The more this season has gone on, the more it has become dominated by two recurring themes: the amount of late goals in games involving the Cobblers and the regularity with which those games have ended in draws.
Seven of their last 10 matches in all competitions have seen the spoils shared, including four of the last five. In fact, no team in the entire EFL can better Northampton’s 12 league draws this season, and only three teams can match it; Championship duo Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest and fellow League Two outfit Mansfield Town.
While those statistics would appear to be at odds with Keith Curle’s claim that his side won’t ‘settle for draws’ and will always go for the win, what does back up the Cobblers boss is another increasingly common pattern.
Of Northampton’s last 11 games in all competitions, 12 goals have been scored in the final 15 minutes; seven for the Cobblers, five for the opposition. Seven have also come in the 88th minute or later.
The best example of that was the late mayhem at Yeovil Town just before Christmas where two goals in 90 seconds saw the spoils shared as Andy Williams’ 88th minute opener was cancelled out by Yoann Arquin’s 89th minute leveller, while a few weeks earlier at Lincoln City in the FA Cup, again Cobblers had a late goal wiped out as Bruno Andrade won it in stoppage-time after Kevin van Veen’s 81st minute equaliser.
“It’s a sign that we will fight to do the death and give everything and empty the tank at every opportunity,” said Curle when asked for his views on the constant late drama in Cobblers games.
“At times, because of that, you’re going to come up short and have a wonder strike in the 89th minute but, within that, 30 seconds earlier we have an advancing centre-back putting the ball into the box to try and win the game.
“We like winning games and we don’t settle for draws. Sometimes, when you lose, you have to learn and that’s important.”
That ‘advancing centre-back’ Curle refers to came in Town’s most recent game at Forest Green Rovers on New Year’s Day, which was an excellent demonstration of two teams going for the win as time ticked away.
With the scores level and Cobblers pushing bodies forward in injury-time, centre-back Jordan Turnbull was in the final third and saw his cross cleared, allowing Rovers to break and eventually leading to Theo Archibald’s 94th minute winner.
We like winning games and we don’t settle for draws. Sometimes, when you lose, you have to learn and that’s important.
“Can the goal be stopped? Yes. He’s having a pot shot from 24, 25 yards and that’s got to be stopped,” Curle continued.
“I don’t think we were short at the back. When the ball comes out, we had seven people behind the ball and you think ‘how many more do we need?!’
“But now’s not the time to talk about individual decision-making because potentially every goal can be deemed an error and there’s way of stopping every single goal.
“It’s an emotional game and there’s nothing worse than conceding a goal right in the last minute but there’s lots of positives we can take out of the game.”
Sam Foley, excellent throughout, was the man on target for the Cobblers against Rovers, but his 49th minute header was ultimately in vain thanks to Archibald’s late heroics.
“The lads were trying to find a winner because we wanted to win the game,” said Foley. “We’ve had plenty of draws recently and it’s all ifs and buts. If he sticks it in the stand we’re not having this conversation.
“The lads are giving everything and the more effort you produce, the more tired you’ll be. We showed that effort for 95 minutes and we’ve nicked late goals because of that. Unfortunately on Tuesday we were on the end of it.
“But it came from our attack so it wasn’t like we were penned in and we’re not fit enough. We wanted to find a winner but got caught.”