Season ends with a whimper as Cobblers and Gillingham produce bore draw

David Cornell saves Josh Wright's penalty (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
David Cornell saves Josh Wright's penalty (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
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The 2016/17 season bowed out in disappointingly meek fashion for the Cobblers on Sunday when they were held to a drab goalless draw at home to Gillingham.

This game, much like the final month of the campaign, never once caught fire as both sides struggled for quality and creativity throughout, leading to an inevitable conclusion.

Justin Edinburgh

Justin Edinburgh

The only major incident of the afternoon arrived early on when Josh Wright spurned a 10th minute penalty while Marc Richards squandered Town's best opportunity shortly before half-time but otherwise clear-cut openings were few and far between.

The point means the Cobblers finish 16th in Sky Bet League One with a final record of 53 points from 46 games, and the result was also enough to keep Gillingham safe with Port Vale failing to beat Fleetwood Town.

David Cornell and Shaun McWilliams retained their places from the team that lost at Bury, and there was also a return for David Buchanan at left-back following suspension, but John-Joe O'Toole (groin) and Neal Eardley (calf) missed out.

Despite Josh Parker firing over from 20 yards on just two minutes, Northampton had the better of the early skirmishes albeit without posing much of a threat on Stuart Nelson's goal; Brendan Moloney's deflected effort the only shot of note.

Shaun McWilliams tussles with Gillingham's Lee Martin

Shaun McWilliams tussles with Gillingham's Lee Martin

The hosts should have then found themselves behind on 10 minutes when referee Darren England pointed to the spot after penalising Buchanan for a foul on Cody McDonald, despite the Town defender seemingly winning the ball.

It mattered not, however, because Cornell pulled off a tremendous diving save to his left tip Josh Wright's penalty around the post, much to the delight of Justin Edinburgh on the touchline.

The game threatened to open up thereafter but chances remained at a premium as Northampton did most of the probing without opening their visitors up and forcing Nelson into serious action.

Gillingham, on the other hand, were content to play on the break and rely on set-pieces and long throws for their chances, and they were again close to breaking the deadlock but Cornell got down well to tip Jake Hessenthaler's shot around the post.

Aelx Revell battles with Gillingham's Max Ehmer

Aelx Revell battles with Gillingham's Max Ehmer

The Cobblers remained without a clear-cut opportunity until the closing five minutes of the first-half but they should have taken a lead into the break when Moloney's pinpoint cross picked out Marc Richards, who could only plant a header wide from six yards.

That was the last meaningful action of a low-key opening 45 minutes before Gillingham's fast start to the second period saw McDonald head wide and a mass goalmouth scramble eventually hacked away by the hosts.

The visitors cranked up the ante as they pushed for a potentially crucial goal in their battle for survival while Town struggled to build any forward momentum whatsoever with astray passes met by groans by an increasingly agitated home crowd.

Chances continued to be few and far between with Taylor's free-kick clipping the top of the wall and despite applying much of the late pressure, Northampton were unable to break down the visitors who held on for the draw.

Match stats

Cobblers: Cornell, Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan, Taylor, McWilliams, Boateng (K Anderson 65), P Anderson, Revell, Richards (c)

Subs not used: Smith, Phillips, McDonald, McCourt, Beautyman, Iaciofano

Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer (c), Oshilaja, Hessenthaler, McDonald, Martin, Parker, Rehman, Byrne, Wright

Subs not used: Wagstaff, Osadebe, Quigley, List, Muldon, Holy, Cornick

Referee: Darren England

Attendance: 7,034

Gillingham fans: 1,054