Northampton Town 2 (Leonard 15, Pinnock 37) Sutton United 2(Bugiel 47, Wilson 61)
Following a stern half time team talk from manager Matt Gray and a change in personnel before the start of the second half, Sutton produced a storming second half comeback to pick up a fine point away to a Northampton side who lost ground on Leyton Orient and Stevenage at the top of the table having seemingly been on course for a comfortable win at half time.
U's had to go in to the game without captain Craig Eastmond, still not fully recovered from the kick in the face he received on Saturday, while Louis John was also ruled out, leaving Enzio Boldewijn to resume right back duties and Sam Hart starting a league game for the first time as Rob Milsom moved in to midfield and assumed the captaincy.
Northampton had the division's leading scorer Sam Hoskins fit enough for the substitutes' bench, but managed well enough without him in a first half that the home side pretty much controlled. The first goal came afrer quarter of an hour when, following a Northampton throw in, slack U's defending allowed Shaun McWilliams set up Marc Leonard, who made himself space to fire a shot through a crowded area and inside the far post with Lewis Ward possibly seeing the shot late.
Jack Sowerby sent a 20-yard effort straight at Ward as Northampton continued to control long periods of the game and U's failed to mount any concerted pressure on the home goal, and Northampton extended their lead eight minutes before half time when Mitch Pinnock burst through unchallenged on the left to collect Louis Appere's pass and drive a shot across Ward and inside the far post.
U's had a glorious chance to give themselves a boost going in to the half time interval when Joe Kizzi's close range header from a corner bounced up and over the bar, but it didn't spare U's the wrath of Matt Gray at half time, and when the players came out for the second half Sam Hart, booked for a foul in the first half and surviving a second challenge on Kieran Bowie on the stroke of half time despite the efforts of the home crowd and management to persuade referee Ross Joyce to produce a second yellow card, had made way for Kylian Kouassi. Omar Bugiel moved back to midfield and Milsom, also on a booking, to left back, but the effect was immediate. Within two minutes Kouassi had won an aerial challenge that led to a throw in, and from Milsom's cross Bugiel arrived between defenders to mark his 150th appearance with a diving header in to the net.
The whole nature of the game had changed, with Kouassi's physical presence setting the home defence problems they hadn't had in the first half and Bugiel revelling in his unfamiliar role, and it was Bugiel who played a key role in the equaliser on the hour, his pressure forcing an error from McWilliams on the edge of his own penalty area and, with the Northampton player looking in vain at the referee, Donovan Wilson was free to lash a shot past Lee Burge and, like Bugiel, register his first goal since the opening week of the season.
Just how U's had unsettled the home team was shown as Northampton shuffled their defence, using three different players at left back in the last half hour as Josh Neufville posed a constant threat and Kouassi won most of his aerial challenges. Hoskins was sent on with just over twenty minutes to go and almost had an immediate impact with a fierce cross shot which drew a fine save from Ward, although U's would be disappointed at switching off at the free kick to allow Hoskins the space, and then the ease with which he turned between Milsom and Randall before sending in the shot.
The home side also had a chance when Pinnock put Bowie in on the left of the penalty area but he blazed high and wide with Hoskins screaming for a square pass in front of goal, but Sutton looked every bit as likely to grab a winner and, after a surging run by Wilson had led to a corner, Kizzi headed over from close range. In stoppage time Bugiel almost crowned his second half performance with a second goal after being teed up by Randall but his low shot was narrowly wide and U's had to settle for what was nevertheless an excellent point, a feeling reinforced by the reaction on the Sutton bench when the final whistle went.
Sutton: L Ward, J Kizzi, S Hart(sub K Kouassi H-T) C Rowe, A Lovatt, J Neufville, E Boldewijn, D Wilson, O Bugiel, R Milsom, W Randall. Subs n/u B House, C Dundas, T Fadahunsi, L Gambin, K Thomas, C Kendall. Booked: Milsom, Hart
Northampton: L Burge, H Lintott, R Haynes(sub M Dyche 68), J Sowerby, J Guthrie, A Odimayo(sub A McGowan 83), K Bowie, S McWilliams(sub S Hoskins 68), L Appere, M Leonard, M Pinnock. Subs n/u J Dadge, J Tomlinson, L Cross, P Abimbola. Booked: Hoskins
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 4,800(159 away)