Tom Craddock scored for the fourth successive game, and the fourth away game running, but it wasn’t enough as Oxford United’s winning run came to an end.

Northampton struck from a corner in the 42nd minute, when Andy Holt glanced in a header.

Craddock levelled two minutes into the second half, latching onto an Asa Hall shot that was going wide and turning the ball in, despite the home team’s claims for offside.

But ex-Norwich striker Leon McKenzie, who had also scored at the Kassam Stadium earlier in the season, powerfully headed in Holt’s left-wing cross midway through the second half to bring the Cobblers the points in a fiercely competitive local derby.

Constable returned to United’s starting line-up, but Ian Sampson’s team were unable to call upon their new signing, Shaun Harrad, who needed an operation on his mouth.

And United’s top scorer, operating this time in the middle of the three strikers, with Steve MacLean to his right, was heavily involved in the early action.

He did well to charge down a clearance by right back John Johnson. The ball ran free to MacLean but his attempt to curl in a shot from 20 yards was well wide.

It was a tight affair, with every player having to win his own individual battle, and challenges fiercely contested.

Constable managed a low shot from the edge of the box, despite the close presence of two defenders, but it bobbled past the right post.

Northampton had an opportunity to strike first blood when the ball ran free to Michael Jacobs in a crowded box ten yards out, but the alert Ryan Clarke was quick to come out and saved with his legs.

But the U’s then put together a couple of excellent moves.

The first one ended with Constable chesting down a right-wing cross and Harry Worley volleying over the bar.

And moments later, on a swift break from defence, Tom Craddock and MacLean combined beautifully, and the raid earned a corner.

Jake Wright defended superbly, showing his speed of thought as much as anything, to nullify the threat from Leon McKenzie.

Anthony Tonkin too did well to get his body in front of Francis Laurent when the French winger charged towards goal.

Constable’s defending from the front was a feature of the first half, and after his persistent closing down had helped to win a throw-in, the U’s worked the ball for Craddock to fire in a 15-yard shot straight at keeper Chris Dunn.

A brilliant 60-yard run by Damian Batt didn’t have the end product the visitors were hoping for because his cutback from the bye-line was cut out.

Northampton had been forced largely onto the back foot for long spells, but they got their noses in front just before half-time.

Nat Wedderburn forced Clarke into a fine save, turning his left-footed drive aside for a corner.

And from Michael Jacobs’ flag kick, Cobblers captain Holt headed in.

But if the home side had scored at just the right time, moments before the interval, so was the visitors’ replay as they equalised less than two minutes after the restart.

Asa Hall’s shot was going well wide, but took a deflection on its way and Craddock, although looking initially offside, controlled it and swivelled to shoot past Dunn from all of four yards out.

Paul McLaren, making his 500th League appearance, was injured on the ground when Northampton nearly regained the lead, Clarke saving from Wedderburn’’s 16-yard effort.

But the Cobblers did edge back in front on 67 minutes. Clarke came for Holt’s left-wing cross but he was beaten by McKenzie, who headed powerfully into the goal from near the penalty spot.

Sam Deering came on as United tried to claw back an equaliser, and he twice produced quick interchanges with Craddock.

But the final pass was missing, and the time ebbed away, leaving United to feel hard done by as their three-match winning run came to an end.

Oxford Utd: Clarke, Batt, Worley, Wright (Midson 88), Tonkin, Hall (Heslop 73), McLaren (Deering 75), Clist, Constable, Maclean, Craddock. Subs not used: Sangare, Eastwood, Green, Payne.

Att: 6,097 (1,611 from Oxford) Booked: MacLean.