John-Joe O’Toole once again underlined his undoubted potential in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with AFC Wimbledon, though Northampton can perhaps count themselves fortunate to come away with a point in a game that the home side dominated for large periods.
There was no shortage of goalmouth action in an entertaining and highly watchable encounter, and it was Wimbledon who created the clearer opportunities as Northampton’s struggle for supremacy when in possession coupled with their vulnerability against the home side’s pacy forwards cost them any chance of taking all three points.
Northampton did, however, finish both halves the stronger team and after Adebayor Azeez had given Wimbledon a deserved lead on 24 minutes, O’Toole replied with a perfectly-placed header.
It was another timely reminder of O’Toole’s match-winning potential with the enigmatic midfielder heavily out of favour at Sixfields this season, but more showings like this one will do him no harm.
It was his second headed goal of the season, on just his second start of the season, and it was almost a carbon copy of his opening day strike against Bristol Rovers – guiding a David Buchanan cross into the far corner.
Prior to that, Azeez had given Wimbledon a lead which they had fully warranted and after Adebayor Akinfenwa had caused his former side problems, it was the turn of substitute Lyle Taylor to combine with Azeez and torment the Northampton defence.
Both missed golden opportunities to give Wimbledon the lead, as did George Francomb, and it’s no exaggeration to suggest the Dons could have been out of sight by the hour-mark with debutant Semi Ajayi also wasting presentable chances as he twice went close from corners, first putting a free header over before being denied by an acrobatic save from Adam Smith.
But Wimbledon’s inability to finish off those opportunities gave Northampton the chance to snatch victory in the closing stages with Nicky Adams and Sam Hoskins both bright in the final 20 minutes.
Wilder had opted to start with a straight 4-4-2 with both Marc Richards and Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting up front, however the introduction of Hoskins just short of the hour-mark and a switch to 4-4-1-1 was proceeded by Town’s best spell of the game.
But the Cobblers were unable to find a winner as they were held to a second successive 1-1 draw.
Fifteen points from 10 games represents a solid if unspectacular start to the season, and Wilder will now be desperate to get some key players back from injury as he seeks a consistent run of results in order to sustain a play-off push.
Next up, a trip to league leaders Wycombe on Saturday.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Not as busy as he was on Saturday but pulled off one excellent save from Ajayi’s header. Had little chance with Azeez’s goal... 7
Darnell Furlong - Had his hands full with the tricky Barcham early on but restricted the danger after half-time and offered an attacking threat late on... 6.5
Zander Diamond - Poor mistake for Wimbledon’s goal but improved as the game wore on. Cleared two or three dangerous crosses with timely headers... 6
Shaun Brisley - Struggled with cope against Akinfenwa’s physical presence but did pull off one crucial last-ditch tackle to prevent the forward from getting through on goal. Added to Wilder’s injury woes when taken off after half-time... 6
David Buchanan - Perhaps not 100% fit but made a couple of vital interceptions at the back post and set up O’Toole’s goal with a fine cross... 7
Joel Byrom - Northampton’s lack of composure on the ball meant the game virtually bypassed him. Just couldn’t get his foot on the ball at all... 6
John-Joe O’Toole - Best Northampton player on the pitch in the first half and scored with a well-placed header. Faded as the game wore on though... 7 CHRON STAR MAN
Lawson D’Ath - Wasteful in possession and squandered a couple of opportunities when Northampton looked to counter... 6
Nicky Adams - Ineffective first half before bursting into life in the final 20 minutes. Twice came close to scoring and put a couple of wicked balls into the box to no avail... 6.5
Marc Richards - Didn’t get much joy against Wimbledon’s two big centre-backs but became more involved in the latter stages... 6
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Was kept quiet by the home defence. Did have one opportunity early on but Ajayi got back well to block... 6
Sam Hoskins - Always brings renewed thrust and momentum when he comes on. Visibly lifted Northampton’s performance with the Cobblers much improved in the final half hour... 7
Ryan Cresswell - 6
Chris Hackett - 6