Cobblers succumbed to their second defeat to non-league opposition in a week as they conceded four times to Brackley Town in a 4-2 friendly loss at St James Park.
Northampton twice recovered from a goal down in the first-half and went into the break level at 2-2 but despite lying three divisions below their visitors, Brackley were the brighter and more threatening side throughout and came away with a deserved victory.
Former Cobbler David Moyo was Brackley’s tormentor-in-chief as he gave the Northampton defence the run around all afternoon in an impressive two-goal performance.
Aaron Phillips’ delivery from the right was the source of both Northampton goals, scored by Marc Richards and Alex Revell, but shaky moments at the other end gave Brackley plenty of encouragement throughout, not least when Moyo pounced on a terrible back pass.
And to compound a disappointing day, defenders Brendan Moloney and Rod McDonald were both taken off with injuries.
Whilst just a pre-season friendly and therefore still too early to panic, this performance and result will give manager Rob Page cause for concern, particularly from a defensive viewpoint where sloppy passing, loose touches and poor defending often meant Northampton were the architects of their own downfall.
The starting XI selected by Page was perhaps the clearest indication yet as to how the new boss will line-up when next month’s season opener against Fleetwood Town comes around, with experienced strikers Revell and Richards partnered together.
New signing Phillips started over Brendan Moloney at right-back and the team also included trialist Josh Gillies, a 26-year-old winger who spent last season at Gateshead.
Fellow trialist Chris Birchall, formerly of Port Vale and LA Galaxy, replaced Lawson D’Ath at half-time and a third player on trial featured in the second half when ex-Arsenal striker Zak Ansah replaced Richards.
Neither side displayed any sign of pre-season rustiness in a lively opening 12 minutes that saw the Cobblers strike back after Brackley drew first blood.
A confident start from the hosts was rewarded on just nine minutes when slack marking allowed Alex Gudger to nod home Glenn Walker’s teasing cross.
But scarcely three minutes latter, Northampton responded with a well-worked goal of their own when Richards tapped into an empty net after Revell’s improvised cutback from Phillips’ deep cross.
Northampton shaded possession and territory thereafter but the away side’s threat was blunted well by Brackley who restricted the League One side to few clear openings.
The visitors appeared untroubled at the other end but it was on 25 minutes when the problems began as a horror back pass from Rod McDonald presentied Brackley with the easiest of goals to restore their lead; Moyo latching onto McDonald’s woefully short pass before rounding Smith and rolling into an unguarded net.
Chances were few and far between for Town despite their control of possession, however after McDonald was taken off in another injury worry, the visitors drew level for a second time on 40 minutes.
As with the first goal, it all stemmed from a wicked Phillips cross as Revell showed good strength to power home the right-back’s whipped delivery.
That restored parity at half-time but yet more sloppy defending within moments of the restart gifted Brackley a third goal.
This time Ryan Cresswell was at fault as he failed to deal with Jack Bowen’s knock down and that allowed Matt Lowe to nip in and sweep past David Cornell.
Cresswell had a golden chance to atone for that error and drag Cobblers level for a third time but he could only head against the post from barely three outs out, while Revell had an effort bundled off the line.
But those chances were all Northampton could muster in a abject second-half performance during which Brackley dominated.
The Cobblers repeatedly gifted possession away cheaply and afforded Brackley far too much time and space when the home side streamed forward,
Cornell forced into a sharp save from the ever-threatening Moyo was an example of that, and Brackley soon had a fourth when Walker’s pinpoint cross was turned home by an unmarked Moyo.
That was the final goal of the afternoon, much to Page’s relief, although there was still time for Moloney to limp off injured and compound Northampton’s misery.
Brackley: Snedker, Myles, Gudger, Armson, Graham, Dean, Adam Walker, Lowe, Bowen, Moyo, Glenn Walker
Cobblers: Smith (Cornell 45), Phillips (Moloney 68), Cresswell, McDonald (Diamond 38), Buchanan, O’Toole (McWilliams 68), Byrom (Taylor 60), Gillies, D’Ath (Birchall 45), Revell, Richards (Ansah 60)
Subs: Hall, Iaciofano, Zakuani, McAmmon