Andy King’s first audition for the Cobblers job ended in a fashion consistent with the overall season - an away defeat.
Town were downed 1-0 at Burton Albion with Brewers skipper Ian Sharps powering home a headed winner five minutes from full-time.
It was an improved performance under the caretaker but ended in exactly the same way as in six of the previous seven away games, a loss.
King was forced to make five changes to the team that started the previous game, with Stuart Dallas and Ricky Ravenhill recalled by their parent clubs and Mathias Doumbe, Clive Platt and Ian Morris all injured.
The absences led to a 4-5-1 system with Darren Carter in from the cold as a holding midfielder, Luke Norris back in as a lone striker and Izale McLeod shuffled to the left wing.
Ben Tozer, who was also back - and in the centre of midfield - indirectly forced Burton keeper Dean Lyness into a save when his long throw was flicked on by home defender Matty Palmer.
Burton were as low-key as their supporters for the bulk of the first half but pressed Matt Duke into action when Jimmy Phillips had a firm header tipped over from a Chris Hussey-led break down the right.
They made a bright start to the second half, and should have been ahead when Phillips played a square pass to Billy Kee to scuff wide from no more than 10 yards.
Town took some time to adjust but when they did they produced some really good football, orchestrated mainly by Hackett, who showed signs of last season’s vintage with one particularly exhilirating run.
Carter, too, grew with the game and spearheaded a puncturing attack through the middle that ended with a tame Roy O’Donovan shot when he should have done better on his stronger right foot.
But 0-0 is always a dangerous scoreline and that is a fact Northampton have proved on all-too regular occasions this season, especially away from home.
The decisive goal was brutally in its simplicity and executed with the routine efficiency of a training-ground routine.
Phillips, a lively attacker in open play all afternoon, clipped in a corner that Sharps met with perfect timing and power to plant the ball past a helpless Duke.
Burton: Lyness, Edwards, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff, McCrory, Hussey, Weir, Palmer, Phillips, McGurk, Kee
Subs: MacDonald (for Hussey 61), Howe (for Kee 77), Bell (for Weir 88)
Not used: Siegrist, Diamond, Knowles, Symes
Cobblers: Duke, Amankwaah, Reid, Collins, Widdowson, Hackett, Tozer, Deegan, Carter, Norris, McLeod
Subs: O’Donovan (for McLeod 53), Moyo (for Norris 83), Emerton (for Reid 89)
Not used: McNamara, Demontagnac, Heath, Harriott