Late goal denies Cobblers all three points as 10-man Bolton Wanderers rescue draw
Town led through Kieron Bowie after just two minutes and they were the better team in a frenetic and fractious first half, even before George Thomason saw red for a rash challenge on Aaron McGowan just shy of the half-hour mark.
Bolton boss Ian Evatt was also sent off for an incident in the tunnel at half-time as the visitors threatened to lose their heads, but Jon Brady had his own issues in the form of yet more injuries with both McGowan and Lee Burge forced off.
To their credit, Wanderers rallied impressively in the second half and despite Town largely defending well, one lapse allowed Mendes Gomes to pounce and salvage something for the promotion-chasing visitors.
Although they were up against 10 men for an hour, it’s still a decent point for Northampton – they were good value for it - and the result stops the rot after back-to-back defeats.
Dominic Gape was handed his Cobblers debut by Brady while McGowan returned from injury and Louis Appéré made his first league start since early October, replacing the absent Sam Hoskins.
Cobblers made an electric start and were ahead with barely 100 seconds on the clock. Appéré was fouled just outside the box and Marc Leonard’s brilliant free-kick hit the post, the ball kept alive by McGowan before Bowie found enough room in the box to squeeze a shot inside Joel Coleman’s near post.
Bolton would have had an immediate leveller if not for some fantastic defensive work by Jon Guthrie but Town were meeting the challenge head on and their high energy, high tempo start was making life uncomfortable for the promotion challenges.
Appéré’s effort was fumbled by Coleman but no Cobblers player was on hand to convert the rebound and McGowan shot off target after a good run while Dion Charles dragged wide for the visitors.
Town’s aggressive and positive approach had Bolton rattled and that was no better illustrated than Thomason’s wild challenge after 28 minutes. The midfielder was high and late on McGowan and referee Jeremy Simpson gave himself some thinking time before bringing out the red card.
Bolton still possessed enough quality to get back in the game but Cobblers were close to a second shortly before half-time when Coleman was at full stretch to tip wide Will Hondermarck’s low effort.
The visitors came out a different side in the second half and Louie Moulden, on for his debut at half-time, was quickly called into action when blocking Gethin Jones’ shot.
Cobblers rode out the storm though and continued to pose a constant threat on the break although clear-cut chances were few and far between.
The home side were doing an excellent job of keeping Bolton at arm’s length but their good work was undone with 16 minutes to go. Moulden had tipped over Eoin Toal’s spectacular long-range volley but from the resulting corner, Ben Fox hesitated when going for a header and Mendes Gomes nipped in level things up.
Cobblers responded well as Guthrie had a header saved but the game was now anyone’s for the taking and Bolton almost completed the turnaround with five minutes to go when an almighty goalmouth scramble saw several efforts desperately blocked on the goal-line.
Fox connected sweetly with a shot from 20 yards that Coleman did well to gather in stoppage-time, and Cobblers went closer still in the final minute of the game as Guthrie’s header dropped agonisingly wide.
Cobblers: Burge (Moulden 45), McGowan (Lintott 35), Willis, Guthrie ©, Brough, Gape (Fox 63), Hondermarck (Springett 77), Leonard, Pinnock, Appèrè (Simpson 77), Bowie
Subs not used: Monthé, Abimbola
Bolton: Coleman, Ramsay (Mendes Gomes 45), Jones ©, Taylor (Iredale 76), Toal, Ashworth, Sheehan (Morley 83), Thomason, Dempsey, Adeboyejo (Collins 45), Charles (Jerome 77)
Subs not used: Maghoma, Bodvarsson
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Bolton fans: 1,370