HONOURS EVEN AT SIXFIELDS
By Ian Hawkins
Burton Albion were just two minutes away from their second double of the season when Northampton Town grabbed a point at Sixfields. An end to end encounter was a great advertisement for League 2 football.
Shaun Harrad took himself to the top of Albion's goalscoring charts with the opener after 52 minutes and it was a lead they deserved after a confident first half display. It was the first time Albion had not gone on to win the game after scoring first.
Burton Albion boss Paul Peschisolido was able to name an unchanged side for the Brewers first ever visit to the Sixfields Stadium, home of Northampton Town. The only change was on the substitutes bench where Jimmy Phillips was restored to the matchday squad after a back injury in place of Guy Branston who completed a loan switch to League 2 rivals Torquay United yesterday.
Northampton began the day one place above the Brewers in the League table ahead on goal difference both sides just four points from a play off spot but with Albion having a game in hand on the Cobblers.
Both sides had an early chance to take the lead. Ryan Gilligan flashed a shot over the crossbar in the first minute and with barely four minutes on the clock, a throw into the box found its way through to Jacques Maghoma who failed to get a clean connection with an effort from 15 yards.
Albion continued to look threatening going forward and maybe should have gone in front in the tenth minute. In form Cleveland Taylor put in a superb cross from the right but nobody in a yellow shirt cold quite get into the six yard box to apply the finish. Northamption ressponded with a good chance of their own, Andy Holt rifling a rising shot just over Artur Krysiak's crossbar.
It was an open and free flowing encounter as both sides sought the first goal. The Cobblers almost got in midway through the half, Courtney Herbert trying to capitalise on a slip by Tom Parkes but the striker , close to the touchline could only pull the ball back into the waiting arms of Krysiak.
The Brewers really should have taken the lead in the 28th minute. Shaun Harrad started the move by blocking an attempted clearance. Steve Kabba picked up the loose ball and drove forward feeding Taylor on the right. The winger showed some trickery to get inside the box and to the bye line. He pulled the ball back for Harrad eight yards out but the striker went for precision rather than power and allowed Chris Dunn to save his near post shot.
Dunn was also called into action in the 37th minute, dropping low to his right to hold onto Steve Kabba's effort from the edge of the box after more good work from Jacques Maghoma breaking forward.
The Brewers goal had a luocky escape in the 42nd minute as John Johnson's cross from the right caused problems for Albion's rearguard. A flick on in the centre sent the ball to the back post where a Northampton player put the ball back across the six yard box but out of the reach of Courtney Herbert, looking to capitalise on any scraps at the near post..
Half time - Northampton Town 0 - 0 Burton Albion
Northampton fans were in uproar moments after the restart when Tony James knocked the ball back to Artur Krysiak. The Polish keeper grabbed the ball with referee Andy Hall indicating that because the ball came off James' thigh it was not a back pass much to the dismay of the hosts who were baying for a free kick.
Albion responded by going ahead in the 53rd minute. A throw in on the left looped up off defender Craig Hinton and sat up nicely for Shaun HARRAD, the striker held off his man, swivelled and lashed an unstoppable twelve yard shot past Dunn. It was the striker's tenth goal of the season and he celebrated by ripping his shirt off to earn himself a yellow card.
Northampton were inches away from an equaliser in the 63rd minute. Half time substitute Stephen O'Flynn worked an opportunity for Billy McKay inside the area and the striker could only look on dumb founded as he cut inside and saw a curlling effort beat Krysiak but come back off the crossbar.
Parkes was on his mettle in the 65th minute as Kevin Thornton worked a cross in from the left but the Leicester City youngster confidently cleared the danger. The on loan defender then found himself in the referee's notebook after a challenge on O'Flynn 22 yards out. Thornton took the resulting free kick from a central position but Shaun Harrad turned goal protector blocking the ball in the defensive wall.
It almost got better for Albion in the 71st minute. Taylor worked the chance for a cross from the left this time and Greg Pearson, on the pitch only a minute after replacing Steve Kabba could not quite guide the ball inside the far post from eight yards.
The Albion substitute was even closer in the 80th minute. McGrath send Harrad scampering away down the right channel and his early cross to the near post was met by Pearson whose shot beat Dunn but cannoned away off the post.
Northampton piled forward in search of an equaliser pushing three men into attack and they struck the woodwork for the second time in the match in the 86th minute. John McGrath was rather harshly adjudged to have brought down O'Flynn just outside the box when it seemed like Albions skipper had won the ball. Luke Guttridge stepped up and with Krysiak only able to watch, the midfielder saw his curling effort clip the outside of the post.
The Cobblers were not to be denied just two minutes from time. Another break forward fell nicely for Andy HOLT at the back post and he drilled a low shot across Krysiak into the far corner.
The hosts pressed for a winner and in stoppage time an almighty scramble in Albion's penalty box almost gave the Cobblers the points with shots raining in on Krysiak's goal before the Polish keeper again produced a last minute block to deny the opponents.
NORTHAMPTON: Dunn, Johnson (Rodgers, 76), Guttridge, Hinton, Beckwith, Osman (Thornton, 56), Holt, Gilligan, McKay, Herbert (O'Flynn, 46), Gilbert. Substitutes: Dyer, Curtis, Wilkinson, Lumley.
ALBION: Krysiak; Corbett, James, Parkes, Webster; Taylor, Penn, McGrath, Maghoma; Harrad, Kabba (Pearson, 70). Substitutes: Poole, Walker, Thompson, Goodfellow, Phillips, Pearson, Knowles.
GOALS: ALBION - Harrad (53), NORTHAMPTON - Holt (88)
BOOKINGS: ALBION - Harrad - removing shirt after scoring (53 mins) Parkes - foul on O'Flynn (66 mins) , COBBLERS - Thornton foul on Kabba (60 min)
Referee: Mr. A.Hall (West Midlands)
Attendance: 4,552 (435 away)