The Cobblers squandered a golden chance to get back to winning ways in the league on Saturday and as a consequence of this woeful home defeat, their promotion credentials must now be seriously questioned.
It’s far too early to panic, of course, and seven points after six games is hardly catastrophic, but it’s more the manner of their performances, particularly this one against Dagenham & Redbridge, that will cause the most concern among supporters, players and manager Chris Wilder.
In fact, if anything, Northampton fans will be nervously looking down, rather than up, at this early stage of the season following Saturday’s defeat to a side who they had previously never lost to.
To put it into context, this is a Dagenham side who came into the game sitting second from bottom, without a win all season and one of the heavy favourites for relegation.
So what went wrong?
Well, on paper, Northampton have a squad capable of challenging for a play-off place at the very least. Players like Nicky Adams, Marc Richards, David Buchanan and Adam Smith are clearly talented enough, but the depth of their squad is now being seriously tested with a growing injury list and there are question marks over whether some of the back-up players are good enough.
There also seems to be a lack of resilience, leadership and mental strength, especially when they go behind.
Wilder’s said have fallen behind on four occasions this season - against Barnet, Plymouth, Newcastle and now Dagenham - and are yet to get back on level terms in any of those games, going on to lose all four.
Saturday’s game was more of the same. For the first 25 minutes Northampton were in the ascendancy and had the game under control thanks to Richards’ header from a fine Adams cross.
But then it all went horribly wrong. As soon as they conceded, the Cobblers completely lost their way and struggled to ever regain the initiative.
The first goal was naive defending at best, the second was comical and from thereafter there was only ever going to be one winner.
Despite keeping three clean sheets in their first three games, Northampton have looked defensively vulnerable all season and if it wasn’t for the excellent Adam Smith in goal, they would have conceded many more.
And on Saturday, their defensive deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed by Dagenham who pounced on two errors to score two goals and but for more good goalkeeping from Smith, the final scoreline would have been far more one-sided.
Dagenham skipper Ashley Hemmings caught the eye and was the chief tormentor. The winger had his own personal duel with Smith in the second half, denied three times by the home keeper.
“To put Saturday’s defeat into context, this is a Dagenham side who came into the game sitting second from bottom, without a win all season and one of the heavy favourites for relegation.”
It was a difficult day for young Josh Lelan. The 20-year-old has obvious qualities - he’s strong, quick and good in the air - but is still very raw and at times naive, highlighted in the build-up to Dagenham’s opening goal when he went charging up the pitch and left the defence exposed with Hemmings given acres of space to cross for Matt McClure to head home.
Another to struggle was Rod McDonald, who has shown promise in recent games but his failure to take command of the situation for the second goal proved costly and that seemed to drain his confidence as he was never able to recover.
The news that Alfie Potter has a dead leg is hardly a welcome one, either, with the injury list already up to five prior to Saturday.
So where does this leave Northampton now? Next weekend’s game against Oxford United will reveal a lot.
How they rated...
Adam Smith - Says a lot that he was arguably Northampton’s best player despite being partly at fault for Dagenham’s second goal. Pulled off a number of fine saves to prevent a more one-sided scoreline... 6.5
Josh Lelan - Torrid afternoon for the youngster. Caught way out of position for the first goal and never recovered... 4.5
Rod McDonald - Another man to endure a difficult day. Should have been more commanding when trying to clear for Dagenham’s second goal... 4.5
Ryan Cresswell - Didn’t do too badly all things considered despite being hopelessly exposed by his team-mates at times. Cleared one header off the line and had another blocked on the line at the other end... 6
David Buchanan - Wasn’t at fault for either goal but did get caught out of position in the second half when charging up the pitch looking to get a goal back... 6
Ryan Watson - Picked up where he left off on Tuesday. Brought some drive and energy to midfield but faded as the game wore on... 6
Joel Byrom - Good in possession but, alongside Watson, didn’t offer enough protection and left the defence exposed with gaps for Dagenham to exploit on the break... 5
Alfie Potter - Started well. Was denied by Liam O’Brien early on before smashing an effort just wide. Went off with a dead leg on the half-hour mark... 6.5
Nicky Adams - Put in a superb cross for the goal. Always tried to make something happen... 7
Lawson D’Ath - Similar to Potter in the way he started the game. Was eager to get on the ball early on but barely had a kick after Northampton fell behind. Was taken off just after half-time... 6
Marc Richards - Lovely header to put Northampton ahead but gave the ball away on the halfway line which led to the first goal. Otherwise had little service... 6
Chris Hackett - On for Potter in the first half but had little impact. Struggled to get in the game... 6
Sam Hoskins - Always adds energy and impetus when he comes on. Came inches away from equalising with a superb 25-yard effort which O’Brien tipped onto the crossbar... 7
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - Thrown on as a desperate last roll of the dice. Put himself about but the ball wouldn’t fall for him... 6