Taylor's free-kick exploits deny Curle first victory as Swindon hit back against Cobblers

FRIENDS REUNITED: John-Joe O'Toole, who opened the scoring, battles with former team-mate Marc Richards during Saturday's game. Pictures: Sharon Lucey
FRIENDS REUNITED: John-Joe O'Toole, who opened the scoring, battles with former team-mate Marc Richards during Saturday's game. Pictures: Sharon Lucey

Matt Taylor scored one of his trademark free-kicks as Keith Curle was denied his first win in charge of the Cobblers when they were pegged back by Swindon Town on a rainy Saturday afternoon at the County Ground.

John-Joe O'Toole's first goal of the season around the hour-mark had Town on course for just their second victory of the season but Taylor whipped a 30-yard free-kick into the top corner 15 minutes later to keep Curle waiting for his first three points.

Shay Facey

Shay Facey

The first-half unfolded in a similar manner to Tuesday's game against Bury with Town overcoming a shaky start and matching their opponents in an opening 45 minutes that was full of mistakes, the only real moment of quality coming from David Cornell who produced two fine stops to keep it scoreless.

A better second-half saw O'Toole bundle in the opener and then Taylor lead Swindon's fightback before the game fizzled out as Northampton returned home with a deserved point, a decent and commendable outcome in the circumstances.

Injuries picked up in training forced Curle's hand as Leon Barnett and Ash Taylor missed out with knocks so in came Jordan Turnbull and David Buchanan.

Shaun McWilliams returned from injury to replace Daniel Powell while former Northampton duo Marc Richards and Matt Taylor started for Swindon, with Jak McCourt and Keshi Anderson on the bench.

David Cornell saves from Marc Richards

David Cornell saves from Marc Richards

Despite the changes, Curle kept faith with 3-5-2 as McWilliams and Buchanan operated at wing-back and Shay Facey moved into the back three, and Town were nearly in front inside 45 seconds at the County Ground when Andy Williams stabbed wide from a low Sam Hoskins cross.

A far better chance fell Swindon's way just moments later as the game started at a frantic pace but David Cornell anticipated brilliantly and showed terrific reactions to somehow block James Dunne's from point-blank range.

Town's new-look back three of Turnbull, Facey and Aaron Pierre struggled to convince in the opening 20 minutes and again Cornell came to their rescue when racing off his line to deflect Richards' shot behind for a corner.

But Cobblers then settled and gained a foothold in the game, almost going ahead themselves when Hoskins latched onto a long, hopeful ball and fired against the base of the post from an increasingly acute angle.

The game had been an enjoyable, if low-quality, affair up to that point but it then fizzled out for the rest of the first-half as both sides lacked composure in key areas and struggled in the slippery conditions.

The half-time whistle did mean a third straight half without conceding for Northampton following Tuesday's goalless draw against Bury, and the visitors began the second-half in the ascendancy.

While the quality barely improved, the better play did come from Town with Crooks heading off target and then Swindon surviving a scramble inside their own box.

And Cobblers broke their duck in front of goal just shy of the hour-mark. A short corner led to Hoskins whipping in a dangerous cross that was bundled in at the back post by O'Toole.

As often seems to be the case though, falling behind spurred Swindon into life and there was suddenly more urgency in their play, which put Northampton under pressure as a result.

The visitors restricted the amount of clear chances on their goal but it was a moment of inspiration that got the Robins level 18 minutes from time, Taylor pinging a wonderful free-kick into the top corner from fully 30 yards.

Kevin van Veen and Billy Waters had been introduced by Curle and both sides looked to have the capability to go on and win the game with Turnbull producing a crucial defensive intervention at one end and then Waters catching the roof of the net with a deflected effort at the other.

Turnbull enjoyed an excellent second-half and he pulled off another vital block late on to ensure his side didn't leave empty-handed.

Swindon: McCormick, Knoyle, Lancashire (c), McGlashan (Swine 63), Taylor, Dunne, Alzate, Adebayo, Diagouraga, Woolfenden, Richards (Anderson 63)

Subs not used: Vigouroux, McCourt, Iandolo, Smith, Conroy

Cobblers: Cornell, Facey, Pierre, Turnbull, Buchanan (c), Crooks, O'Toole, McWilliams (van Veen 58), Foley, Hoskins (Bowditch 87), Williams (Waters 73)

Subs not used: Ward, Odoffin, Powell, Bridge

Referee: Neil Hair

Attendance: 6,138

Cobblers fans: 504