Super sub Smith salvages a point for Cobblers with late header at Mansfield Town
Harry Smith came off the bench to rescue a point for the Cobblers as his late header pegged Mansfield Town back to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
Andy Cook's long-range drive midway through the second-half put the Stags on track for only their first win in seven games, but Smith had other ideas and his looping header found the bottom corner to ensure Town left Field Mill with a point.
The visitors created several chances in the first 45 minutes but Sam Hoskins hit the crossbar after just 18 seconds and that would be the closest they came to scoring in a goalless half.
Mansfield improved after half-time although Cook's goal still came out of nothing, however Smith's perfectly-placed header was enough to keep Cobblers in the play-off places at Christmas.
Chris Lines was struggling with illness so missed out, replaced by the returning Alan McCormack, as manager Keith Curle made just the one change.
The visitors were almost ahead with just 18 seconds gone in a dramatic start at Field Mill when Sam Hoskins gathered Vadaine Oliver's flick and drove into the penalty box before smashing against the crossbar.
That was symbolic of a strong start by the visitors and they carved out an equally good opportunity 10 minutes later, this time Nicky Adams volleying Paul Anderson's cross straight at home stopper Bobby Olejnik
Mansfield gradually improved and went close on a couple of occasions, but Town continued to carry the greater threat as Ryan Watson's shot deflected wide before Scott Wharton glanced over from the subsequent corner.
Watson's high cross forced Olejnik to back-peddle and claw away from under his own crossbar while at the other end, Danny Rose was unable to generate the power to trouble David Cornell with a couple of half chances.
The busy Watson was also just a fraction away from getting his head on Michael Harriman's teasing cross but the game was to remain goalless at half-time.
Somehow Mansfield didn't take the lead 10 minutes into the second-half when Mal Benning's free-kick looked for all the world to have been turned home by Matt Preston, but the ball dribbled wide of the post.
CJ Hamilton missed the same post by a similar amount after skipping past Harriman and Curle then rolled the dice, sending on strikers Andy Williams and Smith and going to three big men up front.
But that backfired with 16 minutes to go when Mansfield hit the front. In similar vein to Exeter's opener two weeks ago, Cook cut inside and squeezed a shot inside the near post from 20 yards.
Nicky Maynard nearly put the game to bed when shooting wide five minutes later and the hosts then had a series of chances as Cobblers struggled to clear, Hamilton eventually blazing over the crossbar.
And those opportunities came back to bite Mansfield who, seconds later, were picking the ball out of their own net. There were only six minutes to go when Adams, once again the architect, saw his cross headed over Olejnik and into the bottom corner by Smith.
Cobblers looked the likelier to score an even later winner in the remaining time, which included seven minutes of added time, but in the end a draw was a fair outcome after what had been a game of two halves.
Mansfield: Olejnik, Benning, Preston, Bishop, MacDonald, Tomlinson (Smith 80), Sweeney (c), Cook (Davies 82), Clarke, Hamilton, Rose (Maynard 69)
Subs not used: Logan, Khan, Maynard, Knowles
Cobblers: Cornell, Goode (c), Turnbull, Wharton, Harriman (Martin 80), McCormack (Williams 63), Watson, Anderson (Smith 63), Adams, Hoskins, Oliver
Subs not used: Arnold, Hall-Johnson, McWilliams, Warburton
Referee: Alan Young
Cobblers fans: 474