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30 June 2020 00:40

Carlisle United F.C. Northampton Town F.C. Keith Curle

Keith Curle won promotion as a player with Bristol City, but never as a manager - until Monday's win over Exeter at Wembley Northampton Town manager Keith Curle said he "needed a promotion" on his managerial CV after leading the Cobblers to League One. The ex-England defender's side thrashed Exeter City 4-0 in the League Two play-off final at Wembley on Monday. It was the first time the 56-year-old, who has managed six different clubs, had guided a team to promotion. Curle's side overpowered Exeter to record one of the biggest play-off final wins in recent years - a moment he said gave him as much pride as when he assisted Neil Warnock at Queens Park Rangers in their Championship title-winning campaign in 2011. The former Mansfield Town, Chester City, Torquay United, Notts County and Carlisle United boss had never taken a team to a Wembley play-off final before. The closest he had come was three years ago when Exeter knocked out Carlisle with a late winner in their League Two play-off semi-final second leg.

The Cobblers will now return to League One after two years in the fourth tier - and Curle says he is in talks with West Bromwich Albion about keeping 20-year-old loan striker Callum Morton. He was man of the match at Wembley, having previously scored twice in the semi-final second leg as Northampton became just the third side to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit to reach a play-off final. Northampton Town boss Keith Curle said promotion was a "reward for everbody at the club" after watching his side dismantle Exeter City in the League Two play-off final at Wembley. First half goals from Ryan Watson and Callum Morton were followed by two more after the break from Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams as the Cobblers secured a comfortable victory over Exeter City. Victory for Town ended their two-year exile from the third tier, while earning Curle a maiden promotion of a managerial career which began in 2002.

After Charlie Goode's long throw was partially cleared to the edge of the box, Watson calmly sidestepped City skipper Jake Taylor before his low left-footed strike took a slight deflection off Aaron Martin and flew into the bottom right corner. Semi-final hero Morton, who scored twice as the Cobblers overturned a 2-0 aggregate deficit against Cheltenham, was left with a simple, close-range volley after Scott Wharton and Jordan Turnbull helped Goode's searching free-kick across goal. West Brom loanee Morton then wasted a chance to claim his second when he slotted wide when clean through, before Hoksins put the result beyond doubt by coolly slotting in 10 minutes from time after substitute Mark Marshall burst down the right and centred. Exeter enjoyed more possession but mustered just one attempt on target in the entire contest and their suffering was complete a minute from time when veteran forward Williams hooked home with his first touch after another Goode long throw. The silence of Wembley Stadium was golden for Keith Curle as he savoured promotion for the first time in his managerial career.

Curle has paced the touchlines of the lower leagues for almost 18 years and has selected teams for more than 500 games without the thrill of going up. But his Northampton Town side sprang out of League Two in glorious fashion and on a most surreal night, surrounded by 90,000 empty seats in Wembley's first competitive fixture played behind closed doors. Northampton players and manager Keith Curle lift the trophy as they celebrate promotion Goalscorers Ryan Watson, Callum Morton, Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams (L-R) celebrate Northampton: Arnold, Goode, Turnbull, Wharton, Harriman, McCormack (Olayinka 74'), Hoskins, Watson (Anderson 88'), Adams (Marshall 31'), Oliver (Smith 74'), Morton (Williams 88'). Goals: Watson 11', Morton 31', Hoskins 80', Williams 89' Subs not used: Cornell, Martin, Lines, Warburton. Ryan Watson and Callum Morton put them in control with first-half goals and Exeter's hopes of a recovery disappeared when Dean Moxey was sent off on the hour. Northampton stretched clear with late goals by Sam Hoskins and substitute Andy Williams. 'I knew I needed a promotion, there's no shying away from that,' said 56-year-old Curle, who was already in talks about a new contract at Sixfields Stadium. The only consolation for Exeter was that their supporters had not made the long haul from Devon to see them lose in the League Two play-off final for the third time in four years. Morton of Northampton Town celebrates scoring the 2nd goal at Wembley Stadium Callum Morton of Northampton Town scores the 2nd goal during the League Two Play Off Final Northampton battered them into submission a powerful opening and took an early grip on the game with Watson's goal, driven into the net with the help of a deflection after Exeter failed to clear a long-throw from Charlie Goode. Northampton Town's Ryan Watson scores his side's first goal of the game against Exeter Watson of Northampton Town celebrates scoring the opening goal early in the match Exeter goalkeeper Jonny Maxted produced a series of fine saves to keep his team in the game and they made a promising start to the second half before Moxey was dismissed, a straight red card for cutting down Watson from behind with a reckless slide. Hoskins and Williams settled it and the promotion party started for Curle and Co. Shame about the atmosphere. Sam Hoskins of Northampton Town celebrates scoring the 3rd goal in the play-off final