second twice in the Cheltenham second leg.
It could even have been 3 first half goals for Northampton, as Maxted made a double save to keep Wharton out of scoring.
Exeter’s first-half was summed up by Ryan Bowman stumbling when well placed, but they still had Maxted to thank for keeping them two down at the break as the Devon side’s keeper made two saves in quick succession to deny Oliver and Charlie Goode.
The Grecians continued to struggle to do much after the break, and it would be made worse 14 minutes into the second half when they were reduced to ten men. Moxey went in recklessly on Watson, who had been booked for a foul a few moments earlier, and the Exeter defender was dismissed.
From there, Northampton were largely comfortable, and although Exeter would have a penalty appeal waived, they would largely be comfortable.
Moments before that, Morton had a strike go wide when well placed. But the third Northampton goal would come in the final 10 minutes of the contest, as Mark Marshall’s cross was finished by Hoskins.
There was still time for Northampton to add the gloss of a 7th goal in 2 games, as substitute Williams looped a header beyond Maxted.
The result saw Northampton breeze their way beyond the Grecians, and in the process secure a return to League One after a two year absence in style.