Northampton Town 1 Mansfield Town 1 – match review and highlights
Finding reasons to get excited for games like this one can be tricky at such a late stage of the season but there was one thing that made Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Mansfield a worthwhile exercise for the Cobblers: the performance of teenager Scott Pollock.
In an underwhelming season full of false starts and false dawns, performances of individual players have provided many of the highlights and this one was right up there with the most impressive and the most encouraging of the lot.
Pollock’s rise to prominence has been truly unique. A star of YouTube club Hashtag United, who have half a million subscribers, the 18-year-old is no stranger to the spotlight and that showed during his remarkably calm and composed full debut for the Cobblers on Saturday.
He caught the eye for a variety of reasons. Whilst his technical quality in possession should be no surprise given his route to first-team football at Northampton, it was how he coped with a physical Mansfield team that really impressed.
He won headers, made tackles and buzzed about the pitch with typical youthful exuberance. He also drifted into pockets of space and picked up countless loose balls before regularly finding a team-mate. On the evidence of this game, he should be feature heavily between now and the end of the season.
As for Town’s performance in general, it was about on par with expectations given their mid-table league position and how things have gone in recent games, but visitors Mansfield were desperately disappointing for a team supposedly chasing promotion.
They barely laid a glove on their mid-table hosts throughout, even after Mal Benning’s freak opener gave them a fortunate and undeserved lead. It was only late on when they showed upped the ante and showed some urgency, though even then Town were comfortable, not conceding a shot on target throughout.
Goalkeeper David Cornell has been solid and dependable between the sticks this season but his error for Benning’s corner, which somehow ended up in the net, was a reminder that he can expect far great competition for his place next season.
Otherwise, the Cobblers defended without cause for concern. Keith Curle resorted to a back three as Charlie Goode and Jordan Turnbull returned to central defence and, along with Aaron Pierre, they made the adjustment well.
The first 45 minutes were a snapshot of Northampton’s season. More than a match for the second-placed Stags in general play, they were let down by their lack of guile in one penalty box and a moment of indecision in the other to somehow trail at the break.
The second-half was an improvement and the source of Town’s leveller came as no surprise: a set-piece. This time delivered by Pollock, who collected a deserved assist to cap his fine display, Sam Foley judged his run and jump perfectly to head home.
Substitute Danny Rose missed a couple of chances to snatch all three points late on but, had he done so, it would only have papered over the cracks of a subpar performance from the visitors, who will surely need to play better if they are to finish in the top three.
As for the Cobblers, it was an improvement out of sight compared to their previous showing at home, when they were humiliated by 10-man Port Vale, and they also had the bonus of discovering a potential star of the future.
There may be little on the line and nothing to play for over these remaining four games but, in young Scott Pollock, Curle might just have found another piece of his jigsaw for next season.