Leaders Cobblers denied win by sharp Taylor finish
Table-topping Cobblers were held to their second successive draw as Lyle Taylor's second-half strike ensured AFC Wimbledon left Sixfields with a deserved point following a thrilling League Two encounter.
After Saturday’s goalless draw at Hartlepool, Chris Wilder reverted to the 4-3-2-1 system which had worked so effectively earlier in the season but Northampton were matched by an impressive Wimbledon outfit throughout as the visitors, chasing an eighth win in 10, twice went close early on.
As the first half wore on, however, Northampton slowly gained the upper-hand as James Collins was denied by a fine save before John-Joe O’Toole forced the ball over the line from a corner.
The opening 45 minutes had been an entertaining watch but it made way for a breathless and frenetic second half that swung from end-to-end.
Taylor brought Dons back on level terms with a fine finish on 62 minutes and both sides had chances to win it but neither could find the winning goal in the remaining half-hour
The final outcome was a fair reflection of an excellent game, though, as two impressive sides chasing promotion out of League Two went toe-to-toe.
With Accrington losing at Yeovil, Northampton are now 19 points clear of fourth place.
Wilder rung the changes with Luke Prosser making his full debut and he was one of five players to come in as O’Toole, Joel Byrom, Lawson D’Ath and Nicky Adams all started.
Wimbledon were fast out of the blocks, though, with striker Tom Elliott using his pace effectively to get away from Prosser on the right and force Adam Smith into a sharp early save before Jake Reeves’ 20-yard effort sailed over.
That was followed by Lyle Taylor bringing another save from Smith, this time the Cobblers keeper parrying away the striker’s shot from an acute angle, all in the opening 10 minutes
Both teams looked to have adopted a shoot on sight policy and it was then Cobblers’ turn to try their luck as Adams fizzed a low shot wide.
The shooting became less frequent as the half progressed but the bright, open nature of the game continued with Dons looking every inch a team who have won seven of their last nine.
The pace of the front two caused problems while Prosser twice was in the right place to clear dangerous crosses as Dons.
Despite that, though, it was Northampton who created the game’s clearest opening before half-time when Adams’ pinpoint cross was nodded towards goal by Collins but Kelle Roos got down brilliantly to claw the ball away.
The Cobblers had gradually wrestled control of possession while also blunting Wimbledon’s threat, although the first half looked destined to end goalless until the final minute.
Adams did well to win a corner on the right and Byrom’s in-swinging delivery was met by O’Toole who forced the ball over the line from a matter of yards.
Much like the first, Wimbledon began well after the restart and Smith had to be alert to keep his side ahead with a save from Paul Robinson’s header.
But, again in similar fashion to the opening 45 minutes, Northampton gradually improved and almost doubled their lead but Barry Fuller did brilliantly to clear Prosser’s header off the line.
And that moment would prove doubly crucial just seconds later when Wimbledon went up the other end and got back on level terms.
Zander Diamond hesitated and Taylor took full advantage as he stormed down the left, cut inside and curled a superb finish into the top corner.
Taylor almost had a quick second when his low drive was well blocked before Andy Barcham’s header was a whisker wide.
Dons were now firmly in the box seat as Elliott’s header was cleared off the line before the same man fizzed an effort into the side-netting from Taylor’s cutback.
Northampton were under intense pressure but eventually their regained an element of control, aided by the introduction of John Marquis for his home debut, as Diamond twice shot wide.
The second half was compelling viewing as Marquis then had a huge shout for a penalty turned down after he was seemingly brought down by Roos before Wimbledon broke straight down the other end and Smith was quick off his line to save from Barcham.
Barcham had another go almost immediately, this time his shot deflected wide by Prosser, but Northampton ended strongly and had several half chances to snatch all three points, however the winning goal would prove elusive.
Cobblers: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Prosser, Buchanan (c), O’Toole, Byrom, Holmes, Adams (Marquis 68), D’Ath, Collins
Subs not used: Clarke, Cresswell, Lelan, Taylor, Rose, Martin, Marquis
Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Robinson, Sweeney, Meades, Francomb, Reeves, Bulman, Barcham (Rigg 88), Elliott, Taylor (Azeez 86)
Subs not used: Shea, Kennedy, Akinfenwa, Smith, Fitzpatrick
Referee: Philip Gibbs
Dons fans: 376