Aidy Boothroyd believed his Cobblers side crumbled under the weight of expectation on them in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to York City at Sixfields.
Town could have enhanced their automatic promotion chances with a positive result but were beaten by a Minstermen side who began the afternoon in the bottom two of npower League Two.
It brought to a shuddering halt a run of 10 successive home wins and puts a major dent in the team’s chances of finishing in the top three.
Back-to-back defeats prior to the game had made little impression on the team’s status and they could have gone third with a win but instead they wilted in front of a 6,600-plus attendance - the biggest at Sixfields of the campaign so far.
“The run was always going to come to an end but I’d rather it had come to an end in six months’ time rather than today,” said Boothroyd.
“York dealt with the occasion better than we did. The pressure was on us to get a result and we didn’t get it but we dealt with it last season when we were in a relegation fight and we’ll deal with it this year when we’re in a promotion fight.
“Some of the players were trying too hard and trying to make too much of an impression on the game instead of doing the things we have been doing.
“I honestly don’t think the crowd affected us. It’s brilliant to play in front of big crowds and you want to win because you want all those people to come back.”
The defeat to York was the Cobblers’ first on their own ground since December and brought to an end a run of 10 successive victories there.
The team have just one home game left this term, the fixture against Barnet coming after trips to Wycombe and Port Vale.
Boothroyd is fully aware he will need his players to refocus on the things that have brought them success if the club’s promotion aim is to be realised.
“There’s a reason why we’ve got one of the best home records in the country and if I lose sight of that and start to panic then that’s not what I’m paid for,” he said.
“I’m paid to keep the ship steady and make sure we’re ready for Wycombe because we’ve got a great chance to bounce back straight away.
“We thought nine points would be enough and there are three games left so by my maths we should still be able to get the points we need.”