Hoskins misses penalty with the last kick as Cobblers suffer dramatic and damaging defeat at AFC Wimbledon
Town still out of the relegation zone but face uphill battle to avoid the drop
Sam Hoskins missed a penalty with the very last kick of the game as Cobblers' survival hopes were dealt a major blow when dramatically beaten 1-0 by relegation rivals AFC Wimbledon at Plough Lane on Saturday.
Joe Pigott's 88th minute goal looked to have snatched a priceless victory for Dons but Hoskins should have salvaged a point after Peter Kioso was fouled in the sixth minute of stoppage-time.
Nikola Tzanev guessed right, however, and beat away the penalty as Hoskins went from hero to zero following his winning goal in midweek. It capped a remarkable end to what was an otherwise poor and disappointing game.
Whether it was nerves, fatigue or something else, Town were a long way short of the levels they hit in victory over Oxford United on Tuesday as Wimbledon had the better of a poor first-half.
The only good thing for the visitors was that they got into half-time on level terms but whilst they did improve in the second-half, their only shot on target came thanks to Hoskins' spot-kick deep into stoppage-time.
Town remain outside the relegation zone but only on goal difference with almost every team around them having played at least one game less.
Jon Brady named the same team which beat Oxford in midweek but there was a welcome return to the bench for defender Alan Sheehan.
The opening 20 minutes were tense and cagey, understandably so given what was at stake, but the game was crying out for one team to grab it by the scruff of the neck.
That team would be Wimbledon, albeit not decisively, and they applied the first real spell of pressure midway through the first-half, ending with Will Nightingale heading wide at a corner.
Cobblers were their own worst enemy at times and they were given a huge let-off just shy of the half-hour mark when Shaun McWilliams' wayward pass set Ryan Longman through on goal, but goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell was out quickly to smother.
Play was then delayed by six minutes due to an injury to the linesman and that should have allowed Town the opportunity to regroup, but they continued to play second fiddle for the remainder of the opening half.
Whilst Wimbledon didn't create any clear chances, Lloyd Jones was well-positioned to deny Joe Piggott and George Dobson curled over from the edge of the box. The visitors only took two shots all half, both long-range attempts and both blocked.
Brady made a change at half-time, withdrawing Mark Marshall for Benny Ashley-Seal, and also tweaked things tactically by going two up front and playing Sam Hoskins in the number 10 role.
Cobblers gradually improved and enjoyed their best spell of the game around the hour-mark as Sam Hoskins and Joseph Mills saw shots blocked before Ryan Watson's free-kick curled a yard or two over the crossbar.
As time ticked away, it became more and more tense with neither side wanting to lose and a goalless draw looked inevitable before a dramatic ending.
Wimbledon moved in front when Kioso's clearance from a corner cannoned into Pigott and rebounded back into the net.
But the drama wasn't done there and Cobblers really should have rescued a valuable point in the sixth minute of added-time, only for Hoskins to be denied with the very last kick of the game.
Wimbledon: Tzanev, O'Neil, Woodyard (c), Heneghan, Nightingale, Oksanen, Rudoni (Chislett 76), Alexander, Dobson (McLoughlin 76), Longman (Palmer 68), Pigott
Subs not used: Cox, Guinness-Walker, Assal, Osew
Cobblers: Mitchell, Kioso, Horsfall, L Jones, Mills (c), McWilliams, Morris, Watson (Edmondson 90), Marshall (Ashley-Seal 45), Hoskins, Rose (A Jones 80)
Subs not used: Berry, Bolger, Sheehan, Korboa
Referee: Ben Toner