Aidy Boothroyd felt his Cobblers side showed signs of great improvement in their draw at Wycombe Wanderers but accepts a finish in the play-offs is now the most likely outcome to their season.
Town were held 0-0 at Adams Park and are now sixth in npower League Two, with Rotherham United’s 2-0 win at Bradford City meaning they currently occupy the third and final automatic promotion place.
Boothroyd takes his side to second-place Port Vale on Saturday and has stressed the importance of securing a place in the top seven.
“We’ve got to make sure we get into the play-offs first,” he said. “Port Vale is going to be a very tough game for us and we’ve know that all season but strange things happen at this time of the year.
“We proved that on Saturday. We’re not giving up on anything but our priority now is to finish in the play-offs and that would still be a fantastic achievement for us.
“I will be delighted if we win at Port Vale and that of course is our aim, if we do that we will be in with a chance of finishing third.”
To claim any kind of positive result at Vale Park the team will need to continue making the kind of improvement they did at Wycombe last night.
Luke Guttridge and Lewis Hornby were recalled to the side in a central midfield given a brief of better ball retention and they both acquitted themselves well.
“I thought it was a very good performance,” he said. “I thought Luke (Guttridge) and Lewis (Hornby) did very well coming back into the side.
“I wanted us to keep the ball a bit better, to get our foot on the ball in midfield a little bit more and get on the rebounds a little bit more and sustain attacks.
“Defensively we were fine but we just couldn’t find that goal. Quite a few of the away performances this season have had me scratching my head but with this game we could have won 3-0 on another night.
“It was important we kept a clean sheet, wiped the blood off our hands and showed an improved performance and we did that.”