As last-minute equalisers go, the goal the Cobblers let in after two hours’ play at Bradford on Tuesday night could be one of the most expensive they ever concede.
But in terms of the experience, knowledge and nous the tie as a two-hour life lesson will provide for the club’s younger players, it might yet turn out to be priceless.
The fourth official’s electronic scoreboard had flashed up one extra minute at the end of 120 minutes of thrilling FA Cup action at the precise moment Kelvin Langmead clouted a clearance into the vacant stand outside his team’s left wing with every drop of energy he had left.
It was a textbook ‘row Z’ despatch from the skipper but the ball did not nestle high in the stand, away from the grasp on the Valley Parade ball boys; it bounced off its ceiling and straight into the waiting arms of a Bradford player, who took a quick throw and within seconds Shane Higgs was picking the ball out of his net.
Then came the penalties, during which it became clear the club have used all of their good fortune in this particular lottery during recent Cup clashes at the Madejski Stadium and Anfield.
Everybody knows all about the wins at Reading and Liverpool in 2010 and although this match was not in that class (few are ever likely to be, in all honesty) it was still a triumph in so many ways.
It proved that, actually, this is a squad with a decent bit of depth to it. Aidy Boothroyd is always looking to learn things about his players and in particular their character and personality when up against it.
After going 1-0 down to a Bradford side with a real cup pedigree, on their own ground and with an unequivocal advantage in terms of experience, it would have been easy for the young Northampton team to crumble.
That they did not is a measure of their spirit and their qualities as footballers. Lewis Wilson, Henoc Mukendi, Ishmel Demontagnac and Lewis Hornby all put in their best games for the club so far. It was Ivan Toney’s only game so far, and he grew into it, supplying a superb run in the build-up to Langmead’s goal.
Wilson looks an entirely plausible option as a winger, as does Mukendi, while the best compliment you can pay Hornby is that strangers to the Town set-up would struggle to identify which member of central midfield is the one currently on loan from Manchester City.
Demontagnac is an enigma but a talented one, a player equally likely to dribble the ball straight out of play as he is to turn two players inside out with a drop of the shoulder. Boothroyd rightly cites consistency as his Achilles heel, but if he gets that Northampton will have a serious player on their hands.
Up front on his own for two hours, Clive Platt’s 35-year-old legs carried him to a high watermark in Town colours – after the game he confided to me that he has been struggling with a debilitating back injury for six months. With a new chiropractor, he is confident the worst of it is behind him.
So while there will be no £18,000 prize money, no second-round tie against Brentford and no glorious Cup victory to add to the recent nights to remember in Berkshire and Merseyside, there should be no shame in this defeat.
Boothroyd will have learned so much about his players. And sometimes you just can’t put a price on something like that.
Won’t be happy with Bradford’s third goal and unlucky not to save at least one more penalty in the shoot-out ...7
Brave-hearted throughout and gets a lot of credit for having the nerve to take a penalty ...8
A real captain’s performance, with an excellent goal and the willingness to step up (literally) in the pressure situation of the shoot-out ...8
Dealt with the clumsy-looking but deceptively difficult James Hanson to good effect for the majority of the tie ...7
Displayed a true bravery on the ball during the closing stages of the game and overlapped to good effect ...8
A really encouraging performance from the youngster, who was running on fumes by the end of a sweat-soaked evening ...8
A good outing but twice got himself into good goalscoring situations only to fail to hit the target ...7
The teenager is getting better with every game and could be the breakthrough player of the season ...8
Ungainly-looking but effective, this was Mukendi’s best performance since joining the club on loan from Liverpool ...7
Some moments of eye-rubbing brilliant skill and did superbly well to win (and score) the penalty that restored parity in the first half ...8
Covered every blade of grass in the attacking half, never conceded possession and took his goal with a cool composure ...8
ADEBAYO AKINFENWA (for Demontagnac, 81mins)
Battled illness to play his part, expertly making Platt’s goal with a slipped pass ...7
IVAN TONEY (for Lewis Wilson, 91mins)
Wrote his name in club folklore by becoming its youngest ever player, but made a vital contribution beyond the trivial, with a fine run in the build-up to Langmead’s goal ...7
Subs not used: Snedker, Charles, Harding