Roy O’Donovan’s missed penalty and a Chris Hackett red card were the cornerstones of a Cobblers defeat at Southend United.
O’Donovan saw his spot-kick saved on eight minutes and a quarter of an hour later, Hackett – in his comeback game after an Achilles injury – was sent off for a second bookable offence.
From such a position, a positive result was always likely to be difficult for Northampton and so it proved, as goals from Anthony Straker and Freddy Eastwood consigned them to a second successive loss.
It had started so well. Joe Widdowson had been encouraged to attack more by Boothroyd in his pre-match comments and made a strong burst into the box after just seven minutes to win the penalty.
Lee Collins threaded the full-back in, he went to ground after Will Atkinson had entangled his legs and referee Andy Davies awarded the spot-kick.
Having scored twice in the past two games, and having also scored at that end of the ground in last season’s game at Roots Hall, O’Donovan was the natural candidate to take the penalty but Daniel Bentley did well to keep it out despite the shot having plenty of power.
Not long after that setback, the Cobblers suffered another, with Hackett shown a second yellow card for a reckless challenge that he didn’t need to make.
If you’re being kind, you’d say that perhaps – after so long out injured and with no practice games under his belt – Hackett’s timing was out but the tackles were poor and costly.
The goal, when it arrived, was a scruffy one. Freddy Eastwood struck a shot from the edge of the box that hit the covering Lee Collins and span towards goal where it was headed past Matt Duke by the intuitive Straker.
It was a goal made doubly frustrating by the nature of the play around it – Southend had produced far less of an attacking threat than Newport did the previous week and Northampton had enjoyed chances of their own.
But they counted for nought. On the hour mark, John White slid a ball in behind the Town defence that Eastwood rattled across Duke and into the bottom corner with a first-time shot.
With a two-goal lead and a man advantage, Southend dominated despite the tactical reshuffles made by Boothroyd.
The first was to throw on Clive Platt and Ishmel Demontagnac in a move to what was almost a 3-3-3 system and virtually the full kitchen sink treatment.
Not that it mattered. All of the attacking play in the game’s final half an hour was produced by Southend, they looked the side more likely to add to their goal tally and the Cobblers struggled to piece together any cohesive plays of their own.
And so, another away defeat goes on the Northampton Town record. There were mitigating factors, and without a doubt the game would have been a very different one without the Hackett sending-off.
The time for ifs, buts and maybes has to stop, though. The team had enough of them away from home last season.
Southend United: Bentley; White, Thompson, Prosser, Coker; Atkinson, Leonard, Laird, Straker; Eastwood, Corr
Subs: Clifford (for Laird 60), Reid (for Eastwood 82), Payne (for Leonard 90+1)
Not used: Smith, Timlin, Hurst, Cowan
Cobblers: Duke; Amankwaah, Collins, Tozer, Widdowson; Hackett, Carter, Deegan, Emerton; Blyth, O’Donovan
Subs: Platt (for Widdowson 66), Demontagnac (for Emerton 66), Toney (for Blyth 73)
Not used: Morris, Snedker, Hooper, Dias
Away fans: 392