Cobblers claim bonus point on the road as they dig deep to halt Blackburn's charge
A heroic defensive effort laid the platform for the Cobblers to claim one of their most impressive results of the season as they stopped Blackburn Rovers in their title-chasing tracks with a valiant 1-1 draw at Ewood Park on Saturday.
Blackburn have not been beaten at home since September but that record came under serious risk against Northampton who allied an early goal with a gutsy defensive performance, especially second-half, to come within 16 minutes of a famous win.
Danny Graham's header ultimately rescued the hosts but this result most certainly falls in the points gained category as the transformation in Town's performances, both individually and collectively, continued with the hardest of hard-fought draw that bodes well for the remaining 16 games of the season, with their unbeaten run now standing at four games - their longest of the season.
John-Joe O'Toole required just 11 minutes to extend his rich vein of goalscoring form when netting his fourth in four games with the opening strike and there was much to be admired about the goal as he applied a deft finishing touch to a brisk breakaway move that all stemmed from a Rovers corner.
The Cobblers were playing with new-found confidence and belief and though the visitors inevitably had plenty of defending to do, Blackburn rarely threatened to wipe out the deficit in the remainder of the first-half and for most of the second, not overly extending goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell despite all of their possession.
Eventually the pressure did tell through Graham, who scored with a similar header to that of O'Toole's with 16 minutes to go, but despite dominating thereafter, they again failed to carve the away defence open and had to make do with a draw, which drops them to third.
As for the Cobblers, they also fell and now sit 20th in Sky Bet League One but if the application and work-rate they showed on Saturday is repeated for the rest of the season, relegation fears will soon be a thing of the past.
The only change for this game saw Regan Poole return to the team and start at centre-back, which meant Jordan Turnbull shifted across to left-back and Joe Bunney to left midfield with Sam Foley the man to miss out.
There was not much between the teams in an even and well-matched first 10 minutes but just when Rovers looked to be getting into the stride, they were undone by a superb counter-attacking goal on 11 minutes.
Town cleared a Blackburn corner through Matt Crooks who found Chris Long on the right and he surged over the halfway line and deep into Rovers territory. With bodies joining him, Long squared to O'Toole who in turn found Bunney and the new signing's delightful cross from the left was perfect for O'Toole to place a delicate header into the bottom corner.
That stunned Ewood Park into silence but Rovers, despite then losing captain Charlie Mulgrew to injury, rallied and their strong response almost led to an equaliser when Ash Taylor stuck out an important right boot to block Craig Conway's goalbound shot.
Conway also rifled a first-time howitzer narrowly over the angle of post and bar but there was little else to speak of in an attacking sense for Blackburn who, though largely dominant, did not once bring Northampton goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell into strenuous action prior to half-time.
That meant the Cobblers kept their surprise advantage intact until the break and their position of strength would come under increased scrutiny in the second-half as Rovers predictably upped the ante.
Crosses began raining into the visiting penalty box, one of which saw Dominic Samuel miss his kick from inside the six-yard box and that came straight after another goal-saving intervention by Taylor who thwarted Bradley Dack after a slick interchange with Graham.
Attacks at the other end were increasingly frequent, though Poole did volley waywardly over, and Blackburn's onslaught grew to the point where Town could barely get out of their own half with balls continually flashing across the face of O'Donnell's goal.
The Cobblers were defending well and left nothing out on the pitch in their attempts to prevent an equaliser, however their efforts would prove in vain when finally Rovers restored parity with 16 minutes remaining. Town were architects of their own downfall too, Bunney cheaply conceding possession in his own half which left the visitors out of position and allowed Graham to wriggle free of Poole inside the box and guide Samuel's cross beyond the reach of O'Donnell.
There were no prizes for what happened next. Balckburn, not happy with just a point, immediately went back on the attack and they were nearly ahead for the first time when O'Donnell beat away Dack's low drive as Town remained camped in their own half.
But they continued to dig in and frustrate their promotion-chasing hosts, eventually seeing out a nervous finish and six long minutes of added time to come away from Ewood Park with an excellent and well-deserved 1-1 draw.
Rovers: Raya, Nyambe, Downing, Mulgrew (c) (Bell 14), Williams, Smallwood (Armstrong 57), Bennett, Samuel, Dack, Conway (Payne 57), Graham
Subs not used: Leutwiler, Caddis, Travis, Nuttall.
Cobblers: O'Donnell, Facey, Poole, Taylor (c), Turnbull, Hoskins (Powell 66), Grimes, Crooks (Foley 72), Bunney (Ariyibi 84), O'Toole, Long
Subs not used: Cornell, Moloney, Pereira, Revell
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Cobblers fans: 943