Chris Wilder felt the Cobblers played ‘like a five-a-side team’ in their defeat at Bury and criticised the players for not being good enough with or without the ball.
Town lost 2-1 at Gigg Lane despite taking the lead through Ricky Holmes and playing the final 40 minutes of the game against 10 men following Joe Riley’s sending-off.
Wilder said his team did not pass the ball well enough with that man advantage and they were made to pay against a Shakers side he is sure will now be promoted from Sky Bet League Two.
“I thought we deserved our lead,” he said. “We were a threat and we dealt with the attacking players they had in what was a near-enough perfect first-half performance against a promotion-chasing side.
“When the ball is bouncing and there are tackles to be made we need to show the fire and then show the ice and be cool and calm on the ball - we didn’t do either of those things.
“We were like a five-a-side team who just wanted to play pretty football in amongst them. We didn’t overload them or get our full-backs into our game and got our centre-backs split a little bit more.
“It’s a very disappointing result because we could have made a big statement if we’d got a result today.
“Bury put in the type of performance of a team which wins promotion and we’ve played like a team who finishes in mid-table obscurity.”
The home crowd vociferously celebrated the win, which was secured by Adam El Abd’s injury-time goal and which puts them a point off the automatic promotion places.
Town are now five points off the top seven with eight games left to play.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the opposition,” he said. “I’ve been in promotion-winning teams and they get results like that where you have to dig in so full credit to them.
“We should have gone on to win that game and played around them after the sending-off but we didn’t pass it and we didn’t work hard.
“I think we thought we were just going to canter home and I congratulate Dave (Flitcroft, Bury manager) on the way his team played.”