There are many reasons why the Cobblers lost at Grimsby Town on Saturday but the main one is that they showed the home side far too much respect.
Northampton are a bad team away from home; they don’t generally win matches on their travels (10 away victories in 52 Aidy Boothroyd matches), they don’t score a lot of goals (only three times in their 13 away matches so far this season have seen them notch) and they don’t generally play that well when not at Sixfields either.
They have lost games they should have won (Rochdale) and lost games they should have drawn (Plymouth) in the past month alone. Any team facing the current Town side on their own ground must be rubbing their hands at the prospect.
In a sense, you can see where Boothroyd was coming from in playing one up front and a second striker almost as an advanced midfielder, with the wingers trying to push on.
You could see where he was coming from because this was the system that worked so well at Chesterfield, where the team ground out a thoroughly deserved 0-0.
But Grimsby, as talented and as in form as they are, are no Chesterfield.
Admittedly they would not look out of place in league two and could well be there next season but they do not have the depth of resources - or vitally, the quality - that Chesterfield have.
The Cobblers, though, should have treated them more like Bishop’s Stortford.
They should definitely have played two up front and one of those players should have been Clive Platt.
Platt got half an hour of this game and afterwards it was confirmed he did not start because he is more important in terms of the bigger picture - league survival.
All of which makes the pre-match platitudes about the importance of the FA Cup sound like little more than lip service.
They should have taken the game to Grimsby because a sabre-rattling two or even three-goal loss would have been much more palatable to the supporters than the meek effort they witnessed at the weekend.
Grimsby are obviously miles better than Bishop’s Stortford but in that first-round tie, Northampton piled forward at every opportunity and could have won by five or six.
At Rochdale, too, when they trusted their attacking instincts and actually went for it, they led twice and should have got something from the game.
At Blundell Park it felt like an exercise in damage limitation at times.
After the home side scored, they sat off the Cobblers and let them have a few attacks.
Such attacks ultimately came to nothing but illustrated a softness to Grimsby that should have been exploited from the start. The team’s negative mind set and tactical set-up precluded any likelihood of that happening.
Last season the dire away form cost the club automatic promotion.
This year, unless the team actually starts playing away matches like it wants to win them, the price could be even more extreme.
Was rooted to his spot for the first goal but it was a very good header that beat him. No chance on the second ...6
Decision-making was a little patchy at times but competed well and tried to get in the game on the overlap ...6
Few complaints about the overall performance but will not be happy with the way he was outmuscled by Pearson for the first, tone-setting goal ...6
Cannot really be blamed for the defeat and actually competed well against the thorny talents of John-Lewis ...6
Made several useful forays forward and even had a rare shot at the home of one of his former clubs ...6
Put in two or three problematic balls but is not attacking teams for the full duration of matches; was also double-marked on regular occasions ...5
Picked up the first booking of his Cobblers career in a typically combative display. Limited the amount of influence Kerr was able to exert ...6
Had a good start to the game but found himself in regular foul trouble and added another yellow card to his growing collection ...5
Had a good shot and played one or two good passes but seems to lack a courage in the final third, regular shunning a shot in favour of an extra pass ...5
Not his best game; other than a good energy he didn’t really create anything and was rightly withdrawn on the hour mark ...5
By his own admission he is not the player he was during the first half of his loan spell. Competed well but had a tough afternoon up front alone ...5
CLIVE PLATT (for Emerton 58)
Was chasing a lost cause soon after his introduction and didn’t produce any of the sparkling link-up play of last week ...5
LUKE NORRIS (for Widdowson 85)
No time to influence the game; with his goalscoring record he should be starting matches
ISHMEL DEMONTAGNAC (for Deegan 85)
As with Norris, no real time to make an impression when entering as a left-winger in a dice-rolling 3-4-3
Not used: Carter, Collins, McNamara, Toney