Cobblers saw another opportunity make up ground on the play-offs slip through their fingers when held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Swindon Town on Boxing Day.
Following the pattern of previous home games against Grimsby and Stevenage, Town were in the box seat for most of the first-half and deservedly held sway at half-time but they could not maintain their superiority for the whole game.
Despite producing their best half of football for a long time in the opening period, they only had Andy Williams’ fourth goal in four games to show for their efforts.
A hatful of chances came and went and Cobblers were made to pay by familiar face Keshi Anderson, whose crisp finish on his return to the PTS salvaged a point for the away side.
Town drop a place to 15th in League Two and are now closer to the relegation zone than the play-offs.
Keith Curle recalled Williams and Hakeem Odoffin to the team while Swindon’s squad included four ex-Cobblers, Matt Taylor and Keshi Anderson starting and Marc Richards and Jak McCourt on the bench.
Curle threw a curveball with the way his time lined up as Jordan Turnbull started in central midfield, Shaun McWilliams moved across to wing-back and Odoffin played as the middle man of a back three.
But Town’s experimental team were ahead inside six minutes and Turnbull was at the heart of it.
He won the ball back in midfield and released Kevin van Veen whose superb cross from the right gave Williams a simple volleyed finish at the back post.
One should have been two only a few minutes later but visiting ‘keeper Lawrence Vigouroux reacted smartly to thwart van Veen before Matt Crooks, with the goal gaping, side-footed the rebound off target.
Swindon, after a sluggish first 10 minutes, belatedly woke from their slumbers start and enjoyed the occasional spell of pressure, but Cobblers threatened virtually every time they attacked.
Vigouroux continued to be in the action when at full stretch again to keep out Williams before Turnbull flashed an effort wide from 20 yards.
Another chance came and went for the Cobblers on the half-hour when a defensive tackle turned into a perfect through ball to Williams, but Vigouroux just about got enough on his save to allow Sid Nelson to rush back and clear off the line.
David Buchanan saw another effort blocked and Town were fortunate not to be punished for their wasteful finishing as Michael Doughty struck the base of the post before the first-half was out.
It took a while for the second period to get going but Swindon levelled things up just past the hour-mark, Anderson rifling home from an acute angle after the visitors had cut Town apart through the middle.
Curle sent on Sam Foley and Jack Bridge but his side were struggling to replicate their first-half performance and with 20 minutes to go a winning goal could have gone either way.
Controversy reigned with 10 minutes left when the referee appeared to award Northampton a penalty following a collision between Crooks and Michael Woolery inside the box, only to swiftly overturn the decision and give the visitors a free-kick.
Turnbull produced a vital clearance from under his own crossbar and Aaron Pierre hacked Woolery’s shot off the line in the closing stages before Town were inches away themselves, Bridge smacking the crossbar with a fine curling effort in the game’s final chance.
Cobblers: Cornell, Taylor, Turnbull, Pierre, Odoffin (Foley 70), Buchanan (c) (Bridge 70), McWilliams, Crooks, Bowditch (Powell 80), KvV, Williams.
Subs not used: Coddington, Hoskins, Waters, Morias
Swindon: Vigouroux, Knoyle, Doughty, Nelson, McGlashan (Adebayo 49), Dunne (McCourt 60), Woolery, Taylor, Conroy, Woolfenden, Anderson (Iandolo 89)
Subs not used: McCormick, Richards, Smith, Twine
Referee: Antony Coggins
Swindon fans: 841