Cobblers’ 10-game winning run came to an end in rather meek fashion on Saturday afternoon as they were held to their first goalless draw in almost two years by relegation-threatened Hartlepool United at Victoria Park.
Northampton dipped well below their usual high standards in a forgettable encounter that saw neither goalkeeper once called into action to make a serious save as Town failed to win away from home for the first time since October.
Clear-cut chances were at a premium, perhaps the best chance falling to Nathan Thomas when the United man headed over late in the first half, but otherwise this was a poor game, reflected in the final scoreline.
As a result of this draw, Northampton’s lead at the top of Sky Bet League Two has been cut to 10 points.
John-Joe O’Toole didn’t travel with the squad up to Hartlepool and missed out through illness, but Ricky Holmes and Lee Martin both returned to the team at the expense of Nicky Adams and Lawson D’Ath.
Martin looked threatening in a lively start, twice cutting inside and letting fly but on both occasions his efforts were deflected into the hands of Trevor Carson.
At the other end, Luke James dragged a shot wide for Hartlepool who were proving more than a match for Town in a bright albeit disjointed opening quarter.
The game lacked goalmouth action but there was plenty endeavour on show, particularly from the hosts who had a strong shout for a penalty waved away when Jake Gray went to ground under a challenge from David Buchanan.
Brad Walker then blazed a 20-yard free-kick well over before Nathan Thomas headed off target when unmarked at the back post as United had Northampton on the back foot.
After a promising start, the game had turned into a scrappy affair with Northampton unable to find their mojo.
A timely interception from Luke Prosser, who was on for his debut in the place of Rod McDonald, prevented Thomas’ dangerous from reaching its target while Martin shot wildly off target in a moment that epitomised a goalless first half severely short on quality in front of goal.
The second half continued in similar fashion to the first as Untied carried the greater threat but Smith claiming crosses was the only time either keeper had any work.
Zander Diamond and Danny Rose were both in the right place at the right time but that was rather scraping the barrel, although there was a brief flurry of activity midway through the second half when Carson easily saved from a miscued James Collins effort before Smith did well at the other end as United broke.
Holmes curled a lone-range effort wide in another half chance but a goalless draw always seemed the most likely outcome and so it proved as both sides looked to have settled for the point and the game petered out.
Hartlepool: Carson, Magnay, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Walker (Hawkins 89), Gray, Thomas (Oates 89), Paynter (c), James
Subs not used: Bartlett, Richards, Harrison, Laurent, Fenwick
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, McDonald (Prosser 27), Buchanan (c), Holmes, Taylor, Rose, Martin (D’Ath 67), Marquis (Byrom 90), Collins
Subs not used: Clarke, Cresswell, Adams, Hoskins
Referee: Mark Haywood
Cobblers fans: 402