It was another tale of wasteful finishing and loose defending for the Cobblers on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 by Bristol Rovers at a rain-soaked Memorial Stadium.
There was not all that much wrong with Northampton’s first half performance despite the scoreline but once again those small and yet vital moments in both penalty boxes were their undoing. As they squandered chances, Rovers were clinical and eased into a 2-0 lead through Chris Martin’s clever flick and an Antony Evans penalty.
Town controlled much of the second half and Manny Monthé halved the deficit with his first goal for the club but with so few attacking options currently at Jon Brady’s disposal, they struggled to build on that and never really threatened an equaliser.
Cobblers are now four without a win and are just one place above the League One relegation zone, outside on goal difference alone.
Brady made only one change from the midweek draw against Leyton Orient as Tyreece Simspon replaced Kieron Bowie, who served the first of his three match ban. With eight players missing due to injury or suspension, academy teenager Neo Dobson was named on the bench.
In driving rain and swirling wind at the Memorial Stadium, Cobblers were inches away from a seventh-minute lead when Patrick Brough’s low cross ricocheted off a defender and was clawed away by goalkeeper Matt Cox, with the loose ball then hitting Simpson and agonisingly dropping wide.
Having gone so close themselves, Town fell behind just three minutes later. They were opened up down their left-hand side where Aaron Collins squeezed the ball across goal and Martin applied a terrific improvised finish in off the post.
That came very much against the run of play and the visitors were again close at the other end when a free-kick found its way through to Sam Sherring who was all alone in the middle of the penalty box but he couldn’t beat Cox.
A rasping drive from Sam Hoskins flicked off his own man and flew narrowly over before his 20-yard free-kick hit the top of the wall as Town continue to dictate things, but their lack of cutting edge was always going to be costly.
And as feared, they had a mountain to climb with less than half-an-hour gone. Lee Burge came racing out of his goal, missed the ball and clattered Collins for a clear penalty, which was converted by Evans to double the home side’s lead.
That drained belief and confidence from Cobblers and they could have been even further behind at the beak. Burge saved well from both Tristan Crama and Martin but his best stop came in first half stoppage-time when he was at full stretch to tip away Connor Taylor’s effort.
Sherring and Hoskins shot straight at Cox with half chances after the restart, and Cobblers were back in the game three minutes shy of the hour. They were given a soft looking free-kick on the right and Pinnock’s fine delivery was glanced into the net by Monthé.
That opened the game up and Rovers almost restored their two-goal advantage but John Marquis was deemed marginally offside, while Town couldn’t make the most of some promising attacking positions.
Brady had no attacking options on the bench and his side lost momentum as they tired in the closing stages. It was only in stoppage-time when they applied any sustained pressure and even then only one half chances came their way when Will Hondermarck’s shot was blocked.
Rovers: Cox, Grant, Finley © (Bogarde 60), Taylor, Martin (Marquis 60), Vale, Crama, Evans, Brown (Gibbons 90), Friend (Thomas 76), Collins
Subs not used: Hall, Gordon, Sinclair
Cobblers: Burge, Willis (Hondermarck 45), Sherring, Monthé, Odimayo (McGowan 83), Brough (Koiki 69), McWilliams, Leonard, Pinnock, Hoskins, Simpson (Haynes 87)
Subs not used: Thompson, Lintott, Dobson
Referee: Sunny Singh Gill