Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd has exonerated Port Vale defender John McCombe for the tackle which left Alex Nicholls with a broken leg.

Town striker Nicholls is recovering in hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a broken fibula and tibia.

Stand-in Vale captain McCombe's last-ditch, sliding challenge left the 24-year-old in a heap on the ground as he gave Northampton a 20th-minute lead on their way to a 2-0 victory at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon.

The game was interrupted for 11 minutes as Nicholls received treatment before he was carried off on a stretcher into a waiting ambulance and taken to hospital.

Boothroyd revealed McCombe, who was sent off for the challenge, apologised after the match and he accepts the centre-half was making a genuine attempt to win the ball.

"I know he didn't mean to cause the damage that he did, sometimes these things do happen," Boothroyd said. "John came to find me after the game and apologised, and I accept that."