Van Veen at the double but Deegan leaves it late to rescue a point for Cambridge
Two brilliant finishes from Kevin van Veen were not enough for Cobblers to earn their first three points of the season as they twice surrendered the lead in a frustrating 2-2 draw against Cambridge United at the PTS Academy Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For the second week in a row Northampton had to settle for a share of the spoils having hit the front in the second-half - twice on this occasion - with Gary Deegan scoring an 87th minute equaliser for United, who were second best for much of the contest.
The balance of power in the first-half belonged to Town who played well in patches but it was a familiar story as they created and squandered numerous opportunities and were fortunate not to be punished by United just before half-time.
The finishing touch finally arrived in the second-half through a confident, rejuvenated van Veen who handed Town the lead with two emphatic finishes but George Maris and then Deegan meant Dean Austin and his team were made to reflect on a case of what might have been.
There can be no doubt that Cobblers are a much-improved attacking outfit under Austin this season and they again played some easy-on-the-eye stuff at times on Saturday - creating chances almost at will when they fancied it - but they will need to tighten up at the back and cut out silly mistakes to stop leaking needless points.
The team news revealed only one change from Town's last league outing as Sam Foley replaced John-Joe O'Toole, who joined Junior Morias on the bench, although Shaun McWilliams was deemed not fit enough and missed out altogether.
An open start offered hints of both teams' attacking capabilities and David Cornell passed an early test of his handling when getting down to his right to gather Brad Halliday's 20-yard shot.
There was space to exploit at each end, especially for Town but they were unable to capitalise on several promising opportunities on the counter-attack with Sam Hoskins twice hitting crosses straight into defenders and then van Veen quickly closed down after space had opened up for him.
The best move of the game came on 28 minutes and brought a diving save from Dimitar Mitov when Hoskins slipped in van Veen on the right and he pulled the ball back to Andy Williams, whose side-footed finish towards the far corner was beaten away by United's flying goalkeeper.
That prompted a dominant 10-minute period for the home side during which Hoskins had a shot blocked from inside the box and then Foley lofted high and wide after he had done well to jink beyond two defenders.
Another chance went begging for Cobblers when Matt Crooks started but couldn't quite finish off a sweeping move, rolling wide from 12 yards after Hoskins' cross had only been half cleared.
Cambridge weathered the storm and almost hit Town with the sucker-punch as half-time approached when David Buchanan was perfectly positioned to brilliantly hack Jabo Ibehre's header off the line, before Adeb Azeez also went close form a corner.
The second-half started resumed with Cobblers on top and they were close to breaking the deadline on two occasions, the first seeing Hoskins unable to pick out three men in the box before van Veen created a chance all by himself when shooting just wide from the edge of the box.
Finally, though, Town found the back of the net and it was the product of another tremendous move from deep, all stemming from a Cambridge corner. Hoskins was the instigator as he produced terrific vision to pick out Powell who did equally well to find van Veen and it was an excellent finish, smashed into the top corner.
Town were fortunate not to concede straight away - a la Carlisle - when Azeez dallied just yards out from goal and allowed Hakeem Odoffin to get in a last-ditch tackle before the ball was scrambled away.
Van Veen then missed the chance to double his tally and Crooks spurned an even better opportunity to give Town breathing space, heading over when completely unmarked inside the six-yard box.
And those misses would come back to haunt the hosts 20 minutes from time when United got back level. Odoffin was at fault as his poor clearing header fell at the feet of Maris who applied a clam finish into the bottom corner.
Cobblers regained their composure, however, and got back on top before hitting the front for the second time. The goal came from a familiar source and again it was a terrific finish as van Veen, having closed down the clearance and held off the defender, fired home in off the crossbar.
But once again Northampton could do maintain their advantage. Cambridge applied late pressure and after Foley produced a superb goal-line clearance, Deegan was left unmarked to curl an exquisite finish into the far corner from 20 yards.
Cobblers went in search of a third goal in what time remained but, despite Ash Taylor going close with a header, the full-time whistle confirmed another rueful afternoon.
Cobblers: Cornell, Odoffin, Taylor (c), Pierre, Buchanan, Foley, Crooks, Powell (Bowditch 81), Hoskins, Williams (Morias 73), van Veen
Subs not used: Ward, Facey, Barnett, O'Toole, Waters
Cambridge: Mitov, Halliday, Carroll, Taft, Deegan (c), O'Neil (Brown 69), Darling, Maris, Lambe (Amoo 55), Azeez (Corr 81), Ibehre
Subs not used: Amoo, Dunk, Osadebe, John, Pilkington
Referee: Seb Stockbridge
Cambridge fans: 652