Harry Kewell made one change to the team that played out a dramatic 3-3 draw with Stevenage last weekend, Shaun Brisley dropping to the bench and Matt Tootle stepping in. That meant recent arrival Jamie Turley had recovered from a rib injury in time to line up alongside Elliott Ward in central defence, while Cedric Evina kept his place at left back. Jon Stead, captaining the side once again, was selected for his 550th league appearance with Kane Hemmings his partner once more.
Left-winger Lewis Alessandra claimed the game’s first shot on three minutes, cutting in from the left and striking the ball a couple of yards over. The hosts’ response came a minute later when John-Joe O’Toole’s 30-yard effort was comfortably saved by Ross Fitzsimons. Despite those early efforts it was proving to be a quiet opening to the match, with a booking for Cobblers captain Ash Taylor proving to be the next notable action on 21 minutes. It came after Enzio Boldewijn threaded a lovely ball through for Hemmings, who nudged the ball away from himself just in time to win the foul from the sliding Taylor. Northampton were struggling to break through Notts’ backline but had a chance on 23 minutes when Matt Crooks latched on to a ball over the top, taking his shot early on the bounce. Ross Fitzsimons showed excellent reactions to push the ball wide with a strong left hand. Jamie Turley was the first Notts name in the book after he caught Sam Hoskins with a flailing arm as half-time loomed. Notts went into the break in the ascendancy after creating two headed opportunities minutes before the whistle. The first went to Hemmings, who just got underneath Boldewijn’s cross from the right and headed the ball over. Next up it was Stead, the ball dropping on to his head after Evina’s cross had only been half-cleared. The forward tried to loop it into the far corner but could only land it on the roof of the net.
There were no changes for either side at the break and Notts had two half-chances early in the second half, Alessandra seeing a deflected effort punched out for a throw by Cobblers keeper David Cornell before Stead’s tame, left-footed effort was comfortably saved. Northampton’s retort came from left back David Buchanan, who fired the ball over the angle of post and crossbar to bring a dangerous period of play to an end. Boldewijn and Alessandra had swapped wings by this point and the Dutchman almost worked his way in from the left to score just before the hour. He played a neat one-two with Hemmings to buy himself some space in the area but could only direct his shot straight at Cornell. Kewell’s first change came on 63 minutes when Elliott Hewitt replaced Noor Husin in central midfield, but there was to be no immediate shift in the game’s pattern as the sides continued to cancel each other out. That could have all changed on 71 minutes when Hemmings brought the ball towards the Northampton penalty area and rifled a shot towards the top corner and only a brilliant save by the goalkeeper pushing his shot on to the bar prevented Notts taking the lead. Alessandra’s resultant corner caused chaos but the ball stayed out and the hosts were able to clear. Hewitt went into the book for kicking the ball away and Leon Barnett headed a corner wide as the game entered its final 15 minutes. Barnett went close with another headed effort as the clock continued to tick down, this time being denied by Fitzsimons low down at his post. The hosts were looking the more likely side to bag a late winner and they were left cursing a brilliant piece of defending by Tootle with minutes left on the clock. It came after a speedy Northampton breakaway which resulted in a hard, low cross being played into Notts’ penalty area. With a Northampton man lurking behind him and facing his own goal six yards out, Tootle did superbly to turn the ball wide of the far post with his first touch. The game was still anyone’s though, and Boldewijn tried one of his trademark efforts by cutting in from the left and firing an effort goalwards. Cornell spilled the inital effort, inviting a robust challenge from Hemmings, but held on to the ball at the second attempt. That was to be Boldewijn’s final action as he was replaced by young winger Sam Osborne, who scored two goals for the Under 23s in midweek. Four minutes were added on at the end of the match, the first of which saw Alessandra’s curling effort deflect behind for a corner in front of Notts’ 640 travelling fans. But it was so nearly Northampton’s supporters who were cheering a late, later winner as Kevin van Veen spurned an excellent opportunity after bursting into Notts’ area in the game’s final flurry.
Northampton Town: Cornell, Odofin, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan, Crooks, Foley, Hoskins, O’Toole, Bowditch (Bridge 79), van Veen.
Booked: Taylor, Crooks, van Veen.
Notts County: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Turley, Ward, Evina, Boldewijn (Osborne 89), Husin (Hewitt 63), Milsom, Alessandra, Hemmings, Stead.
Booked: Turley, Hewitt.