Cobblers’ wait for their first win of the season extended to five games when they were beaten 1-0 by previously rock-bottom Morecambe after an abject performance at the Globe Arena on Tuesday evening.
To put this defeat into context, Morecambe were pre-season favourites for the drop having only survived relegation to the non-league on the final day of last season, and they went into Tuesday’s contest without a goal, let alone a win, from three games of the current campaign.
But A-Jay Leitch-Smith’s well-taken strike on the cusp of half-time was sufficient in getting the better of Town, who were totally out-of-sorts in deservedly coming away with nothing.
They now sit 21st in Sky Bet League Two with just two points from four games.
The first-half began slowly but gradually improved and it ended with Morecambe scoring their very first league goal of the season through Leitch-Smith’s clinical finish.
The Shrimps ran rings around their visitors in search of a second at the start of the second-half before a dramatic finale saw goalkeeper Barry Roche sent off and an outfield player go in goal for the home side, but even then the Cobblers could not find the back of the net.
We are not even out of August yet so it is still early days, but this was without day Town’s worst display of the season to date and will only serve to put further pressure on manager Dean Austin and his players in their desperate attempts to get something going this season following last year’s woes.
Austin opted for three alterations to the team that drew with Cambridge on Saturday, handing first league starts of the season to Leon Barnett, Shay Facey and Dean Bowditch in place of Aaron Pierre, Hakeem Odoffin and Daniel Powell.
Morecambe made the brighter start and may have had an early penalty when Liam Mandeville rode two challenges before falling to ground inside the box, but referee Mark Heywood instead booked the midfielder for simulation.
The opening quarter was sorely lacking in quality and entertainment as the Shrimps continued to slightly hold the upper-hand but David Cornell’s first save did not come until 27 minutes, a comfortable one from Leitch-Smith.
The Cobblers too failed to make much headway in the final third with the in-form Kevin van Veen looking most likely but he couldn’t test Barry Roche with any of his three half chances.
Two clear chances fell Town’s way in the first-half and both arrived at the feet of Matt Crooks.
The first was the culmination of a crisp move with David Buchanan, Sam Hoskins and Crooks combining down the left side for the latter to get in the box and take aim towards the far corner where Roche was quick to react.
That was the cue for a lively end to the first-half as Cornell denied Andrew Fleming’s header with a fine save at full-length before Crooks failed to make the most of brilliant work by Andy Williams, skying over eight yards out.
Morecambe ended the half on top and were rewarded with the opening goal.
Town had been fortunate not to concede just moments earlier when Ash Taylor cleared off the line but it mattered not thanks to Leitch-Smith’s excellent take, latching onto a long ball and out-sprinting the visiting defence before calmly beating Cornell.
That left Cobblers with no chance to react as the half-time whistle almost immediately sounded and they were fortunate not to be two down with minutes of the restart, Leitch-Smith snatching at his shot and blazing over when well-placed.
Cornell also had to be on his guard to keep out Aaron Wildig’s and he then got finger-tips to Leith-Smith’s powerful drive as the visitors came under increasing pressure.
Fleming and substitute Kevin Ellison were next to threaten from range before Town finally stemmed the tide with rare period of possession as Sam Foley’s close-range shot was blocked.
Cobblers were still struggling to create chances as time ticked away but they were given a late boost in a dramatic finish when home keeper Roche was dismissed for a foul on Junior Morias and with all three subs used, outfield player Alex Kenyon went in goal.
But still the visitors could not score as Kenyon just about kept out Crooks and then flung himself at Daniel Powell’s close-range shot before somehow getting hands to Morias’ curling effort after the forward had done well to beat two defenders.
Six minutes were added on and pretty much every second of them was spent in the Morecambe half and one final chance dropped Northampton’s way, only for John-Joe O’Toole, on as a sub moments earlier, to side-foot over from the penalty spot.
Morecambe: Roche (c), Mills, Conlan, Old, Fleming, Yarney, Wildig (Mendes-Gomes 84), Mandeville, Oates (Ellison 66), Oswell (Kenyon 74), Leitch-Smith
Subs not used: Halstead, Jagne, Hedley, Cranston
Cobblers: Cornell, Facey, Taylor, Barnett, Buchanan, Foley (O’Toole 84), Crooks, Bowditch (Powell 64), Hoskins, Williams (Morias 64), van Veen
Subs not used: Ward, Odoffin, Turnbull, Bridge
Referee: Mark Heywood
Cobblers fans: 230