Cobblers will have to win a replay at Scunthorpe United next week if they want to extend their stay in this year’s FA Cup after Saturday’s first round tie at Sixfields ended in a goalless draw.
A predictably sparse crowd was in attendance for this all Sky Bet League One clash and the two teams cancelled each other out, especially during a second-half when there was a distinct lack of goalmouth action.
The Cobblers were the better team in the first half, and should have taken a lead into the break, but chances went begging and those misses proved costly.
The replay will likely take place at Glanford Park a week on Tuesday.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink opted for two changes from his last team with David Cornell and Lewis McGugan both recalled in place of Matt Ingram, who was refused permission to play by parent club Queens Park Rangers, and Matt Grimes, who was rested.
Third-choice goalkeeper Luke Coddington, recalled from a loan spell at Wrexham, returned to the bench bench alongside new signing Ryan McGivern, who only joined the club on Friday.
After a tentative start, Northampton burst into life with a flurry of activity around the 10-minute mark as they struck the woodwork twice in the space of 90 seconds.
The first of those incidents should have resulted in a goal and Aaron Pierre’s unmarked header may have crossed the line after clattering off the underside of the crossbar, but the linesman kept his flag down despite protects.
McGugan then rattled the post with a venomous free-kick moments later as the Cobblers twice went agonisingly close an early opener, but they didn’t have things all their own way with Jordan Clarke volleying over at the other end.
The Cobblers by and large remained the better side in an entertaining and open first-half, however, and McGugan’s particularly caused the visitors issues with his dangerous set-pieces.
Another well-struck free-kick grazed the top of the wall, and from the resulting corner, Ash Taylor nodded McGugan’s delivery into the path of Pierre whose header was cleared off the line by Lee Novak.
Hakeeb Adelakun shot over when well-placed in United’s best chance of what turned out to be a goalless first-half as Town kept their higher-placed visitors in check.
The second period took a while to get going as the two teams jostled for superiority without either really being able to take a firm grip, although Town did enjoy more of the ball as substitute Marc Richards twice headed off target.
Approaching the midpoint of the second-half, Scunthorpe had yet to bring Cornell into meaningful action but he had to be alert when clawing away Josh Morris’ well-struck effort.
A replay suited neither team given their league commitments and both were keen to find a winner in the remaining 20 minutes, but goalmouth action had almost completely dried up.
The only opportunity either side had to win it came in the second of four added minutes when Cameron Burgess, all alone in the penalty box, headed Morris’s outswinging corner wide, and that miss means both sides will have to do it all over again.
Cobblers: Cornell, McWilliams, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan (c), Poole, O’Toole (Richards 51), McGugan, Hoskins (Waters 71), Powell, Long (Bowditch 86)
Subs not used: Coddington, Smith, McGivern, Kasim
Scunthorpe: Gilks, Clarke, Crofts, Wallace, Ojo, Morris, Hopper, Adelakun (Holmes 65), Novak (Van Veen 77), Burgess, McArdle (c)
Subs not used: Watson, Madden, Lewis, Goode, Butroid
Referee: Robert Jones
Scunthorpe fans: 277