Head coach David Ripley was in downbeat mood after seeing Northants Steelbacks suffer a desperately disappointing 51-run defeat to Derbyshire in the Royal London One Day Cup at the County Ground on Friday.
The loss leaves the County’s chances of reaching the knockout stages hanfing by a thread, and Ripley was unhappy with his side’s performance with both bat and ball.
The bowlers lacked penetration as Derbyshire eased to 265 for two at a sunny Wantage Road, and the batsmen then failed to fire as the Steelbacks were bowled out for just 214, the one bright spot a first 50 of the summer for Ben Duckett.
A disappointed Ripley said: “In the Powerplay we were tidy but we had nothing in the wickets column and that’s been a theme - not being able to get among the opposition early.
“I thought it was an over-par score but if we started well, it wasn’t a gigantic score.
“But we limped out of the Powerplay and then needed something special from someone and I was never confident we were going to threaten the target.”
Billy Godleman’s second hundred in this year’s competition led Derbyshire to the win, and keeps them firmly in the hunt for a place in the knockout stage.
It was an impressive all-round display from Derbyshire, led by Godleman, who made a career-best 137 in the opening game of the competition at Edgbaston and followed up with an unbeaten 125 from 142 balls to steer his side carefully to 265 for two on a slow wicket.
The score was easily defended with all six bowlers taking wickets as Northants subsided for 214 to leave their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage hanging by a thread.
Godleman steered Derbyshire, having won the toss, with typically nugetty effort - few memorable strokes but a most-determined effort. He got going with a flashing cover drive off Ben Sanderson, struck another boundary past mid-off and a fierce pull backward of square as Derbyshire finished the Powerplay on 37 without loss.
Boundaries were at a premium but he swung Josh Cobb over midwicket before bursting the hands of short-fine leg for his ninth four to move to 98 and then raising his third List A century in 127 balls.
His opening partnership of 182 with Ben Slater was the record first-wicket stand in this fixture.
Slater, fresh from his century against Yorkshire on Wednesday, began his innings with two firm pulls but otherwise was content to run the bowling around and build the partnership. He swept Graeme White for four and pulled Cobb over midwicket.
A leg-side flick off Nathan Buck raised his sixth List A 50 in 78 balls with five fours.
He then switch-hit Rob Keogh to the backward-point fence but completely missed a full toss from the same bowler and was clean bowled for 94.
Northants’ chase, as was the case in the previous match against Durham, was in early trouble.
Rob Newton chipped Wayne Madsen to midwicket for just two and Josh Cobb hit Ravi Rampaul to mid-on for six before Alex Wakely, after a stand of 51 for the third wicket, tried to reverse-sweep Matt Critchley and was plumb lbw for 19.
Ben Duckett has endured a miserable season so far but here, got set by driving Wayne Madsen - who bowled a seven-over opening spell for just 21 runs - over extra-cover before reverse-sweeping Critchley’s leg-spin three times for boundaries in going to just a first half-century of the summer in 59 balls.
Duckett and Adam Rossington shared a partnership of 53 for the fourth wicket before Duckett lifted Alex Hughes into the hands of long-on to fall for 57 and Rossington, having reached a fortuitous 40, swung at Duanne Olivier and lost his leg stump.
A hefty 107 were needed from 11 overs and despite Rory Kleinvedlt striking two leg-side sixes, he couldn’t rescue Northants.
The defeat leaves the County seventh in the north table, with five points from six matches played, and three points adrift of Warwickshire in third place.
Northants have two matches remaining, at Worcestershire on Sunday and then at Yorkshire next Thursday, and are going to have to win both of those to stand any sort of chance of reaching the knockout stages.