New manager but familiar problems as Cobblers draw a blank in Bury stalemate

John-Joe O'Toole in action for the Cobblers against Bury (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
John-Joe O'Toole in action for the Cobblers against Bury (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Keith Curle's reign as Cobblers boss started started with a lacklustre goalless draw at home to Bury at the PTS Academy Stadium on Tuesday night.

A troubling opening 10 minutes saw the Shakers race out of the blocks and raise the anxiety levels among home fans, but Town weathered the storm and dominated the rest of the first-half.

Matt Crooks battles for the ball

Matt Crooks battles for the ball

They were plagued by familiar issues though as several clear chances came and went with Sam Hoskins again the biggest culprit before a far more sedate second-half predictably ended in stalemate.

It goes without saying that this was an obvious improvement on the events of Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Mansfield, but Curle, installed as Dean Austin's replacement on Monday, will know there is plenty of hard work ahead to turn the ship around, especially as the draw leaves Cobblers level on points with the relegation zone in Sky Bet League Two, only four clear of the foot of the EFL.

Curle pulled no punches with his first team selection, dropping David Buchanan, Billy Waters and Kevin van Veen to the bench and leaving Hakeem Odoffin out of the 18.

He also changed formation by going to 3-5-2 as Daniel Powell and Shay Facey started in the two wing-back positions, while Matt Crooks and Andy Williams also came back into the side.

John-Joe O'Toole

John-Joe O'Toole

Cobblers were given a huge let-off in just the third-minute when former Town man Nicky Adams' in-swinging free-kick picked out an unmarked Adam Thompson whose header thundered back off the crossbar and into the grateful arms of David Cornell.

Former Cobblers favourite Adams caused early grief and he was left free to volley over at the back post from Callum McFadzean's cross before Thompson again went close as Town took time to adjust to their new system.

Their first sight of Joe Murphy's goal came on 15 minutes when Powell got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Crooks to head against a well-placed defender, who may well have blocked with an arm, but referee Chris Sarginson was unsighted.

Having rode the early storm, Cobblers were now growing into the contest and they were agonisingly close going ahead with Williams latching onto a short back header and poking the ball past Murphy but against the woodwork.

New Cobblers boss Keith Curle received a warm welcome from Cobblers fans ahead of the clash with Bury

New Cobblers boss Keith Curle received a warm welcome from Cobblers fans ahead of the clash with Bury

There were more close shaves for the home side before it was the away side's turn to shake the woodwork, Byron Moore skipping inside and clattering the near post via the head of Leon Barnett.

The Cobblers were gifted a glaring opportunity to break the deadlock five minutes before half-time when Thompson's back pass fell straight into the path of Hoskins but, despite only having Murphy to beat, he failed to do so, hitting the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

A goal-line clearance denied John-Joe O'Toole from the following corner and Murphy blocked from Hoskins for a second time moments later as Town's dominant end to the first-half went unrewarded.

It was more about half chances for most of the second period with Crooks, Jay O'Shea and Danny Mayor all off target from long distance.

O'Shea was a little closer just shy of the hour-mark when his well-struck free-kick had Cornell scrambling across his line and tipping wide but, that aside, neither goalkeeper was overly troubled.

The Cobblers were unable to recapture their good play of the first-half and Bury failed to take advantage as the game rather petered out towards an inevitable conclusion.

Match facts

Cobblers: Cornell, Pierre, Barnett, Taylor (c), Facey, O'Toole (Bowditch 71), Foley, Crooks, Powell (Waters 63), Williams (van Veen 85), Hoskins

Subs not used: Ward, Turnbull, Buchanan, Bridge

Bury: Murphy, Stokes, Aimson, Thompson, Adams, Mayor, Moore, McFadzean, O'Shea, Danns (c), Maynard (Telford 75)

Subs not used: Miller, Dawson, Dagnall, Styles, Hudson, Barjonas

Referee: Chris Sarginson

Attendance: 4,073

Bury fans: 170