First win of the season is a relief for the Pirates
MARK McGhee, for the first time this season, could sit comfortably in his seat on the long road back to Brighton.
"I'm fortunate that, as part of my conditions at the club, they provide me with a fantastic car to drive," the manager revealed in his programme notes before the game. "I enjoy driving it until we lose, then, suddenly, it becomes an embarrassment to me."
Three goals and 90 minutes later, however, and the manager was at least able to get behind the steering wheel and leave the Memorial Stadium car park without a sheepish look on his face for a change.
"I'll enjoy the drive back tonight," he said after watching his side break their Memorial Stadium duck at the sixth time of asking.
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"It's a long two-and-a-half hours back when you lose. I usually exchange about ten phone calls (hands-free, hopefully) with (assistant manager) Shaun (North) to discuss what went wrong or what we could have done better.
"You're just re-running the game over and over in your head, but, for a change, this evening, I'm going to enjoy the drive for a few hours and then celebrate with a cup of tea when I get home."
McGhee admitted his side's performance did not resemble the style, elegance and grace associated with a Rolls Royce, but, rather, like the German-built saloon in which the manager headed for home in, it was efficient and functional enough to get the required job done.
That job was made slightly easier by referee Mark Brown, who dismissed Anthony Charles for bringing striker Derek Riordan down when advancing on goal in the 23rd minute to offer Rovers over an hour with a numerical advantage
At times, however, it looked as though they were struggling to capitalise on it – even though Riordan rattled the crossbar from the resulting free-kick.
"We really only started to take advantage of our extra man in the second half," McGhee admitted. "We were a bit too hurried in our approach before that."
Indeed, Northampton looked the most likely to score in the opening 45 minutes and would have done had Neil Etheridge not pulled off a fine save to deny Alex Nicholls from close range.
Adebayo Akinfenwa then served warning of what was to come later on by glancing home Ben Tozer's long throw only for the 'goal' to be ruled out for a foul by the barrel-chested forward.
When on-loan Bolton striker Tom Eaves finally broke the deadlock with a poacher's finish at the far post to score what was his first senior goal in the 52nd minute, then, there was an air of relief around the place immediately.
"We'd had to keep probing away in the hope that something would come so it was great to get the first goal," McGhee admitted.
The second wasn't too long in coming; four minutes to be precise. This time, stand-in-skipper Garry Kenneth capping a man-of-the-match display by sweeping home Eliot Richards' corner at the far post as Rovers threatened to run riot as a result of their new-found confidence.
Akinfenwa, however, made sure that victory would not be straight-forward by scoring a carbon-copy of the 'goal' that was ruled out in the first half to set up what could have been a tense final 15 minutes.
"It was disappointing to concede like that," McGhee admitted. "I told the players at half-time that the only way Northampton would score would be from a set-piece, so it was disappointing to see them do it.
"I almost think our third goal was more important than our first one because with 15 minutes to play there is always a worry at the back of your mind that they had time to nick another one."
Those fears were eradicated nine minutes later when midfielder Oliver Norburn gained reward for his impressive form of recent weeks by glancing a close-range header in off the post to score the first senior goal of his career.
It wasn't all good news, however, with skipper Matt Gill forced to withdraw during the warm-up that could see him sidelined for six weeks, while David Clarkson and Riordan were also replaced before the final whistle with less serious complaints.
When McGhee was asked whether a first home win could prove to be a turning point following a disappointing start to the season, he replied: "I'm still holding my breath and waiting to see. We won the game 3-1, but there is still a lot of work to do." Quite. It all starts again at Burton next weekend.