Cheltenham Town drew 1-1 with struggling Northampton this afternoon after surrendering a one goal lead once again.
Jamie Cureton's opener within the first minute capitalised well upon a Matt Duke mistake and Cheltenham took that lead into half time but the appearance of Northampton's new signing Emile Sinclair piled pressure on the Robins in the second half and Matty Blair's near post finish was enough to confirm a point for the travelling Cobblers.
Frustration and disappointment for Cheltenham Town after once again losing a lead and an 8th home draw of the season.
Fresh from a slightly more relaxed January Transfer Window than last year, Mark Yates opted to make just one change to his Cheltenham Town starting XI with Jason Taylor dropped and replaced by Swansea loanee Lee Lucas who signed on Thursday. Whilst Lucas made his debut from the beginning, another new signing, Mitch Brundle, took a spot on the substitutes bench after clinching a deadline day loan move to the Robins from Bristol City. The only other business on the final day was the loan extension of Wolves defender Michael Ihiekwe who started alongside Troy Brown today for his home debut. Northampton weren't exactly quiet themselves this week and four new signings on deadline day gave this Cobblers a very different look under the fresh stewardship of Chris Wilder who had taken the reigns following his departure from Oxford United. There was also a familiar face in the ranks of Northampton with former Robins midfielder Darren Carter returning to his former home for the first time since the summer.
From the director's box Mark Yates watched on as he did the previous week at Home Park and he would have been delighted with his team's start with a goal within the first minute. A lofted ball over the backline from Matt Richards was met by Matt Duke but the Cobblers goalkeeper flapped at the ball and missed leaving Jamie Cureton with an open goal and perhaps the easiest goal he will have scored this season. Chris Wilder must have been tearing his hair out with such a soft goal in the opening stages but he almost saw his side get back on level terms minutes later when a counter attack gave Ian Morris the chance to equalise with a one on one opportunity with Scott Brown but his shot came back off the base of the post.
Chris Wilder needed his new side to settle and they did with a succession of good passes in midfield probing the backline of the Robins but the partnership of Brown and Ihiekwe was was looking solid. Cheltenham remained the side that looked likely to score next however and Byron Harrison almost capitalised on some good pressure when Sam Deering dropped a cross onto his head just past 20 minutes. The striker's flicked effort was just wide of the post and again it was a narrow miss for the Cobblers. You'd be forgiven for thinking Matt Duke had the wrong boots on each foot with some of his kicking and clearances in this half but the experienced goalkeeper was soon showing his qualities when he made a good save on 29 minutes from Sam Deering. The ball had actually been lost in his own area by Ian Morris and Deering was quick to snatch possession and strike it at goal but Duke was on hand to deny his opponent. Soon enough though Northampton had their own chance when Scott Brown dropped a catch in his area but Connell's shot was seen clear by Ihiekwe.
An effort from Richards five minutes from time did little to threaten Duke as it flew high over the bar but Cheltenham's play was much more enjoyable as they continued to frustrate Northampton with some fine individual performances particularly in midfield. Lee Lucas was impressing on his debut as he found net passes to the forwards and gave as good as he could get with several strong challenges but the first half finally ended with the scores stuck at 1-0 and the chance to regroup and ensure the lead would not be lost.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 1-0 Northampton Town
The Robins were facing the strong wind in this half and the home fans perhaps would have liked a stronger advantage considering how many leads had been dropped already this season but Cheltenham set about trying to do just that starting with Cureton's ambitious but wide shot from 35 yards. The veteran striker was pestering again just a few minutes later when he rounded Matt Duke from the long ball but Lee Collins did just enough to beat him to the loose ball and clear. Again Cheltenham pushed and probed however and once again it was Cureton who was causing the problems although his next shot, at the near post, was saved comfortably by Duke.
A double substitution for Northampton soon followed on 57 minutes with new boys Emile Sinclair and Leon McSweeney both replacing Alan Connell and Ben Tozer respectively. Perhaps if anyone deserved a goal in this game it would have been Sam Deering with a good performance buzzing around the midfielder. Some solid work from Cureton allowed Deering space inside the area but his effort was dragged just wide of goal. A yellow card for former Robin Darren Carter followed and the freekick almost cost his side with the set piece being headed just wide by Widdowson. Carter was soon doing what he does best however with a low drive thumped towards the bottom corner of Scott Brown's goal just past the hour mark but the Robins goalkeeper was on hand to push it wide of goal and deny his former team-mate.
Northampton had certainly picked up their pace and they were starting to ask some serious question of Cheltenham's defence as the 70th minute approached. Michael Ihiekwe and Troy Brown were doing their best to hold off the growing pressure and it was soon time for Mark Yates to leave his seat in the stand and make his way to the dugout. As he reappeared on the touchline he watched on as Northampton new boy Emile Sinclair put a good opportunity wide of goal but he soon had to watch on as the pressure built and finally paid dividends. A throw for the Cobblers led to a cross and it fell into the path of Matty Blair who had no trouble in putting it away into the back of the net for the leveller. Cheltenham had dropped a lead again in what was becoming a frustratingly common occurrence.
The equaliser and the promise of further Northampton pressure forced Mark Yates into a double substitution and he introduced Jermaine McGlashan and Terry Gornell in place of Lee Lucas and Byron Harrison. The Robins were trying to force their way back in front but Northampton were now digging their heels and as the minutes ticked by it looked as though another chance of three points was about to be wasted. The whistle called time upon the action here this afternoon and seemed to be the same old story for the Robins as once again they had surrendered a lead and maximum points.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 1-1 Northampton Town
Cheltenham Town FC (4-4-2 Diamond): S Brown (GK); Jombati, T Brown, Ihiekwe, Braham-Barrett; Lucas (McGlashan 85), Deering, Richards, Roofe; Harrison (Gornell 85), Cureton
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Elliott, Brundle, Taylor, Vincent
Northampton Town FC (4-4-2): Duke (GK); Tozer (McSweeney 57), Collins (C) Kouo-Doumbe, Widdowson, Blair, Carter, Ravenhill, Morris; Connell (Sinclair 57), German
Subs not used: Snedker (GK), McGinty, Deegan, Toney, O'Donovan
Referee: Mr. Paul Tierney
Attendance: 2,707 (352 from Northampton)