VIDEO: AFC Wimbledon 2 Northampton Town 2 - Jeremy Casey’s view and player ratings

DOING THE HARD YARDS - as well as scoring twice, Jimmy Gray had to run his socks off as the lone striker for the Cobblers at Wimbledon (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
DOING THE HARD YARDS - as well as scoring twice, Jimmy Gray had to run his socks off as the lone striker for the Cobblers at Wimbledon (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
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The Cobblers have missed injured leading scorer Marc Richards, no question, but in Jimmy Gray, manager Chris Wilder may well have unearthed a real gem.

The 22-year-old joined the Cobblers on loan at the beginning of March, as he was unable to get into the team at Sky Bet League Two rivals Accrington Stanley.

Gray has impressed in virtually every game he has played for the Cobblers since making the switch from the Crown Ground, but in the first few he was missing that final and crucial touch - a goal.

But he broke his duck in the 2-1 win over Luton Town last weekend, and then on Friday scored two more as he inspired the Cobblers to fight back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at AFC Wimbledon.

At the Cherry Red Records Stadium he looked every inch the complete league two centre forward.

In the first-half he was isloated for long periods.

The Cobblers lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, but wide men Ricky Holmes and Lawson D’Ath couldn’t offer sufficient support in a scrappy game, with both sides seemingly intent on giving the ball away as quickly as possible.

But although isolated, Gray worked hard, fought for every ball, and was proving a handful for the Dons defenders.

In the second half, with more support around him - particularly after the introduction of Ivan Toney - Gray became even more of a handful, and offered a genuine goal threat.

His first goal owed a lot to a clever dummy from Toney, and although Gray’s right-foot finish wasn’t the cleanest, the important thing was the ball ended up in the net.

Gray’s second was a class finish, the striker rising highest and directing a powerful a header into the corner and beyond Wimbledon goalkeeper Ross Worner.

Indeed, it was a finish the injured Richards, watching on from the visitors dugout, would have been very proud of.

Gray is the latest in what is becoming a long line of players picked up by Wilder that are unwanted or out of favour at other clubs.

As well as Gray, you can add the likes of Holmes, D’Ath, Jason Taylor and Brendan Moloney.

In the second half, with more support around him - particularly after the introduction of Ivan Toney - Gray became even more of a handful, and offered a genuine goal threat

Jeremy Casey

You could even throw in Zander Diamond and Ryan Cresswell too.

It is an impressive knack the Town manager has, and long may it continue.

But as good and welcome as the performance of Gray was, and as uplifting the team’s fightback was at Wimbledon, there were areas of concern.

As Wilder stated afterwards, there is no doubting the character of this squad, and no doubting their attacking ability.

But the defensive performance in the opening 15 minutes of the second half was little short of abysmal.

Bad habits from earlier in the season returned, with players switching off, letting their men run beyond them, and losing their personal battles.

Adebayo Akinfenwa claimed the assists for both goals, with a headed knock down and then a lay-off, but he didn’t have to work too hard to make his mark.

The space allowed to Sean Rigg in the penalty area for the opener was bad enough, but the acres of space awarded to a series of players for the second was reminiscent of a team resigned to relegation, rather than one pushing for the play-offs.

But let’s keepp things positive.

The attacking response to those quickfire goals was exceptional, and by the end end of the game - with the defence tightened up again - it was the Cobblers that looked the more likely to gain all three points rather than the one they travelled home with.

And it is a point that could yet prove a crucial one come the end of the season.

Player ratings

MATT DUKE - apart from a 10-minute spell in the second half, had relatively little to do. No chance with either goal - 6

BRENDAN MOLONEY - solid in defence, but not as involved in attack as usual. Did send in excellent free-kick for second goal though - 6

ZANDER DIAMOND - like the rest of the defence, seemed in control for all but a mad 10 minutes. Sacrificed in tactical switch - 6

RYAN CRESSWELL - felt he was fouled by Adebayo Akinfenwa for Wimbledon’s opener, but should have been stronger - 6

LEE COLLINS - busted a gut on more than one occasion to join in with attacks down the left wing. Pick of the defenders - 7

LAWSON D’ATH - showed some neat touches, but was on the fringes of the game too much. Not helped by difficult playing surface - 6

JASON TAYLOR - the defensive screen in front of Akinfenwa for the many long balls pumped forward, and did a decent job - 6

JOEL BYROM - worked hard throughout and tried to get on the ball in an overcrowded central midfield area - 6

RICKY HOLMES - quiet afternoon by his recent standards, but still set up opening goal and tested the opposing goalkeeper twice - 6

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE - playing a deeper role than usual, O’Toole did work hard, but he’s struggling to make any sort of impression - 6

JAMES GRAY - completely isolated in the first half, he never let his head drop, and when he got support in the second half scored twice - 8 STAR MAN

Substitutes

IVAN TONEY (for O’Toole 57 minutes) it was 0-0 when he came on, and three minutes later Town were 2-0 down. Played his part in comeback, with lovely dummy for Gray’s opener - 6

CHRIS HACKETT (for Diamond, 68 mins) played his part in a strong attacking finish from the Cobblers - 6

DARREN CARTER (for D’Ath, 90 mins)

Not used: Perry, Horwood, Hornby, Jalal