A devastating last-minute Northampton equaliser saw Exeter City held to a draw against the Cobblers at St James Park.
City took the lead through captain Jake Taylor, who netted his first of the season, before Billy Waters levelled for the away side.
Jayden Stockley then struck late in the first half to give City a 2-1 lead, but City were pegged back once again on 90 minutes when a Northampton corner seemed to come off a City player and end up in the back of the net meaning the points were shared.
Grecians boss Matt Taylor made four changes to the side that was eliminated from the FA Cup last week by Blackpool, with Christy Pym making his return to the starting line-up, alongside Lee Holmes, while Aaron Martin and Tristan Abrahams kept their places in the starting 11 from the midweek win over Bristol Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy.
It was City that edged a tight opening quarter of an hour, and first came close when a corner routine saw Lee Holmes’ cross-turned-shot hit the post. However, the Grecians were not to be denied a few moments later, as skipper Taylor surged into space on the inside-right flank of the Northampton penalty area and fired past David Cornell in the Cobblers’ goal with 16 minutes on the clock.
A lively Tristan Abrahams threatened to double the home side’s lead five minutes later, running onto Jayden Stockley’s header, but Cornell closed the angle down well and made the save. It acted as a catalyst for the visitors to grow into the game, and they were soon level through Waters – the visitors broke at speed, and after a great block by Nicky Law from Sam Hoskins’ initial effort, the ball rebounded and fell kindly for Waters, who bundled over from close range.
Only a superb save from Christy Pym prevented the visitors from then taking the lead as a delicate ball was lofted into van Veen, and while his header was powerful, it was straight enough for Pym to get down and make a great reaction save, before Aaron Martin cleared the danger. As the game opened up, there were more chances at both ends when Holmes’ effort from the left-hand side of the penalty area arrowed narrowly wide of Cornell’s far post, before Stockley fired agonisingly wide from just outside the area.
Stockley then made amends just before half-time after a spell of prolonged pressure. Pierce Sweeney’s rasping effort was blocked spectacularly, though City recycled possession, eventually finding Woodman on the other flank, and his cross to the back post was met by Stockley, who headed back across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
The influential Nicky Law was again involved soon after the restart, shooting from just outside the box with a deflected effort that looked like it would loop over Cornell’s outstretched hand, but it somehow landed wide and the visitors escaped again.
City were then required to defend a flurry of Northampton corners, though threatened to break clear when Forte latched onto a clearance before he was cynically taken down by Shay Facey. It was a period where Northampton probed, but were unable to find a way through the resolute City backline, and the Grecians always looked lively in possession.
The Grecians then had a golden chance to put the game to bed, as substitute Chiedozie Ogbene broke down the right-wing and cut the ball back to Stockley, but his effort flew wide from just inside the area with just under 20 minutes to go.
Chances were again coming at both ends – Hoskins fired wide from inside the area with less than five minutes to go – but there was a cruel twist late in the tale for City. A Northampton corner in the 90th minute was met by Andy Williams, and the header took a cruel deflection off Jayden Stockley and nestled in the back of the City net. It proved to be the last meaningful action in an eventful game that City will be disappointed they couldn’t come away with more.
EXETER: CITY: Pym; Sweeney, A Martin, O’Shea, Woodman; Holmes (Ogbene 77), Tillson, Taylor, Law; Abrahams (Forte 72), Stockley.
Subs not used: Hamon, Jay, Oates, Croll, Collins.
NORTHAMPTON Town: Cornell, Buchanan, Odoffin (Taylor 45), Hoskins, van Veen (A Williams 71), Powell, Pierre, McWilliams, Turnbull (Facey 45), Waters, O’Toole.
Subs not used: Ward (GK), Bridge, Roberts, J Williams.
Booked: Pierre, Facey
Attendance: 4,332 (329 away)