There’s a common school of thought in football that a team is at its most vulnerable right after scoring, and that certainly rung true in this game of two halves at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Leading 2-0 and seemingly in control, you felt that had Northampton survived the remaining 15 minutes until half-time, they would have gone on to beat Newport and record a third straight League Two victory.
But Scott Barrow’s goal less than 90 seconds after Marc Richards had put Northampton two ahead completely shifted the momentum in Newport’s favour and proved the game’s key moment.
A period of sustained pressure followed which inevitably resulted in the equaliser when slack defending allowed Lenell John-Lewis time and space to fire home.
Thereafter, both teams huffed and puffed but there was to be no winner.
It was very much a game of two halves, though not in the traditional sense where one team dominates one half and then the other team dominates the next, as both 45 minutes on Saturday were relatively evenly-matched.
Instead, one half that had it all was followed by one that most certainly didn’t.
All four goals were scored in a breathless first period that swung one way and then the other and at times the Cobblers threatened to run riot with Sam Hoskins and Nicky Adams instrumental in some slick counter-attacking football, while John-Joe O’Toole and Darnell Fulong formed an effective partnership down the right side with the duo linking up on several occasions.
The second half was more serene and for a period, it was Newport who looked the likelier to score the all-important fifth goal, but a tactical switch to 4-3-3 from Chris Wilder, plus the introduction of Ryan Watson and Jason Taylor, saw Northampton regain control and dictate proceedings in the closing stages.
And they could have found the winner had the referee not failed to award what seemed a certain penalty when O’Toole tumbled to ground in the penalty box.
Ultimately, though, despite failing to win from 2-0 up, this was yet another impressive display of character and togetherness by Wilder’s men who refuse to let the mounting off-field problems affect their performance on the pitch, something which they are rightly being lauded for.
There was a poignant moment after the match when Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill joined the players in a prolonged post-match huddle, something which they have seldom done before.
Perhaps it was another outward show of defiance and unity in these dark times, but the sombre body language of the players suggested this wasn’t a normal post-match dressing down.
But then again, these are not normal times. Another pivotal week awaits.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Will be disappointed to have been beaten at his near post for both goals, especially the second... 6
Darnell Furlong - Yet another impressive showing from the teenager, both in attack and defensively. Hard to single out one player but he was my man of the match... 8 CHRON STAR MAN
Rod McDonald - Had one of his better games in a Northampton shirt. Along with Diamond, dealt with Newport’s long balls over the top well... 7
Zander Diamond - Dropped off John-Lewis which allowed the Newport striker to cut inside and fire home the equaliser. Excellent otherwise... 7
David Buchanan - Only really took advantage of the space ahead of him in the second half. Thought he had scored the winner with an exquisite finish but free-kick had been taken too quickly... 7
John-Joe O’Toole - Another hard-working, tenacious midfield performance. Denied what seemed a cast iron penalty after a neat drag back late on... 7
Joel Byrom - Excellent in possession and kept things simple but effective. Was taken off with a back injury... 7
Sam Hoskins - Played a key role in both goals, scoring the first before winning the free-kick that led to the second. A constant menace... 8
Nicky Adams - Carried Town’s biggest threat in the first half. Could have had three assists by half-time with better finishing... 7
Marc Richards - Worked as hard as ever and got his reward with a venomous free-kick, though Joe Day should have done better in the home goal... 7
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Not his best game. Should have scored before Hoskins spared his blushes for the opener... 6
Jason Tayor - 6
Alfie Potter - 6
Ryan Watson - 6