The Cobblers suffered more away day misery and their fourth defeat in five Sky Bet League Two games as they were beaten 1-0 by Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.
Tom Lockyer’s goal after just 84 seconds of the match proved to be enough for the home side.
The Cobblers were always in what was a pretty even game, but they lacked any cutting edge in attack, and were left to ponder another fruitless road trip.
To compound the disappointment for manager Aidy Boothroyd, striker Roy O’Donovan was sent-off in time added on for picking up his second booking and will miss Tuesday’s JPT trip to MK Dons.
The Cobblers made four changes to the team that lost 2-1 at home to Torquay United last weekend, with three of them enforced.
Danny Emerton was ruled out through illness, while left-back Joe Widdowson was left out due to a hamstring problem and Ian Morris with a groin strain.
Those three were replaced by Chris Hackett, Ishmel Demontagnac and Matt Heath, who played in central defence with Ben Tozer moving to right-back and Kevin Amankwaah switching to left-back.
The other change saw Jacob Blyth, who scored the goal against the Gulls, dropped to the bench, with Clive Platt starting for the first time since the play-off final defeat to Bradford City at Wembley.
Platt was also named captain.
The game got off to the worst possible start for the Cobblers, with Rovers taking the lead in the second minute, Lockyer rising above Amankwaah at the far post to head back across Matt Duke and into the net from overlapping full-back Lee Brown’s deep cross from the left, a lovely ball inside Tozer having taken the right-back out of the game.
Town took a few minutes to get over that shock, but gradually got themselves into the game and created their first real chance on 12 minutes, Platt’s header from a Heath header back across goal being well saved by Steve Mildenhall.
The rest of the of the half was fairly even, with Rovers a threat going forward but regularly falling short on the edge of the Cobblers penalty area, while the Cobblers struggled to get their attacking combinations working.
Town did have two big penalty shouts as half-time approached, with Heath going to ground under pressure from Tom Parkes as he attempted to get on the end of a ball over the top.
Referee Mark Haywood decided there was no foul, but you have to wonder why Heath went down as he would have got to the ball first? It looked a penalty, and the Cobblers players were furious.
Three minutes later Hackett went down in the area as he strived to reach a pull-back from Roy O’Donovan, with the referee deeming it a dive and booking the Cobblers man, which was harsh.
It looked as though Hackett had stumbled under pressure, so no foul, but not a dive either.
That moment followed the Cobblers’ best attacking move of the match, and indeed it was Town who finished the half the stronger of the two sides.
The Cobblers continued to have the momentum in the early exchanges of the second half and pllied plenty of pressure, but were unable to create anything clear cut.
Indeed, it was Rovers who created the first real chance of the half, but John-Joe O’Toole toe-poked Ellis Harrison’s low cross a yard wide.
O’Donovan did get a sight of goal for Town moments later, but he hammered his left foot shot from 20 yards well over the top. The Irishman had more time and space than he realised.
The game began to open up midway through the half, and David Clarkson had a good chance to seal the points for the home side on 71 minutes, but he smashed his effort from a tight angle into the sidenetting. He should have hit the target.
The Cobblers kept plugging away for an equaliser, and they were inches away from getting one in the 90th minute.
Town were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Rovers area when Hackett was fouled, although the contact looked to have been made in the box.
Referee Haywood, who had a terrible game, said it was a free-kick though, and the winger picked himself to take it.
His lovely curling effort over the wall looked perfect, but the ball smacked against the post and there was nobody in claret to finish off the rebound.
Town’s miserable day was complete five minutes into stoppage time when O’Donovan received a second yellow card and was dismissed, the third Cobblers player to be sent-off in as many away games this season.
Six other Cobblers players were also booked.
Teams: Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown, Lockyer, Norburn, O’Toole, Harrison, Clarkson (83m, Richards), Brunt (28m, Harrold). Subs not used: Gough, Kenneth, Gill, Harding, Santos
Northampton Town: Duke, Amankwaah (86m, Toney), Tozer, Heath, Collins, Hackett, Deegan, Carter, Demontagnac (73m, Blyth), O’Donovan, Platt. Subs not used: Snedker, Hooper, Roberts, Harriott
Referee: Mark Haywood
Goals: 2 mins Lockyer;
Bookings: 42 mins: Hackett (diving); 52 mins: Harrison (foul on Hackett); 55 mins: Deegan (foul on Clarkson); 63: Platt (foul on Parkes); 68 mins: Heath (foul on Harrold); 77 mins: Carter (dissent); 81 mins: O’Donovan (foul on McChrystal); 90+5 mins: O’Donovan (red - ungentlemany conduct).
Attendance: 5,629 (299 Cobblers fans)