Shot-shy Cobblers draw another blank as they are held at home by Bury

Cobblers midfielder Regan Poole tussles with Bury's former Town striker Michael Smith at Sixfields (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Cobblers midfielder Regan Poole tussles with Bury's former Town striker Michael Smith at Sixfields (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Cobblers stopped the rot of three straight defeats but remain in the Sky Bet League One relegation zone after being held to a goalless draw at home to Bury on Saturday.

If either side had done enough to merit victory, it was probably Town who had the better of the chances without really opening up their visitors in what was a typically scrappy, low-quality affair between two struggling sides.

Chris Long in possession

Chris Long in possession

Marc Richards went as close as anyone when twice denied by Bury's goalkeeper Leo Fasan while the away side's best openings fell to Rohan Ince who fluffed his lines early in the second period.

Town, who have now gone more than 400 minutes without a goal, drop a place to 22nd as a result of this draw but they are still only two points off 18th.

There were always likely to be changes to Northampton's starting line-up in the wake of Tuesday's performance and result at Plymouth and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink did indeed mix things up with Billy Waters and Lewis McGugan dropping to the bench, replaced by Shaun McWilliams and Richards.

Leon Barnett came in for the injured Aaron Pierre as the Cobblers lined up 4-4-2 with Matt Crooks and McWilliams as the two wide men, and it was Crooks who tested visiting goalkeeper Fasan who was equal to his well-struck shot from the corner of the penalty box inside two minutes.

Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink points the way

Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink points the way

Former Cobblers loan man Michael Smith blazed over for Bury before two chances fell to Richards in quick succession, the first of which was blocked before he failed to get a telling touch on Brendan Moloney's teasing cross.

The game was a predictably scrappy, low-quality affair but of the few chances that were being created, most fell to Town with another Moloney cross causing problems before Crooks shot horribly over from an acute angle.

The home side remained the more threatening team and were close to taking a lead into half-time as Fasan tipped over Matt Grimes' free-kick and then Barnett headed the resulting corner wide.

Goalless at the break, there was one glaring chance at either end early in the second period. The first fell to Town as Crooks did superbly to cross for Richards whose toe-poke was saved by Fasan before Bury somehow blocked Grimes' follow-up shot.

Leon Barnett challenges Michael Smith

Leon Barnett challenges Michael Smith

Bury had shown little attacking intent but they themselves went dangerously close on two occasions, both through Ince who was terrifically thwarted by Matt Ingram having found space in the box both times.

Suddenly, the Shakers now looked as likely as their hosts to strike the first blow and they snatched at another decent opening to hit the front as Greg Leigh fired wastefully over.

Chris Long cracked a superb long-range shot only a whisker wide and Crooks side-footed off target at the back post but Town had lost their grip of the game and, with a quarter of the contest to go, it was anyone's to win.

And it seemed it would be Bury who'd snatch it when a monumental mix-up between Ash Taylor and Ingram allowed Smith to head into an empty net, but there wasn't enough power on it and the Cobblers keeper raced back to claw off the line.

That was the final chance of the game as Northampton pressed late on without any success.

Match facts

Cobblers: Ingram, Moloney, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan, Poole, McWilliams (Bowditch 69), Grimes, Crooks, Long (Waters 84), Richards (c)

Subs not used: Cornell, McGivern, Smith, Foley, McGugan

Bury: Leigh, O'Connell, Reilly, Edwards, Laurent, Dobre (Tutte 90), O'Shea (Williams 76), Cameron (c), Smith, Ince

Subs not used: Maguire, Ajose, Aldred, Humphrey, Maloney

Referee: Carl Boyeson

Attendance: 4,870

Bury fans: 230