Cobblers made a decidedly unconvincing start to their Checkatrade Trophy campaign when they were outplayed and outfought in a dismal 3-0 home defeat by Wycombe Wanderers, bringing an end to the club’s record-breaking 27-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Wycombe were the team who showed greater desire and appetite for the fight throughout and once they went ahead through Danny Rowe on 17 minutes, they never once look like relinquishing control.
Northampton huffed and puffed but their lack of creativity was again all too apparent and they were deservedly beaten in a competitive match for the first time since January’s FA Cup loss to Milton Keynes Dons.
There was a subdued atmosphere around Sixfields all evening and that came as no surprise given the apathetic attitude felt by many surrounding this competition following the controversial changes made over the summer.
And for many of the 1,408 fans that did make the effort, it was a disappointing and frustrating night with Rowe’s early goal added to by Paul Hayes before Garry Thompson’s injury-time strike put the seal on an emphatic Wycombe victory.
Focus will now return to the league with Town hosting MK Dons this Sunday, an opportunity for Rob Page and co to quickly put this desperate evening behind them as he continues his wait for a first win in 90 minutes as Cobblers manager, something which he’s yet to do in eight attempts.
As expected, Page made wholesale changes to his starting line-up - six in all - as Joel Byrom, Lawson D’Ath and David Cornell were all handed their first starts of the season, while JJ Hoper was given his full Cobblers debut.
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth’s name appeared on the visitors’ bench, though he didn’t quite go as far as to bring himself on until the final few minutes, but initially he had to watch on from the touchline as his side came under pressure in the opening moments.
Most of Northampton’s early threat came down the left and the game’s first clear opening stemmed from that side when Hooper’s curled cross was flicked just wide by D’Ath.
But Wycombe hadn’t come to Sixfields just to sit back and soak up pressure and they showed their intent by twice forcing Cornell into action in a matter of minutes with the Cobblers goalkeeper saving from Dayle Southwell and then Matthew Bloomfield.
And it was from the subsequent corner which saw Wycombe strike the first blow through Rowe, who bundled home Michael Harriman’s delivery from close-range on 17 minutes.
The Cobblers responded to the setback well but could only manage half chances in the face of some stubborn Wycombe resistance, with Alex Revell toe-poking David Buchanan’s cross over and Jamal Blackman plucking Harry Beautyman’s fizzed shot out of the air.
Northampton weren’t all that convincing at the other end and a sloppy touch from Byrom was almost punished by Bloomfield who whistled a shot against the post before Southwell dragged wide as Wycombe continued to hassle the home side into sloppy mistakes.
The superior physicality of the visitors was reflected in the play as Town were too easily brushed off the ball and at times struggled to get out of their own half as they remained a goal down at half-time.
But one quickly became two within seconds of the restart.
The Cobblers were caught napping and after being slipped through on goal, Hayes was afforded the freedom of Sixfields to finish past Cornell and double Wycombe’s lead.
For all their huffing and puffing, Northampton could barely muster a shot in reply throughout the entirety of the second-half, D’Ath’s tame effort about the only moment of note in a lacklustre performance.
Jak McCourt sent a weak free-kick into the wall and that just about summed up a miserable evening for Northampton, who could and should have conceded another but Southwell could only divert wide with the goal gaping in the final 10 minutes.
And just to rub insult into injury, Ainsworth brought himself on for the closing few minutes, enough time to set up Wycombe’s third and final goal of the evening as Thompson fired beyond Cornell to compound a poor night all round for the home side.
Cobblers: Cornell, Phillips, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan (c), D’Ath (Sonupe 74), McCourt, Byrom, Beautyman (Gorre 57), Hooper (Hanley 57), Revell
Subs not used: Smith, Moloney, McDonald, Taylor
Wycombe: Blackman, Jombati, McGinn, Stewart, Hayes (c) (Thompson 74), Bloomfield, Southwell (Ainsworth 85), Harriman, Rowe, Freeman, Havilland
Subs not used: Pierre, Wood, Richardson, Akinfenwa
Referee: Paul Tierney
Wycombe fans: 74