Nerveless Anderson thrilled to be the saviour after pinching a point for Cobblers
Clean through on goal with his side trailing 1-0 and only 30 seconds left on the clock, time almost stood still as all eyes around Spotland fixed firmly on Paul Anderson's dramatic late attempt to deliver Northampton an important point from Saturday's game at Rochdale.
Behind to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s excellently-taken opener on 58 minutes, defeat appeared for the Cobblers all but certain when three minutes of stoppage-time were announced as this contest seemingly petered towards an inevitable conclusion.
But deep into those three minutes, there was a grandstand finish.
Adam Smith booted clear, Dale’s defence went walkabouts and Anderson, almost to his disbelief, found himself with the freedom of Spotland as he raced towards Conrad Logan’s goal.
While lesser players may have panicked in such a high pressure situation, there was no hint of that from the Cobblers midfielder, who up to that point had already enjoyed arguably his best game for the club, as he deftly lifted over the onrushing Logan and into the net, nicking a dramatic but not entirely undeserved point for the Cobblers.
It was his sixth and unquestionably most important goal of the season to date.
So, as he bore down on Logan’s goal, what was going through his mind? “The ball had come such a long way from Smudge in goal and because I was in so much space I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if the goalkeeper was coming,” he explained afterwards.
“If he wasn’t coming I would have just hit it as hard as I could towards the goal but because he came, he made my mind up for me just to put it over him into an empty net.
“We weren’t at our best and we’ve had a few chances and put some good balls in. I hit the post twice and they got the goal where we thought we were a bit unfortunate with how they broke away because we felt thee was a handball.
“Sometimes you don’t get things but fortunately it was a little bit of bad defending and the goalkeeper made my mind up for me by coming out and hesitating and that made it easy for me just to put it over him.
“It felt like I had so much time and the goalkeeper was a bit half and half so for me it was one of those where as long as I got it over the goalkeeper I felt like it was going to make it.
“Halfway through I feared their defender might nick it off the line but as it started dropping I thought ‘brilliant, it’s in’ and then I didn’t have anything left in my legs to celebrate so I just jogged to the corner to waste a bit of time!”
There were only 30 seconds left when Rochdale restarted proceedings and though they inevitably slung the ball forward in desperate search of an even later winner, Northampton had done enough to come away with an impressive draw.
They were full value for their point too. Dale have lost just once at Spotland since August, totalling a league-high 42 home goals throughout the campaign, but they mustered only two shots on target during Saturday’s encounter having been largely blunted by the resilient visitors.
“I thought we deserved a point,” concurred Anderson.
“The referee said 30 seconds left when they had the kick-off so as long as we won that first header and fortunately it fell to Lewin (Nyatanga) at the back for a little knock down and we cleared it and we got a very important point.
“If we had lost we would have been quite disappointed and I think we would have got a bit of a grilling from the manager because we weren’t at our best, but when you get a point like that you go into the changing room and it feels more of a win.
“We know how important that point was and every point we pick up is brilliant.”