Long and O'Toole in the goals again as Cobblers pick up a point at Scunthorpe

EARLY STRIKE: Ash Taylor shows his delight after Chris Long heads the Cobblers into an early lead at Glanford Park. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
EARLY STRIKE: Ash Taylor shows his delight after Chris Long heads the Cobblers into an early lead at Glanford Park. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds

Cobblers twice let a lead slip but still picked up what might prove to be a valuable point as they held promotion hopefuls Scunthorpe United to a 2-2 draw at Glanford Park on Saturday.

Chris Long, on 13 minutes, and John-Joe O'Toole, on the hour-mark, saw Northampton twice go in front at the home of fifth-placed Scunthorpe but the hosts replied on both occasions to earn a point from what was an enjoyable and entertaining encounter.

Chris Long is congratulated for his ninth goal of the season

Chris Long is congratulated for his ninth goal of the season

The first-half was a battle of contrasting approaches as Scunthorpe dominated the ball without doing much with it as Town sat deep and defended well, bar on 31 minutes when Funso Ojo was allowed to roam forward and shoot into the bottom corner.

But that only came after Long's close-range header, his ninth goal of the season, had given Northampton the lead and they were back in front when O'Toole crashed a thunderbolt of a header into the top corner shortly after the restart.

Murray Wallace scrambled home a second leveller for Scunthorpe 13 minutes from time, however and they bombarded the visitors late on in search of a dramatic winner but no goal was forthcoming as Town continued to defend well to see out an important point, something they were worthy of.

Events elsewhere saw defeats for MK Dons and Fleetwood, which sees Cobblers jump a place to 19th although only two points separate 17th from 21st in a tight Sky Bet League One table.

Gboly Ariyibi was given his first start for the Cobblers on Saturday

Gboly Ariyibi was given his first start for the Cobblers on Saturday

As expected, midfielder Matt Crooks came back into the team and started against his former club, replacing Sam Foley, in one of two changes from Tuesday's defeat against Gillingham with Gboly Ariyibi handed his first start for the club since signing on loan last month.

There was also a rare place on the bench for fellow January signing Jack Bridges but another of Hasselbaink's new faces, Kevin van Veen, was absent against his old club, ruled out with a dead leg, while for Scunthorpe, ex-Town man Ivan Toney started up front.

Scunthorpe had all of the early possession but they struggled to turn some decent spells of passing into chances before falling behind 13 minutes in.

The first real opportunity of the game resulted in the opening goal when Crooks headed Matt Grimes' deep free-kick back across goal and a Scunthorpe defender nodded towards his own net, leaving Long the simple task of directing home from virtually under the crossbar.

Undeterred, Scunthorpe resumed their patient passing game, happy to bide their time before picking a way through the visiting defence - and they almost got it on 24 minutes when Duane Holmes' excellent cross was headed over by an unmarked Ryan Yates.

Town had defended their lead well but they let themselves down just after the half-hour mark and if the first goal was a soft one to concede from United's viewpoint, this was no better. Having won the ball back in their own half, the home side found Ojo who, from 60 yards out, motored forward and with Town backing off and backing off, he had the freedom of Glanford Park to keep running at the visiting defence before placing into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Opportunities remained sparse in a sluggish and relatively even opening 45 minutes with shots from range the most likely source of a third goal, Conor Townsend for Scunthorpe and Ariyibi for the Cobblers both firing wide of the far post from the edge of the box - the latter doing so after displaying quick feet to skip past two defenders and cut inside.

It remained level and all to play for at half-time before the start of the second-half followed much of the first; Scunthorpe having most of the ball but only able to muster harmless long-range efforts from Toney and Holmes.

Slowly but surely, however, the Cobblers gained more control and grew in confidence and, just short of the hour-mark, they had their lead again. It was a familiar face who got the goal and in familiar fashion too, O'Toole attacking Grimes' corner superbly to power an unstoppable header into the top corner.

Half chances remained the order of the day for Scunthorpe who saw Yates and Rory McArdle both clear the crossbar as Northampton's lead seemed comfortable as the game headed towards the final 15 minutes.

But set-pieces had caused trouble at both ends of the pitch all game and it was another one that drew United level for a second time. Town goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell attempted to come for a free-kick but failed to deal get the desired contact on his punch, which went high and backwards and with no one guarding the goal, Wallace rose over a mass of bodies on the goal-line to head in.

Suddenly the momentum was all with the home team who sought a winner as the clock ticked over to 80 minutes and Josh Morris' fine free-kick almost put them ahead for the first time but O'Donnell redeemed himself, diving at full length to tip over the crossbar.

There were a few other anxious moments fur the Cobblers but O'Donnell wasn't test again and, if anything, it was the visitors who threatened a winner in five added minutes as they caught United on the break, however Grimes' 97th minute free-kick, which sailed over, was to be the final act.

Scunthorpe: Gilks, Townsend, Wallace, Ojo, Suttonm (McGeehan 73), McArdle (c), Yates (Adelakun 81), Morris, Novak, Holmes, Toney (Hopper 60)

Subs not used: Watson, Bishop, Goode, Burgess

Cobblers: O'Donnell, Moloney, Taylor, Turnbull, Bunney, Ariyibi (Hoskins 85), Crooks, Grimes, Powell (Foley 90), O'Toole (Barnett 81), Long

Subs not used: Cornell, Barnett, McWilliams, Bridge, Mathis

Referee: Andrew Madley

Attendance: 4,157