Chris Freestone scrambled in a second-half equaliser for relegation-threatened Northampton Town as free-scoring Fulham had to settle for a stalemate at Sixfields this afternoon.

The Cobblers claimed a precious point that could prove crucial in their survival bid when striker Freestone pounced on some poor defending after the Cottagers had crumbled following a long throw. Substitute Freestone scored his second goal of the season two minutes after stepping off the bench to the fury of Kevin Keegan, whose side squandered several presentable chances to build a bigger lead than the one they held after a superb solo strike from Geoff Horsfield.

The burly striker scored his fifth Fulham goal since arriving from Halifax in October when he beat three players after cutting in from the right flank and found the far corner with a delightful daisycutter. Horsfield’s thirteen of the campaign looked like setting the Whites on their way to another professional away win until the visitors’ defence switched off midway through the second half. But Keegan’s dismay was dampened after news filtered through that their nearest rivals for the Second Division title had both suffered away-day misery.

Walsall were beaten at Wigan and Stoke City threw away a half-time lead at Maine Road. Paul Dickov and Gareth Taylor cancelled out Larus Sigurdsson’s 31st -minute opener to put Manchester City right back in the promotion picture – even if Keegan still castigated his side’s ‘shocking’ defending during his post-match press conference.

NORTHAMPTON TOWN (3-5-2): Turley; Howey, Sampson, Frain; Hunter, Spedding, Parrish (Peer 66), Savage, Gibb; Seal (Freestone 66), Wilkinson. Subs (not used): Corazzin.

BOOKED: Savage, Hunter, Parrish, Frain.

GOAL: Freestone (68).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Uhlenbeek, Brevett, Symons, Coleman; Bracewell, Morgan, Smith, Hayward; Horsfield, Peschisolido (Hayles 73). Subs (not used): Trollope, W. Collins.

BOOKED: Brevett, Coleman, Smith.

GOAL: Horsfield (49).

REFEREE: Mark Cowburn (Blackpool).