As with most of the Cobblers’ defeats this season, there were mitigating factors at Hartlepool but the bottom line was another loss - and that should concern everyone involved.
The Hartlepool players did their homework. They knew this was a Town team whose recent successes had been based around a new tough-tackling style in central midfield, and they went to ground under any challenge.
At one point, their striker James Poole did what appeared to be a cartwheel after a bodycheck from Mathias Doumbe that wouldn’t have put down a tired toddler.
The home fans, perhaps inspired by pre-match comments about the physical Northampton style, foamed at the mouth with each indiscretion, and referee Mark Haywood crumbled.
His decision to award a penalty in the second half was laughably bad and gave the Cobblers a mountain to climb to get back into the game, something they never looked like doing.
And there’s the thing - teams, especially on their own grounds, are not having to do much to beat this Northampton side.
Hartlepool’s first goal was a punt over the top that caught the visiting defence square and playing for offside; admittedly Luke James did well to trap the pass and slot it past Matt Duke but it was an avoidable goal and a pretty sloppy one to concede.
Jacob Blyth’s glancing header against the post in the first few minutes was as good as it got in terms of a goalscoring opportunity and the defeat was entirely deserved.
Wingers Stuart Dallas and Danny Emerton played with plenty of effort but rarely got into crossing positions and the front line of Blyth and Luke Norris was neutralised with worrying ease by the home defence.
The concern for Aidy Boothroyd on Saturday is that the same issues that were presenting themselves when the team contained players such as Darren Carter and Gary Deegan did so with Kane Ferdinand and Ricky Ravenhill were in it.
That suggests an issue with the team’s preparation rather than any nebulous concepts of confidence or individual mental strength and for that the manager must be culpable.
There will of course be renewed calls for a change on that front - eight defeats in nine away games and a Football League position of 92nd will have a tendency to elicit such debates.
The club is approaching something of a crossroads - will the first few months of this season be seen as a fallow period in a long-term project for Boothroyd, a temporary blip that all managers who are in their roles for season after season seem to have?
Or is it the defeat at Hartlepool the latest step on the road to a moment of change, the beginning of the end?
Time will tell but the fixtures don’t get any easier.
A trip to Chesterfield, who swept a much more established and competent Town team aside with some ease last season, is next on Tuesday night. After that it’s Accrington at home.
That game might be the win-or-bust fixture.
Didn’t have a chance with either of the goals and confidently tipped away a couple of speculative efforts ...6
Good decision-making for most of the game in what was a defending-first display ...6
Gave away a couple of cheap free-kicks around the box that his experience should have prevented him from doing so ...5
Probably the Cobblers’ best player on the day, won several headers under pressure and was unlucky on the penalty decision ...6
Stuck to the basics well enough but didn’t really offer enough on the front foot when the Cobblers had a short spell in attack ...5
Worked hard enough but does not have the penetrative powers of Hackett that are so vital to the counter-attacking strategy ...5
Through (arguably) no real fault of his own he found himself in foul trouble but was not the force he had been in the previous two games ...5
Played with lots of energy but decision-making was slightly out at times and contribution in attack was minimal ...5
A similar performance to that of Dallas on the other side - plenty of effort but, the cross for Blyth’s header apart, little end product ...5
Never looked like scoring, although he was starved of anything remotely resembling service by a malfunctioning midfield ...5
Looks to be getting fitter and put himself around well but, like Norris alongside him, was given very little to work with ...5
IAN MORRIS (for Norris 61)
Brought on to implement a tactical reshuffle but didn’t trouble the home defence ...5
CLIVE PLATT (for Dallas 72)
Introduction was largely a fitness-building exercise with the game lost ...5
Not used: Amankwaah, McNamara, Collins, Deegan, Heath