Kings Heath lad Shaun McWilliams ran himself into the ground but Northampton couldn’t keep up a frenetic pace in Indian summer sun as Crawley Town came from 2-0 down to claim a draw.
Keith Curle’s Cobblers are the mayhem men and aimed to hammer Crawley from the off at Sixfields with overlapping runs, shots and crosses to cause pandemonium in the opposition box.
That penalty box madness extended to referee Andy Haines who gave a perplexing spot kick to Northampton after quarter of an hour. Crawley’s Nathan Ferguson went to defend a ball following some goalmouth pinball and was felled by Northampton’s Charlie Goode, only to be penalised in the act of clearing.
Not that the home fans in claret and white were complaining as Chris Lines stepped up to slot the spot kick home in the bottom right hand corner.
Crawley are one of League 2’s surprise packages and it is not difficult to see why they are in the higher reaches of the division, playing some good stuff but Cobblers overwhelmed the away side for decent first-half periods.
The away side’s shorts featured an electric blue stripe but it was Northampton finding all the first half connectivity. Sam Hoskins, Cobblers speedster utility player bought plenty of space down the left on the counter while Nicky Adams looked to send in first time balls whenever they fell.
Northampton’s rushed game, based on creating confusion, left them vulnerable to patient possession play from Crawley and the dangerous Bez Zubala had a shot cleared off the line after 21 minutes that sent reminders to Cobblers.
Hoskins was presented with a nice chance on 39 minutes when a ball fell plum for a measured long shot but the strike was skied. Crawley is famous for being near Gatwick airport and the air traffic control there would have seen the shot on their radar.
Nevertheless, Northampton headed into the half-time break to applause and a goal to the good with another one likely to finish the game off for the in form home side.
That second was offered on a plate via another penalty decision after Michael Harriman was felled. Lines’ second penalty was the sort that dog walkers watching Sunday League games chuckle at, tame as they come and easily saved.
Still, Cobblers should have had the game put to bed when the rottweiler McWilliams drilled home a left-footed volley on the hour mark. Local lad McWilliams was benched at the start of the season but has fought his way back into the side and was all over the park in a display that will start to write him into Northampton folklore.
McWilliams showed Hoskins how it was done by collecting his cross and despatching good and low past a despairing Glen Morris. McWilliams’ celebration, sliding joyfully on his backside like a kid at a disco, showed just what it means for a homegrown player to notch for his local club.
Yet, Northampton’s frenetic start to the game, the equivalent of a racehorse going 10 lengths clear early on in a 3 mile chase was hard to maintain and the home side began to flag. There was no pressing or challenges of note as Ashley Nathaniel-George turned Harriman inside out to send a cute curler in from 18 yards on 70 minutes. McWilliams in particular, was out on his feet and there was a glaring hole on the bench where the steadying influence of the ever injured Alan McCormack should be.
Cobblers keep ball is poor and the home side were still attempting long shots instead of killing the game off. That left lanky opposition boss Gabrielle Cioffi to celebrate a 95th minute equaliser where further standoff Northampton defending was punished by Josh Docherty via a Joe Martin deflection. Cioffi had played in Cobblers claret at Torino during his Italian playing career but it was his away side in Lazio blue and white that had the last laugh.
The home fans sighed a resigned sigh as Northampton need a 5 goal lead to guarantee a win but they should not be too disheartened. Cobblers took the game to a capable Crawley side and smacked them about for long periods.
The issue for Keith Curle now, as it has been for much of his managerial career, is to impact on the top 6. Going hell for leather has to be balanced with some game management finesse.