Dean Austin did not let the result cloud his judgement when assessing his side’s opening-day performance in their 1-0 defeat against Lincoln City on Saturday as he maintained his belief that the Cobblers have the firepower and quality ‘to do some damage’ in Sky Bet League Two this season.
In terms of chances, possession and territory, Town were comfortably the superior team against Danny Cowley’s Imps but one lapse in concentration at the back and erratic finishing in front of goal made for a losing start in their quest to bounce back from last year’s relegation disappointment.
Nevertheless, Austin was largely encouraged by what he witnessed from his team and how they went about their business, though he also accepted there are areas for them to improve, particularly when it comes to applying the finishing touch.
Three one-on-one opportunities went begging during the contest as Sam Hoskins, Daniel Powell and Andy Williams all failed to beat Lincoln’s inspired goalkeeper Josh Vickers while several other half chances were also squandered.
“They’ve had two shots on target and a couple off target and I think we’ve had eight on target and 10 off, so that kind of tells it’s own story but it was never going to be easy once they got the goal,” said Austin.
“They’re going to be up there this season, there’s no doubt about that, but if they think they’re better than last year and went as close as they did, then on the balance of Saturday’s game and our performance, you’d look at us and wonder if there’s anything for us to fear and for us to think that we can’t be up there as well.
“I’m very disappointed and the boys are gutted but we’re going to dust ourselves down and we’ve got to regroup.”
The most troubling aspect of Town’s display was their response to Matt Green’s well-placed header in the second-half as they struggled to mount much of a fightback against the well-organised visitors.
With City content to sit back and put men behind the ball once ahead, Northampton were sloppy in possession and saw attacks repeatedly break down prior to a flurry of late action.
“Goals are always avoidable,” continued Austin. “We were looking to be on the front-foot and I was giving our wide players a licence to sometimes stay further forward because I don’t want the whole team having to come back and then, when we clear our lines, it comes straight back.
It won’t go our away all the time and we know what teams will do when they come here and we know how difficult it’ll be but I believe we have the quality to do some damage.
“We’re not that type of team. Last year showed we can’t handle that but we need to do some work with our wide players and all-round, but I think everyone saw that the team is functioning well and we were the better side, unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted.
“There are certain things that we need to do better because when teams come and sit behind the ball, particularly on a slow pitch, we need to work the ball a bit quicker to get ourselves out.
“If we can do that, I think we’ll have a lot of joy.”
Saturday was Austin’s first game as Town’s full-time manager and he will be hoping that better times lie ahead as they look to challenge for a top seven spot in Sky Bet League Two this season.
He added: “I’ve had a lot of love from these supporters in these last few months, especially in the last few days. I’ve had a lot of messages and I’m very proud to be manager of this club.
“As I said to the boys in the week leading up to the game, there’ll be ups and downs this year. It won’t go our away all the time and we know what teams will do when they come here and we know how difficult it’ll be but I believe we have the quality to do some damage.”