Mansfield mess up Joe’s big day out
DELIGHTED Northampton assistant manager Alan Knill hailed the never-say-die attitude of his ten-men Cobblers after a controversial 93rdminute penalty boosted their play-off push and denied relegation-threatened Mansfield a second successive home win.
The visitors, beaten in midweek at bottom club Hartlepool, dominated the second-half despite John-Joe O’Toole’s 36thminute red card and Vadaine Oliver’s opener for the Stags.
And they were rewarded late on when Ivan Toney drew a foul from Junior Brown and Marc Richards converted the penalty.
Mansfield midfielder Simon Heslop struck the bar with a free-kick, while Jason Taylor headed Lawson D’ath’s corner against the bar.
“Obviously we are delighted to get the point, but after our second-half performance we are disappointed not to get all three,” said Knill.
“The ball was only ever in their half after the goal even though we had ten men.We were excellent. We took the game to Mansfield.
“Marc Richards missed his last penalty but he has just put his head down and smashed it into the net.”
Northampton fans made the match John-Joe O’Toole Day in tribute to the maverick midfielder with many of the 1,200 travelling supporters wearing long-haired wigs only to see him sent off for an off-the-ball clash with Richie Sutton.
Knill added: “John-Joe said their lad had him in a headlock and he reacted. It was a big day for him, a great occasion and it is sad the way it ended.”
Mansfield led through Oliver’s sixth goal of the season, the striker pouncing from close range from Lee Beevers’ free-kick, and manager Adam Murray thought they should have won.
Murray, who came on as a late substitute for the first time since November, said: “We have been cheated – simple as that.
“The referee has given the penalty against someone who didn’t even go in for a challenge.
“Their lad shoved the ball through Junior Brown’s legs and Junior never moved. We were up against a top side and, once we’d settled down after the first 15 minutes, we played some great stuff.
“We showed after the goal that we are near the bottom.We got anxious and everyone in the ground got anxious.”
The player manager also praised 18-year-old man-of-the-match Jack Thomas, whose incisive passing on his full debut had Northampton on the back foot for an hour.
“Jack has got a big future. To come into a team that’s going through the situation we are in shows his strength of character,” added Murray.
STAR MAN JACK THOMA