Scunthorpe United 1 Northampton Town 1 '“ match review, player ratings and highlights
Down both a man and a goal away at the league leaders with still half-an-hour remaining, not many would have given the Cobblers a sniff of coming away with anything other than a valiant defeat from this keenly-contested affair at Glanford Park.
Lesser teams would have crumbled when faced by such a forlorn, seemingly hopeless situation, and may have accepted defeat against a side flying high at the top.
But this is a Cobblers team who have proven, time and time again over the past 12 months, that they never know when to throw in the towel.
Sliding to a meek defeat without a fight was not an option and instead of letting a red card disrupt the head of steam they had been building, Northampton only used it as extra motivation to earn themselves a valuable and significant point that proves to everyone, least of all themselves, that they are a team to be taken seriously this season.
It was no more than they deserved too for this their best and most complete away performance of the season during which they refused to let the leaders have things all their own way, aside from a shaky opening 15 minutes when Scunthorpe made an ominous, dominant start.
But once Northampton settled and got a foothold, they took the game to their hosts and always carried a threat down both sides, not once wavering even after Matty Taylor’s red card.
Scunthorpe may have gone into this game as the EFL’s form team but for large periods, particularly in the second-half, they were second best.
Brendan Moloney caused havoc with his runs from deep, Jak McCourt was a nuisance in midfield and JJ Hooper was a handful on the left, while there was a pleasing balance to Northampton’s approach; they were solid at the back but always a threat at the other end.
And the most impressive aspect of this performance was not necessarily the fact the Cobblers dug deep to haul themselves back on an even keel when seemingly down and out, it was how they reacted after levelling.
The natural tendency would have been to sit back, soak up the inevitable Scunthorpe pressure and see out an what was unquestionably an excellent point.
But if either side looked like taking all three points in the 15 minutes that remained, it was the 10 men of Northampton.
Scunthorpe had lost their way and were unable to blunt Town’s resilient rearguard, leading to a scrappy finale and one which was shaded by the visitors, so much so it wasn’t always easy to tell which team were the league leaders and had the extra man.
Scunthorpe’s inability to put the game to bed when leading 1-0 only worked in Town’s favour who used the home side’s hesitancy as encouragement.
It’s sometimes thought that playing against 10 man can be more difficult than 11 and that was somewhat true here, Scunthorpe unable to figure out how best to stifle and get at Northampton once they lost Taylor.
Credit must go to Rob Page for his tactical tweak after the red card which kept his side on the front foot, only aided by the introduction of the vibrant Sam Hoskins on the right and the tenacity of goalscorer Jak McCourt in midfield.
Hoskins went as close to winning it as anyone when his long-range attempt was beaten away by Luke Daniels and after some late huffing and puffing by Scunthorpe, the final whistle signalled a fair result and a point gained by the Cobblers.
There’s no better way to measure yourself than against the best and if this is a sign of things to come, it bodes well for Page’s men.
A point away at the league leaders will always warrant deserved praise, of course, but what will really make a few sit up and take notice of this Cobblers team is the manner in which it was gained. A goal down, a man down, away from home at the league leaders – but never out.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Fine reaction save early on denied Morris who got his own back from another free-kick later in the half, otherwise had little to do... 7
Brendan Moloney - Outstanding performance. Not only did he cause havoc with his driving, marauding runs forward on the right, he had an end product to show for it and could have had three or four assists on another day. Dependable at the back as always too... 9 CHRON STAR MAN
Zander Diamond - Could have seen red for a risky challenge on Hopper when the United man was bearing down on goal, but in general this was another excellent display at the heart of defence... 8
Lewin Nyatanga - Relatively unruffled despite being tangled up on occasion by United’s tricky front three, provides good competition for Zakuani... 8
David Buchanan - Brilliant block denied the lively Holmes a certain goal as he used all of his nous to keep the fleet-footed winger as quiet as possible... 8
Jak McCourt - Real nuisance in midfield, regularly winning the ball back to prevent United from countering, doing the often unheralded work to great effect. Also softened the blow of Taylor’s red by getting forward more, none more so than when scoring his first goal for the club... 8
Paul Anderson - Didn’t really get himself into the game, though did link well with Moloney prior to his withdrawal... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Conceded a cheap free-kick which led to United’s opener. Couldn’t get a foothold until the second-half when he saw more of the ball and was able to grapple control... 7
Matty Taylor - Caused problems with his set-pieces in the first-half and had more of an impact from open play in the second until his red card, which was perhaps slightly harsh but his reaction suggested he knew it was a poor challenge... 5
JJ Hooper - Was a handful on the left, highlighted by his excellent work for the equaliser. End product is indifferent though, exemplified by his bad miss just before Morris’ opener... 7
Alex Revell - Should have done better with an early header but his brilliant flick created the leveller... 7
Sam Hoskins - 7
Marc Richards - 6