Van Veen gets off the mark as Cobblers and Carlisle play out entertaining draw
Kevin van Veen scored his maiden goal for the club as Cobblers chalked up their first point of the season with a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw at Carlisle United on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides enjoyed periods in the ascendancy at Brunton Park and a draw was ultimately a fair outcome although Town will be ruing their sloppiness having let the lead slip moments after going ahead in the second-half.
There was little in the first-half before Jamie Devitt's superb strike lifted the hosts and dented Town's confidence, but van Veen grabbed his maiden Northampton goal with a well-placed header to haul his side level at the break.
Previously, the Cobblers had struggled for cohesion and control but they were the better team either side of the break and that was underlined when Matt Crooks swept home just after the hour-mark.
Hallam Hope restored parity within 90 seconds, however, and it remained level until the final whistle despite further chances for both sides at either end, meaning Northampton notch their first point of the campaign, albeit one tinged with some disappointment.
Dean Austin made just one change to his team as Shaun McWilliams missed out with the hamstring injury picked up against Lincoln last week and was replaced by Kevin van Veen.
Van Veen partnered Andy Williams up front as Town lined-up in a 4-4-2, but they were grateful to goalkeeper David Cornell for not falling behind just three minutes in when he produced a smart stop to turn Hallam Hope's 20-yard effort onto the post.
Cobblers were almost playing 4-2-4 at times as wingers Daniel Powell and Sam Hoskins pushed high up the pitch but that at times left them vulnerable at the other end with Carlisle looking slightly more settled in the early stages.
Town grew into the game, though, and went close themselves on 19 minutes when Williams displayed excellent footwork to get into the box and his low cross deflected kindly for Powell, who dragged his shot wide.
An entertaining and open first-half continued when Ash Taylor's last-ditch tackle prevented United from getting in on goal before Jamie Devitt slashed wide after the ball dropped for him on the penalty spot.
Play went back up the other end where the lively Hoskins displayed slick footwork to beat his man and cross for Williams, who couldn't get the power or accuracy to beat Joe Fryer, and soon came the goal the game deserved.
Unfortunately for Town, it came for the home team. While Devitt finished superbly by thundering into the top corner from all of 30 yards, it was slack defending by Northampton who left the Carlisle man in acres of space from a quick free-kick.
Falling behind sucked all the confidence and belief out of the visitors and they were hanging on for dear life when van Veen handed them an unlikely lifeline.
After Taylor produced a vital block in his own box, the Dutchman bagged his first Cobblers goal when, against the run of play, Williams worked his way into the box and stood up a cross for van Veen who guided an excellent looping header over Fryer and into the bottom corner.
Having been on the ropes, Town then ended the opening half on top and almost took a lead into half-time as van Veen burst down the right and crossed for Hoskins whose glancing header drifted wide of the far post.
The influential Williams had Fryer scrambling across his goal straight after the restart when his long-range shot whistled fractionally wide as the second-half continued from where the first left off.
Neither side were able to grapple control of the game but there were half chances at both ends before Cobblers completed the turnaround shortly after the hour-mark through another neat goal.
Crooks started and ended the move, slipping the ball into the box where Hoskins returned the favour and the midfielder finished confidently with a first-time shot into the top corner.
But the visitors barely had time to finish their celebrations by the time their lead was wiped out. Virtually straight from kick-off, United attacked and the ball was fed through to Hope who never looked like missing as he swept into the bottom corner.
However, Town had edged the second-half and, despite the blow of being pegged back, continued to do so. They looked the more likely team to score next, albeit without creating a shedload of chances as Hoskins side-footed into the wrong side of the net from an acute angle and Taylor's 20-yard free-kick clattered into the wall.
But Cobblers then lost the momentum and the final 10 minutes were all about Carlisle who applied late pressure in search of a winning goal with Tom Parkes having a header cleared off the line and Regan Slater volleying straight Cornell.
United also had a strong penalty appeal turned down in stoppage-time when David Buchanan flung himself at a goalbound shot as Town just about held on.
Carlisle: Fryer, Grainger (c), Liddle, Parkes, Jones (Slater 43), Hope, Devitt, Glendon (Campbell 63), Bennett, Yates, Etuhu
Subs not used: Collin, Miller, Gerrard, Gillesphey, Adewusi
Cobblers: Cornell, Odoffin, Taylor (c), Pierre, Buchanan, Crooks, O'Toole (Foley 88), Powell (Bowditch 66), Hoskins, van Veen, Williams (Waters 73)
Subs not used: Coddington, Barnett, Turnbull, Bridge
Referee: Tom Neild
Cobblers fans: 349