After a scrappy afternoon at Sincil Bank, the points were shared between The Imps and Northampton Town in a game which had plenty of intrigue if not goalscoring chances. City’s point gained moves them three points ahead of second placed Mansfield Town in the SkyBet League Two table.
Bruno Andrade netted another stunning strike for the second successive week to put The Imps into a first half lead but following the dismissal of Harry Anderson five minutes before half time, the Cobblers profited from the advantage by netting through Aaron Pierre on the stroke of the break. Despite a real push from the hosts, they just couldn’t get their noses back in front and the visiting side were no doubt happy to leave Lincolnshire with a point.
City made two changes from the team which started the game against Notts County last weekend, Cian Bolger returned to the line up along with Harry Anderson as Michael Bostwick and Shay McCartan missed out.
There was an almost sell-out crowd at Sincil Bank for the third clash between The Imps and The Cobblers this season and the game got underway with bright winter sunshine casting shadows across the pitch, it was the home side who started the brighter by winning an early corner. The set piece didn’t bring a scoring opportunity but it was an indication of the intentions of Danny Cowley’s City side.
However, despite the confidence of the hosts it was Northampton who caused the first concern in either area as they almost profited after a little hesitation in the City final third, but Harry Toffolo was johnny on the spot, sharp to clear the danger as Sam Hoskins looked to bear down on Grant Smith’s goal. The Imps were quick to put their foot back on the pedal and won a second corner with just ten minutes gone, Cian Bolger received the ball at the back post following Jason Shackell’s header but Bolger’s low driven effort was blocked before being eventually cleared.
City were controlling the game and similarly to the game last week, were playing some attractive football, staying patient and waiting for the chance to pounce. Bruno Andrade was causing problems down the left and the ever-busy Anderson down the right being just as effective, but the visitors were defending well, keeping their shape and limiting The Imps’ opportunities to a minimum.
Naturally the game would ebb and flow, with the Cobblers obtaining the occasional chance, Jack Bridge saw a shot blocked by Bolger being the closest the visitors would get to the goal in the opening 25 minutes. But the visitors were soon thinking about what might have been as City took the lead with a wonderfully worked strike crafted from the right hand side, a clipped ball into the box was expertly nodded across by Akinde to ANDRADE who made no mistake, drilling home from the edge of the box.
City’s intensity didn’t let up, despite losing Lee Frecklington to an injury with Tom Pett coming on and slipping straight into the game in central midfield, Akinde was battling with Ash Taylor and the Cobbler’s centre half was clearly perturbed as The Imps’ striker give him no rest whatsoever. Anderson was dismissed for a foul on David Buchanan just before the break, giving the visiting side hope. The City man was chasing an overhit first touch but Buchanan got there just ahead of Anderson and the pair clashed resulting in the number 26 being sent from the field.
In injury time late in the first half the Cobblers were to level things up, after Smith had done extremely well to save a curling drive from a Hoskins free kick, the resulting corner was swept home by Aaron Pierre.
The Imps 1 Northampton Town 1
With the sun going down there was a distinct chill in the air ahead of the second half getting underway, but the supporters were doing their most to keep themselves warm and they were almost given the perfect way to do so courtesy of Akinde. Right from the restart the ball was swung out by Jason Shackell onto the left wing where Akinde won the ball and beat both Goode and Taylor to the ball before smashing a low curling effort which went just the wrong side of the upright and out for a goal kick.
The numerical disadvantage for the hosts didn’t seem to be too much of a hindrance as Andrade was again tormenting the Cobblers down the left, it was often taking two men to halt the progress of the City number 11 who had the bit between his teeth.
Jordan Turnbull looked to make his mark on the game for the visitors as he tried a half volley after the ball fell to him from a deep throw into the City box, The Cobbler’s number 18 though couldn’t keep it down and it looped harmlessly over the frame of the goal with Smith covering his goal.
Andrade’s drive and determination to get City forward was halted by Taylor’s block tacle before Rowe’s low drive was blocked, then Andrade nodded over a bouncing ball at the back post but the flag was up for offside as The Imps were looking dangerous. Northampton tried to counter by throwing more men forward and brought on Timi Elsnik for Shaun McWilliams to aid their attacking cause. Taylor leapt to meet a corner and nodded wide as the visitors tried to gain some momentum but City’s feathers remained unruffled.
The home side were doing everything to regain the lead, looking to retain possession where possible and weren’t afraid to fire shots away given the chance, Pett did well to create space as he was tightly marked, but his wicked curler was well watched by David Cornell in the Cobbler’s goal who saved.
Northampton were trying to exploit any extra space and with the game going into the final ten minutes they were aiming to get the better of any tired legs in the City camp, Shackell and Bolger were defending manfully and with The Imps defending so well, holding station positionally, it was forcing the Cobblers into mistakes in attacking areas.
City brought on Lee Angol and Mark O’Hara and they were looking the more likely to score the third and decisive goal of the game with the clock ticking towards full time, Andrade’s low effort was blocked deep inside the Cobbler’s area as the supporters got right behind their side urging them forward right to the last but the visiting side survived a final push from The Imps which included two late penalty claims to earn a point.
The Imps 1 Northampton Town 1
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
19 Danny ROWE
23 Neal EARDLEY
24 Cian BOLGER
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
1 Josh VICKERS
6 Mark O’HARA (80’ for O’Connor)
7 Tom PETT (33’ for Frecklington)
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Lee ANGOL (74’ for Akinde)
20 James BROWN
25 Jordan ROBERTS
GOAL: Andrade 27’
Red Card: Anderson 41’
1 David CORNELL
2 Shay FACEY
3 David BUCHANAN
4 Charlie GOODE
6 Ash TAYLOR
7 Sam HOSKINS
16 Aaron PIERRE
17 Shaun McWILLIAMS
18 Jordan TURNBULL
19 Jack BRIDGE
21 John-Joe O’TOOLE
30 Luke CODDINGTON
9 Andy WILLIAMS
10 Joe POWELL
11 Daniel POWELL (54’ for Facey)
14 Junior MORAIS (80’ for Bridge)
15 Dean BOWDITCH
22 Timi ELSNIK (64’ for McWilliams)
Booked: Buchanan 13’ Goode 39’ Taylor 61’ Elsnik 67’
Goal: Pierre 45'
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Assistants: Stephen Wade & Richard Wigglesworth
4th Official: Joe Simpson
Attendance: 9,352 (482 Northampton supporters)