VIDEO: Oxford United 1 Northampton Town 1 - Tom Vickers’ view and player ratings

OPPORTUNITY MISSED - Zander Diamond shows his disappointment after missing a chance against Oxford United (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
OPPORTUNITY MISSED - Zander Diamond shows his disappointment after missing a chance against Oxford United (Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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The three-sided Kassam Stadium witnessed a one-sided game on Tuesday night.

But rather than the home team dominating proceedings, it was the Cobblers, backed by 610 away fans, who exhibited their class.

That was until it came to converting chances in the opposition penalty area.

Town could, and probably should, have been three goals to the good at half-time.

But their profligacy, particularly with openings from set pieces, was to cost them dear in the last knockings of the game.

Had Cobblers not already admitted their play-off hopes were over, following Saturday’s defeat at Stevenage, Alex MacDonald’s late strike would have felt like a dagger to the heart.

As it was, it was frustrating and disappointing, but not fatal, as the top-seven bid had already fallen by the wayside.

And perhaps this game showcased why Chris Wilder’s 11th-placed outfit have fallen just short this season.

Because their reliance on Marc Richards’ goals has meant that without the star striker, who made his return from injury from the bench in this game, they have struggled to seize opportunities.

But it is not necessarily the fault of the other forwards - the likes of Ivan Toney, who netted the Town goal in a lively display at the Kassam, or Accrington loanee James Gray.

Other members of the team must take responsibility, too.

On this occasion, it is fair to say centre-backs Lee Collins and Zander Diamond could have used first-half set-piece chances better.

And midfielders John-Joe O’Toole and Joel Byrom could have done better with the opportunities that came their way.

And at other times, when you wanted the predatory Richards to anticipate balls into the box and tuck them away, the void was evident.

On this occasion, it is fair to say centre-backs Lee Collins and Zander Diamond could have used first-half set-piece chances better

Tom Vickers

There is no doubt that this team has goals in it.

Only second-placed Shrewsbury and third-placed Wycombe have scored more than Cobblers in Sky Bet League two this season.

But it is about grabbing key goals at key moments in games.

Finishing teams off when the ropes around the ring are digging in their back.

But Cobblers didn’t do it.

Oxford were there for the taking, with their fans, who booed the team off at half-time, on the players’ backs and the men on the pitch struggling from start to (almost) finish.

They will know that they have stolen a point rather than earned it.

But the positive for Cobblers is that they can at least walk away knowing they deserved more.

That they were by far the better team and that they almost avenged the 3-1 defeat to the U’s back in October.

This Cobblers team has evolved impressively since then.

But it is clear that they are not quite where they or the ambitious Wilder want them to be just yet.

How they rated...

SHWAN JALAL

Enjoyed a stress-free first half, but panicked a little under pressure in the second period and couldn’t do enough to prevent the Oxford goal... 6

EVAN HORWOOD

Played his part in the Oxford equaliser, but had been assured until then, also getting forward at will... 6

LEE COLLINS

A commanding display from the centre-back, who headed everything that came his way and looked accomplished with the ball at his feet... 7

ZANDER DIAMOND

Like Collins, he hardly gave the opposition strikers a sniff, but will be disappointed not to have tested the keeper with a header at the other end... 7

BRENDAN MOLONEY

A good performance from the full-back as he flew forward to support the attack and looked useful in possession... 7

LAWSON D’ATH

Delivered a couple of decent crosses, but wasn’t quite as lively as Holmes on the other flank... 6

JOEL BYROM

Controlled the midfield for long periods, making some important tackles and keeping things simple... 7

JOHN-JOE O’TOOLE

Formed a tidy partnership with Byrom as the pair bossed proceedings, pulling the strings in a performance that should have yielded three points... 7

RICKY HOLMES

The wide man kept Oxford guessing and his work rate was impressive as even when he lost the ball he was still hounding the opposition... 7

DIEGO DE GIROLAMO

Plenty of energy and a bit of trickery from the front man and he narrowly failed to connect with a couple of teasing crosses... 7

IVAN TONEY - CHRON STAR MAN

Has been a key figure during the past few weeks and was at it again here, scoring the Cobblers goal and holding the ball up well... 8