Battling Cobblers dig deep to claim draw at Coventry City
Cobblers notched yet another draw on Saturday afternoon when their club record unbeaten run reached 27 games in all and 29 games in the league as they were pegged back to for a 1-1 draw against Coventry City at a rain-soaked Ricoh Arena.
An open, entertaining first-half saw Coventry have more of the ball and apply more pressure, but Northampton provided the greater cutting edge and that was evident in the only goal of the opening 45 minutes when a well-crafted team move ended with Harry Beautyman putting the Cobblers ahead.
But Coventry were dangerous throughout an enjoyable encounter that was riddled with errors and ill-discipline, and their reward came just after the hour-mark through Marcus Tudgay’s header.
Either side could have taken all three points from then on, as although Coventry did most of the pressing, the Cobblers were always a threat on the break and they twice came closing to their first league win of the season in the dying moments, but in the end they had to settle for a point - their fifth draw in five games this season.
Northampton had spells of this game where they played well and were on the front foot, but the energy-sapping penalty shoot-out win over West Brom in midweek seemed to take its toll with needless fouls given away throughout as six players were yellow-carded in total, something which Rob Page will want to address.
Gabriel Zakuani returned to the starting line-up after sitting out Tuesday’s cup upset over West Brom, meaning Lewin Nyatanga dropped to the bench where he was joined by recent loan signing JJ Hooper.
The match kicked off under angry skies with rain teaming down and crackles of thunder and lightening around, but both sides settled quickly with an flurry of activity at both ends in the early stages.
Kenji Gorre forced the first save of the game as he twisted and turned and cut inside before drilling a low shot that Reice Charles-Cook turned behind before Coventry broke out from the following corner.
Their counter-attack yielded two opportunities, both from corners, as Marcus Tudgay’s shot from a well-worked set-piece routine was blocked before Marvin Sordell headed straight into the grateful arms of Adam Smith when unmarked inside the six-yard box.
David Buchanan then positioned himself expertly to get in a vital clearance when Vladimir Gadhez looked certain to score during a sustained spell of Coventry pressure which also included long-range efforts from Sordell and Chris McCann.
The dangerous Daniel Agyei was next to go close, sending a curling shot just wide of Smith’s right-hand post, as Cobblers came under something of an early onslaught from their hosts.
But on the rare occasions when Northampton did venture beyond the halfway line, they too posed a threat and went close to breaking the deadlock themselves when an unmarked Alex Revell met Brendan Moloney’s right-wing cross, but City skipper Jordan Willis did just enough to force the header over the crossbar.
Gorre then sent a dipping volley harmlessly off target but Coventry remained the more threatening side as Moloney produced a well-timed tackle to prevent Sordell from getting clear inside the penalty area.
But all of Coventry’s pressure was undone by a fine team move at the other end which brought the opening goal on the half-hour mark.
It was started and finished by Beautyman who produced a sublime piece of skill to wrong-foot two defenders before squaring to John-Joe O’Toole and he then slipped in Matty Taylor on the left whose cutback rolled along the six-yard box and fell perfectly for Beautyman to tap into the bottom corner.
It was an excellent team goal, and Coventry immediately looked to mount a response but despite the movement of their front three causing Town problems, they struggled to really test Smith.
That said, Smith did block well with his feet following a scramble inside the penalty area, however it was Northampton who ended what had been an action-packed first-half on top and Taylor almost doubled the lead when arrowing a 20-yard free-kick towards the far corner, only for a last-minute deflection to divert the ball wide.
Revell directed his header wide of the near post in the opening moments of the second-half as Town resumed their search for a second goal, however Smith had to be at his best at the other end to tip Tudgay’s stinging half-volley behind for a corner.
There was little Smith could do about Coventry’s equaliser, though, as the home side pulled level just after the hour-mark when substitute Jordi Jones whipped in a wicked cross that Tudgay powered into the net.
Jones had made a notable impact since being introduced and he went twice close went close to putting City ahead with two efforts from distance, and Rob Page responded by bringing on Hooper for his debut and going 4-4-2.
But Jones remained a constant threat and he had a great chance to give his side the lead when played clean through on goal, only for Smith to come racing out and save the shot low down to his left.
Northampton found themselves under heavy pressure at times but the visitors came close to sneaking victory when Taylor slipped through a totally unmarked Gorre on the left, however Coventry got the block in just in time.
Whilst the home side looked much likelier to steal victory as the clock ticked towards full-time, Northampton were presented with two clear opening to take away all three points but Lawson D’Ath was denied by the legs of Charles-Cook before McCourt spooned the follow-up over from a matter of yards.
Hooper was unable to cleanly connect to Taylor’s corner a few moments later as Northampton enjoyed a good spell towards the end, and then Coventry had their turn to apply some late pressure but there was to be no winning goal and the spoils were shared.
Coventry: Charles-Cook, Willis (c), Turnbull, Kelly-Evans, Page, Gadzhev, Harries (Bigirimana 72), McCann, Agyei (Jones 57), Tudgay, Sordell (Reid 67)
Subs not used: Burge, Lameiras, Ricketts, Haynes
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney (Phillips 76), Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan (c), McCourt, O’Toole (D’Ath 60), Taylor, Beautyman (Hooper 67), Revell, Gorre
Subs not used: Cornell, Nyatanga, Sonupe, Richards
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Cobblers fans: 1,608