Lincoln City 1 Northampton Town 1 – match review and highlights

Jordan Turnbull enjoyed another solid game in central midfield for the Cobblers. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds
Jordan Turnbull enjoyed another solid game in central midfield for the Cobblers. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds

A week is a long time in football but, even so, when the Cobblers slowly trudged off the field after their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Colchester United only last Saturday, few could have imagined such a positive and swift turnaround in fortunes.

Many were left fearing the worst following that trouncing against the U’s, particularly given Town’s next two fixtures were both away from home, both at teams with promotion aspirations; one going for the play-offs and the other riding high atop League Two.

So although this 1-1 draw at Lincoln City was accompanied by a tinge of disappointment come full-time, when you consider the sorry state the Cobblers were in this time last week, you can’t be turning your noses up at a point on the road to the league leaders, irrespective of the circumstances.

There’s an argument to be had that this was a missed opportunity for Town to claim a major scalp and become only the second visiting team to take all three points at Sincil Bank this season.

And given they were up against 10 men for almost an hour, it’s a fair argument.

But beggars can’t be choosers and it’s all about taking baby steps for the Cobblers who remain at an early stage of their delicate rebuilding process.

Following their 4-0 thrashing to Colchester this time last week, fears of relegation were at an all-time high and back-to-back away games at Tranmere and Lincoln looked a daunting, even scary, prospect.

So four points from those two games represents a productive and positive four days’ work and gives them plenty of room for manoeuvre over the final 14 games of the season. Barring a major disaster, they’ll be playing EFL football again next year.

It’s almost as if the Cobblers needed that humbling defeat to Colchester to jolt them into action and make them fully aware of the seriousness of the situation because this past week they have produced two of their most battling, committed and organised performances of the whole season.

It’s possibly not healthy for a team to require such an emphatic defeat to finally wake up and sort themselves out, but Town deserve credit for an excellent reaction this week, as good as anyone could have predicted seven days ago.

Saturday’s game at Sincil Bank was low on clear-cut chances but high on drama, and in the end both teams were content enough with their point, albeit in the knowledge that it might well have been better.

Lincoln proved the stats right in the first-half as they created one chance – and only a half chance – and scored one goal, Bruno Andrade’s crisp finish finding the bottom corner after the visiting defence were slow to react to John Akinde’s knockdown.

Little of note happened in the immediate aftermath of that goal but it was what occurred before half-time that swung the match in Northampton’s favour. Referee Michael Salisbury will not be welcomed back to Lincolnshire any time soon but he got the two big decisions correct, including Harry Anderson’s red card for his high, reckless lunge on David Buchanan.

It still could have been a frustrating second-half for the Cobblers despite having an extra man, but, crucially, they got back on level terms with the last kick of the opening period, Aaron Pierre finishing off good work from Jack Bridge for his sixth of the season. Only Andy Williams has more.

It’s almost as if the Cobblers needed that humbling defeat to Colchester to jolt them into action and make them fully aware of the seriousness of the situation because this past week they have produced two of their most battling, committed and organised performances of the whole season.

The second-half was an odd watch. It was almost as if the two teams were unsure how to approach it; whether to go for the victory or take the draw. A point was an acceptable outcome for both and yet there was a sense that either could so easily have gone and won it had they been willing to take a risk or two.

Of what half chances there were, most fell to Northampton. John Akinde shot wide 30 seconds after the restart, but then Jordan Turnbull sliced over from range, Ash Taylor headed narrowly off target from a corner and Timi Elsnik’s deflected shot so nearly sneaked into the corner. Jack Bridge also had the ball in the net, albeit long after the flag was raised.

Lincoln finished on top and referee Salisbury did well to stand strong in the face of relentless pressure, three times asked to point to the spot by incandescent home players, supporters and coaches in stoppage-time and three times he refused. Rightly so, too.

Salisbury took a lot of flak but he didn’t buckle under the pressure and correctly ruled O’Toole was too close to Tom Pett’s cross for his handball to possibly be deliberate, even if his arm was raised. As for the other two penalty shouts, both were optimistic at best.

So it could have been better, it could have been worse. But what can’t be disputed is the fact the Cobblers have enjoyed an excellent and important week on the road, one which has taken them a huge, potentially decisive, step to safety this season.

A win against Crawley this coming weekend would finally allow fans to relax and look forward to a stress-free end to the season. Knowing the Cobblers though, it’s unlikely to be quite that straightforward.

(Player ratings will be on the website later this afternoon)