Error-strewn Cobblers punished by Dagenham
The first half had started encouragingly for the Cobblers and they got their reward through Marc Richards’ header but Northampton’s defensive frailties were then ruthlessly exposed by the visitors with Matt McClure profiting from two mistakes to turn the game on its head and put Dagenham ahead at half-time.
Having been so dominant in the early stages, Northampton seemed to lose their nerve after conceding with only a string of fine saves from Adam Smith keeping the home side in the game.
Though Chris Wilder and his side frantically poured forward in search of an equaliser, they struggled to seriously test Liam O’Brien in the away goal and the visitors held on for a first ever win at Sixfields and their first three points of the season.
It also means the Cobblers have suffered back-to-back home league defeats having lost to Plymouth Argyle two weeks ago.
Wilder once again rung the changes with five players making way from the side that beat Colchester United with Adam Smith, Joel Byrom, Marc Richards and Nicky Adams returning to the starting line-up, while Josh Lelan replaced the injured Adam Yates.
The first chance went the way of Northampton when Lawson D’Ath’s ball into the box was collected by Alfie Potter, who turned away from the defender but his powerful shot on the turn was turned behind by O’Brien.
The early exchanges were scrappy with both sides guilty of giving the ball away but the Cobblers were offering a threat when they got forward as D’Ath planted his free header over from Adams’ cross.
Despite some sloppy passing, Northampton remained the team who looked likelier to break the deadlock, and it was no surprise when the hosts did go ahead.
The goal was well-worked with D’Ath slipping in Adams on the left, who cut back and swung in a magnificent cross for Richards to head into the bottom corner.
Potter then lashed a 20-yard effort just wide as the Cobblers looked to drive home their advantage, but just as it seemed the home side were taking control, Dagenham hit back against the run of play.
Richards gave the ball away on the halfway line and Dagenham broke and with Lelan caught out of position, Ashley Hemmings was free on the left to whip in a fine cross which was headed home by the unmarked McClure at the back post.
Things went from bad to worse for Northampton after the goal when Potter picked up an injury and was replaced by Chris Hackett as the hosts struggled to regain the initiative before their hesitant and naive defending at the back was once again exploited.
A ball came over the top of the Northampton defence and Rod McDonald and Smith appeared to have it under control but the two hesitated and left it to each other before colliding into one another, leaving McClure to tap into an open goal.
The Cobblers were fortunate not to be further behind moments later when Hemmings cut inside and slipped through McClure, but Smith was quick off his line to smother the shot and deny the striker a first half hat-trick.
Town survived until half-time but the second half began in similar vein with Northampton again cut apart by the visitors with Doidge finding space in the penalty area and firing a low effort which Smith saved well with his legs.
Dagenham were sensing blood with the dangerous Hemmings making space for himself and wriggling enough room to unleash a fierce striker from an acute angle which Smith was again equal to.
Smith was almost single-handedly keeping Northampton in the game although even he was beaten by Hemmings’ audacious effort that flicked the top of the crossbar and landed on top of the net in another let-off for Town.
Substitute Sam Hoskins almost found the equaliser for Town in a rare foray forward when he turned and let fly from 25 yards but O’Brien pulled off a superb save to push the shot onto the crossbar.
That came against the run of play, however, as Dagenham continued to look the likelier to score with Smith using his legs well to deny an effort before Ryan Cresswell had to hook off the line from Ayo Obileye’s back post header.
Northampton struggled badly to build any forward momentum, much to the frustration of the increasingly restless home fans, and more sloppy play gave Hemmings another sighter from range but Smith was again equal to it.
Finally the Cobblers found some energy and renewed optimism with a succession of corners and almost the equaliser came but Cresswell’s header was blocked on the line.
With less than 20 minutes to go, Wilder introduced Dominic Calvert-Lewin for Lelan in a desperate attempt to get back into the game but aside from several set-pieces, Northampton were unable to put much pressure on O’Brien and the away defence.
Instead, Dagenham posed the greater threat on the break with the home side yet again grateful for Smith who refused to be beaten by Hemmings as the two continued their personal battle.
The Cobblers almost snatched an equaliser at the death but Dagenham somehow survived a frantic goalmouth scramble and the visitors held on to condemn Northampton to a second successive home league defeat.
Cobblers: Smith, Lelan (Calvert-Lewin 74), Cresswell, McDonald, Buchanan, Byrom, Watson, Potter (Hackett 31), Adams, D’Ath (Hoskins 51), Richards
Subs not used: Clarke, Taylor, O’Toole, Corry
Dagenham: O’Brien, Passley, Nosworthy, Obileye, Widdowson, Chambers (Hines 71), Ferdinand, Hemmings, Richards, Doidge, McClure (Dikamona 90)
Subs not used: Cureton, Jones, Raymond, Cousins
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Dagenham fans: 121