Cambridge United took a point from their opening Checkatrade Trophy clash with Northampton Town at the Sixfields Stadium, with the hosts prevailing in a penalty shoot-out.
Head Coach Shaun Derry made nine changes to the starting line-up following the draw with Morecambe three days earlier, including the return of youngsters Harry Darling and Leon Davies. Meanwhile, scholars Jordan Norville-Williams, Sam Squire, Finley Iron and Ben Worman were all named on the bench.
There was an early chance for Cobbler’s man Alex Revell inside the first minute at the front post, but the striker saw his prod at Billy Waters corner delivery saved by Dimitar Mitov.
United responded with Jevani Brown, who had picked up where he left off in the U’s previous encounter, sliding an excellent ball through for Jabo Ibehre to guide on target, but the former Carlisle man saw his effort saved by Luke Coddington.
Revell continued to be Northampton’s main threat as the half wore on and looked to have broken the deadlock, only for Mitov to produce an excellent reaction with his foot at the near post on 21 minutes.
However, it was to be United who would take the first advantage when a well-worked U’s attack was completed by Piero Mingoia, who smashed a left-footed strike into the bottom corner from 18 yards out.
Their lead was short-lived though, with Cobbler’s dangerman Alex Revell rather fortuitously finding himself on a loose ball inside the United area before cancelling out Mingoia’s strike two minutes later to ensure the sides were level at half time.
United returned for the second half and took control of the fixture, enjoying long spells of possession and good territory within the Northampton half.
Shaun Derry introduced Ade Azeez and Medy Elito shortly after the hour mark, and the additional pace immediately opened up opportunities for the U’s.
Piero Mingoia was unable to get over the ball in order to find the target when Brown pulled a cross back to the winger, before a superb recovery tackle from Ash Taylor stopped Ade Azeez in his tracks as the substitute was set to pull the trigger.
However, the game finished all square and needed a penalty shoot out to separate the sides. Brown, Elito, Mingoia and Azeez all netted for the U’s, but O’Neil was denied by a fine save from Coddington leaving it up to Ash Taylor to secure the two points for the Cobblers.
Northampton: Coddington, Moloney, Buchanan, Barnett, Taylor, Waters, Revell, Powell, McWilliams, Long (Iaciofano, 80 mins), Grimes
Cambridge United: Mitov, Davies (Taylor, 90 mins), Legge, Darling, Carroll, O’Neil, Osadebe, Lewis (Elito, 65 mins), Brown, Mingoia, Ibehre (Azeez, 61 mins)
Attendance: 1,453 (143)