>Northampton Town 1-1 Burton Albion
Saturday, January 30th 2010
The unbeaten run stretched to nine on Saturday afternoon as the Cobblers salvaged a point from a game that looked dead in the water before the introduction of two of our newest faces in the second half. Ian Sampson’s decision to bring on both Kevin Thornton and Stephen O’Flynn was the key as the Cobblers recovered from a goal down to draw and extend the run of games without defeat. Throw in a bit of Bayo rumour, three efforts that struck the woodwork and a last minute goal mouth scramble and you get another roller coaster Sixfields afternoon.
The main talking point in the stands in the first half was about nothing on the pitch – for that was awful – but instead focusing on the exclusion of Bayo Akinfenwa from the squad, apparently with a calf injury. Following the August transfer fiasco involving Danny Jackman you can forgive a few cynics who thought that the big man was packing his things rather than resting a wound.
Bayo’s replacement up front, Courtney Herbert, clearly needs a big arm over his shoulder as he learns the craft of League Two football. The youngster, so full of energy and raw talent, was paired with Billy McKay and looked lost without his foil of Akinfenwa. Expectations from his previous stint in the squad in November meant that the good old boo boys returned as Herbert endured an increasingly frustrating first half.
This was a first half that really never came to life and when you say that the Cobblers had the better of things with two wayward shots from distance you see that there was no real quality on show from either side and a half-time score of 0-0 suited both the match and the league positions that we both find ourselves in –twelfth and thirteenth before kick off.
Suddenly, the second half came to life. O’Flynn was thrown on in place of the flagging Herbert and so nearly scored straight away. A suspicious looking back pass denied the Irishman a touch though and a shocking, slow referee Mr Hall, waved play on.
It was inevitable that Burton would go up the other end to score, and this they did when Shaun Harrad produced a powerful volley that beat Dunn’s dive to his right hand side and the visitors were in front. Harrad was booked for taking his shirt off in celebration in front of his supporters.
Abdul Osman was brought off and the game began to turn as his replacement, Kevin Thornton, began to show his class and took hold of the game in midfield. Billy McKay was close to getting us back in the game shortly afterwards after being set up by O’Flynn but his curling effort came crashing back off the cross bar.
The Cobblers were getting more and more into the game and Thornton’s skill on the left produced a chance for his fellow Irishman O’Flynn but the defence coped well with the effort. With five minutes left, Luke Guttridge curled a free kick against the post and you started to think that the day belonged to Burton.
That was until Andy Holt suddenly found space on the left, having been thrown forward by Sammo in a late three man attacking force, and got on the end of O’Flynn’s flick to beat the Albion keeper with a left footed shot into the corner.
There was still time for late drama and the stage was set in stoppage time when Thornton lined up a free kick just outside the Albion area and curled it onto the under side of the cross bar before Ryan Glligan’s rebound was cleared off the line.
So the Cobblers had to settle for the point but after falling behind it was a good recovery and some sensible substitutions from Sammo. It’s also good to see him throw everything at the game in search of an equaliser with Andy Holt deployed as a third striker late on.
O’Flynn and Thornton were excellent and should the worst happen and Bayo leaves either now or in the summer we might not be quite so lost after all. A huge test away at playoff chasing Dagenham and Redbridge is next up and we have whole WEEK to prepare! It seems odd that there’s no midweeker this week but hopefully that gives Bayo some rest and also some time for the new claret heroes to blood themselves in even more.