New year, new Cobblers side, and the new year’s resolution appears to be - so far - to stop losing games.
Either side could have won Saturday’s 2015 opener against Southend and so logic dictates that a draw was the right result.
But this was the best Northampton have played for several weeks; they were decent in the games at Tranmere and Carlisle but did not create nearly as many chances as they did at the weekend, when a fluid three of Lawson D’Ath, John-Joe O’Toole and debutant Ricky Holmes found pockets of space and gaps around the always brilliant Marc Richards up front.
And of course in both of those games they succumbed to opposition goals to head home pointless.
It appeared for a time on Saturday that a failure to take chances would come back to haunt a side which has been punished for its profligacy at an alarming rate during the current campaign.
Southend had already twice struck the frame of Matt Duke’s goal before the keeper made a horrible mess of a routine near-post stop in the first minute of the second half.
A blink of an eye later and Shaquile Coulthirst had managed to squeeze the ball over the line amid a good old-fashioned scramble in the January mud of the six-yard box.
It was a poor goal to concede and cruel on the Cobblers, who had fashioned the majority of the goalscoring opportunities in a match littered with them.
O’Toole was particularly culpable, choosing the wrong option after spearheading a break down the inside-right channel and later being let down by his lack of natural pace, taking an early shot when a quicker player would have advanced on the keeper to draw him out.
He did more good than bad, though, and his substitution 10 minutes into the second half was a curious one, even if it did add another body to the forward line, which was probably required with the side losing.
Holmes can be pleased with his debut, and he and D’Ath don’t seem to play with the fear of failure that has recently infected the games of Chris Hackett and Kaid Mohamed.
Wingers are inconsistent beasts by their nature so bad performances probably aren’t far away but Chris Wilder does at least now have the luxury of some depth in that department, should any rotation be needed.
Brendan Moloney did good work at right-back, showing a willingness to join in with attacks that doesn’t come naturally to Ben Tozer and which did to Danny Alfei but with limited effectiveness.
Midfield debutant Jason Taylor was all fire, brimstone and coercion of those around him, and what he lacks in technique he makes up for in commitment and a tackling style which shows no regard for his own physical safety.
His acquisition is similar to that of Jamie Hand in the 2006 promotion-winning season or, to go even further back, Chris Burns in a New Year period 20 years ago. Players who know their roles inside out and do not aspire to be Andres Iniesta but will perform valuable functions for the team.
The concern for Wilder will be that after going behind, his side stopped playing football altogether and seemed to be under the impression that the idea of the sport is to kick the ball as far away from your own goal as possible.
After 10 or 15 minutes of such grim play, though, they did begin to pass to one another and their equaliser was deserved, with D’Ath producing a copybook header of which Richards, who provided the cross from which he scored, would have been proud.
You have to assume this will be the manager’s team now for the foreseeable future (with one potential change, Zander Diamond in for Lee Collins at centre-back), and the time has come for consistency, both in selection and results.
To not lose this match was important because it stops the dire run and the result is almost secondary to the performance, which was of a sufficient standard that the team should now feel confident of moving away from the foot of the table.
The Southend goal has to go down as an error against him and it seemed to shake his game in the aftermath, which was not as relaxed as it should have been ...5
A good debut and he showed a willingness and ability to get forward and play balls into the box, although he seemed to tire in the final quarter of the game ...7
Will be disappointed he didn’t score with a well-timed run and header which struck the bar in a game against his former club and competed well with Corr ...7
A typically combative display and can be largely pleased with his work, although there were periods when the defence looked deeply uncertain ...6
Played some delicious balls into the box but also conceded some cheap fouls in bad areas and managed to find his way into the referee’s book ...6
Knows what his job in the side is and performs it with enthusiasm and commitment. Could also be an important addition in the ‘leadership’ stakes ...6
Has hit a decent patch of form and was good here, particularly in terms of his use of the ball, in both open play and from set-pieces ...7
Turned in the kind of performance which should excite people about his future and ability to contribute to the team in key passes and shots on target ...7 STAR MAN
Without question, O’Toole is improving with every game he plays and possibly because he is getting fitter. Made some bad decisions here but did well in his 56 minutes ...7
Had a similar game to D’Ath, with lots of long, piercing runs and managed to marry them to an end product too, with the goal coming from a follow-up attack after his shot ...7
His scoring run ends but the striker won’t mind because he is playing with a real confidence at the moment and his passing and link-up play is crisply immaculate ...7
EMILE SINCLAIR (for O’Toole 56)
A strange substitution which made the team play a little bit more direct but he did okay and had one good late chance well blocked ...6
KAID MOHAMED (for Holmes 83)
CHRIS HACKETT (for D’Ath 90)
Not used: Snedker, Langmead, Carter, Tozer