John-Joe O’Toole netted his second headed goal of the season as Northampton Town came from behind to share a 1-1 draw with AFC Wimbledon in an entertaining encounter at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday.
A lively first half saw WImbledon take a deserved lead through Adebayo Azeez as former Cobbler Adebayo Akinfenwa tormented the visiting defence, but Northampton responded through O’Toole, who scored his second header in two starts this season.
The second half could have swung either way as both sides had their chances but neither could convert with the game finishing all square as Northampton were held to their second successive 1-1 draw.
O’Toole has been largely out of favour this season but came in for tonight’s game in place of Ryan Watson, and he made his mark with an excellent header that helped the Cobblers stretch their unbeaten run to four games,
Aside from O’Toole, Chris Wilder also brought back striker Marc Richards to partner Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front, while David Buchanan was declared fit.
The signs were ominous from kick-off for the visitors with Akinfenwa causing problems for the Northampton defence as the early exchanges were dominated by Wimbledon.
Akinfenwa twice went close in the opening five minutes, first having a tame shot easily collected by Adam Smith before heading Andy Barcham’s cross narrowly off target.
Another right-wing cross moments later, this time from Jon Meades, should have brought the opening goal as George Francombe rose high but planted his back post header inches wide.
Northampton were playing largely on the back foot but they did have a real sight of goal when, on 14 minutes, Calvert-Lewin was set away down the left and looked to be through on goal, only for Semi Ayaji to recover well and block the striker’s goal-bound effort.
Most of the goal threat was coming at the other end, however, where Wimbledon remained in the ascendency as Francomb cut inside and curled an effort that was comfortable for Smith.
The Cobblers were struggling to see much of the ball, and it wasn’t long until Wimbledon’s early dominance was rewarded when an awful error from Zander Diamond gifted the Dons a lead.
The Cobblers centre-back misjudged the bounce after a long ball had been played forward and that allowed Azeez to get through on goal and the Dons striker made no mistake, coolly slotting past Smith.
It was no less than Wimbledon had deserved, but that goal seemed to jolt Northampton into life as the visitors responded with four successive corners in what was their best spell of the match.
The Cobblers continued to probe the home side with a period of sustained possession, and that led to the equalising goal.
Buchanan was the provider as he received a short corner and whipped in an excellent cross which was superbly guided into the far corner by O’Toole.
Having backed off after going ahead, Wimbledon looked for a swift response with Akinfenwa almost capitalising on hesitancy between Smith and Diamond but his lob lacked the power to reach the goal before substitute Lyle Taylor, who had just come on for the injured Akinfenwa, curled an effort wide.
Shaun Brisley then produced an inch-perfect tackle to prevent Azeez getting through one-on-one with Smith in what was the last notable action of the opening half.
In similar vein to the first, Wimbledon came out flying at the start of the second half with Taylor whipping in an inviting cross but Azeez’s sliding shot was turned wide by Smith and from the resulting corner, Ajayi put his free header over.
The hosts were now rampant with the lively Taylor causing all kinds of problems for Northampton as he had a shot turned behind by Diamond.
Again the resulting corner caused panic in the box with Ajayi seeing his header acrobatically tipped over by Smith.
Northampton gradually improved as the half wore on and they squandered a couple of opportunities to hit Wimbledon on the break, while Darnell Furlong’s long-range effort was held by James Shea.
The game was intriguingly-poised with both sides having their moments - Taylor squandering a golden chance after a poor first touch before the Cobblers broke and Richards had a shot blocked.
Nicky Adams was having a quiet game but he almost snatched the points for Northampton with two efforts in a matter of minutes, first having a deflected shot saved by Shea before fizzing a 20-yard effort narrowly wide.
Wimbledon replied through substitute Sean Rigg as he somehow managed to miss the target from just three yards out, bundling the ball over.
The game was firmly in the balance as it reached it’s climax with the momentum swinging one way and then the other and it felt a winner was inevitable as both sides pushed forward.
It didn’t come, though, and although Northampton finished strongly, the four minutes of stoppage time rather fizzled out and the points were shared.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller (c), Robinson, Ajayi, Meades, Bulman, Reeves, Francomb (Kaja 83), Barcham, Azeez (Rigg 69), Akinfenwa (Taylor 43)
Subs not used: McDonnell, Kennedy, Sweeney, Toonga
Cobblers: Smith, Furlong, Diamond, Brisley (Cresswell 64), Buchanan, D’Ath (Hackett 87), Byrom, O’Toole, Adams, Calvert-Lewin (Hoskins 58), Richards (c)
Subs not used: Clarke, Horwood, Lelan, Watson
Referee: Andy Haines
Cobblers fans: 309