ALEX MacDonald salvaged a point for a disjointed Oxford United in second-half stoppage time to deny Chris Wilder a winning return to the Kassam Stadium.

The substitute, who turned 25 on the day of the game, burst through to score an equaliser from an acute angle to extend United's unbeaten run to five games.

It was the hosts' first effort on target of the night and punished a Northampton Town outfit for not putting the game to bed.

The visitors led through Ivan Toney's free-kick which bounced over Jamie Ashdown's dive six minutes before the break.

It was a worthy lead against a sluggish United, but a failure to get a second goal proved costly and MacDonald made them pay with a neat finish.

United's teamsheet showed five changes from the side which lined up for Saturday's goalless draw at AFC Wimbledon.

Patrick Hoban, Andy Whing and George Baldock all missed with knocks picked up at the weekend, while Danny Rose and Alex MacDonald dropped to the bench.

Sam Long came in at right back, Michael Collins and Josh Ruffels were paired in central midfield.

Callum O'Dowda was deployed on the left, while Kyle Vassell started up front.

Wilder, returning to the Kassam Stadium for the first time since leaving the club for Northampton 15 months ago, received a polite welcome from the home fans.

The Cobblers boss will have been very pleased with the way the first half went, as the visitors were comfortably the better side.

In the fifth minute an error from Josh Ruffels gave Toney a chance on the volley which Ashdown did well to turn round the post.

Aside from a Johnny Mullins header at an early O'Dowda free-kick which was deflected behind for a corner, United did not threaten Shwan Jalal before the break.

The Cobblers goalkeeper halted play on the quarter of an hour mark, drawing referee Brendan Malone's attention to a hole in the six-yard box where one of the rugby posts stand.

It needed a member of the ground staff with a bucket of soil to sort out the problem before the game restarted.

The break did nothing to improve a thoroughly incoherent home side.

They offered little besides long balls for the front two, who were unable to hold on to it.

Instead Northampton gradually turned up the pressure.

Mullins needed to be alert to block a John-Joe O'Toole shot, while Zander Diamond headed just wide.

The breakthrough came six minutes before the break.

Ruffels was penalised for a foul eight yards outside the box, from where Toney's effort bounced over Ashdown's dive and into the net.

United desperately needed to improve and they created more in the opening five minutes after the break than in the entire first half.

Long was the architect for both chances.

First he whipped in a cross which just beat Kemar Roofe and a flat-footed Vassell.

A minute later the full back's ball over the top set Hylton away, but the forward could only find the side netting when he should have done better.

It looked promising, but while United continued to play with more urgency, the chances quickly dried up.

Both sides were careless in possession as the game grew increasingly scrappy.

Danny Rose, James Roberts and MacDonald all came off the bench in a bid to improve matters.

MacDonald caused problems with virtually his first touch - a free-kick which Jalal punched straight to Long, who fired harmlessly over.

The hosts huffed and puffed late on, eventually carving out another chance in stoppage time.

Jalal punched under pressure from Roberts and the ball fell to Hylton, who slipped in MacDonald to score.

A tenth goal of the season was probably the best birthday present he received and got United off the hook.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Ashdown, Long, Mullins, Wright, Skarz, Roofe, Collins, Ruffels, O'Dowda, Hylton, Vassell.

Subs used: Rose (O'Dowda 62), Roberts (Vassell 70), MacDonald (Collins 76).

Unused subs: Clarke, Dunkley, Ashby, Humphreys.

Booked: None.

Northampton Tn (4-4-2): Jalal, Moloney, Collins, Diamond, Horwood, Holmes (Tozer 87), Byrom, O'Toole, D'Ath, De Girolamo (Hackett 74), Toney (Richards 79).

Unused subs: Duke, Carter, Gray, Perry.

Booked: Toney, Horwood.

Referee: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 4,836 (610 visitors).