Dean Austin’s first game in temporary charge of the Cobblers ended in yet another forgettable defeat as their seemingly irreversible slide towards relegation from Sky Bet League One inched ever closer with an abject 3-0 defeat at Blackpool on Tuesday.
After a slow start, Austin, placed in caretaker charge last week, saw his side grow into the game, creating and missing the best two chances of the first-half, before Armand Gnanduillet rolled Blackpool ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Once behind, Town never once looked like getting anything from the game as they completely lost their way in the second period and were well beaten in the end, deservedly so, with Sean Longstaff’s screamer and Jimmy Ryan’s deflected free-kick easing Blackpool to an all too simple home win.
If Cobblers fans were clinging to the theory that a change of manager would bring a change of fortunes, they were sadly mistaken because this was just a continuation of the steep decline under previous boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, with the second-half performance bordering on a shambles after what had been a mildly encouraging first 45 minutes.
Town, now 10 games without a victory, will need to win all four remaining games – which would be something of a miracle on the evidence of Tuesday – to avoid returning to League Two, but the fact of the matter is that this team does not have the quality nor the fight to deserve anything other than relegation.
Austin’s first team selection was hampered by injury and suspension as Matt Crooks (hamstring), Brendan Moloney (knee), Kevin Luckassen (back) and previous ever-present Ash Taylor (suspended) all missed out.
There was a first appearance in more than three months for Regan Poole, who partnered Leon Barnett in central defence, while David Buchanan started at left-back and John-Joe O’Toole returned from suspension to take his place in midfield as 17-year-old academy player Morgan Roberts was named among the substitutes.
Kevin van Veen and Chris Long led the line in a 4-4-2 but Cobblers quickly found themselves under pressure at Bloomfield Road as Blackpool made all of the early running.
Nathan Delfouneso, on the back of scoring a hat-trick at the weekend, saw his weak third-minute header easily saved by Richard O’Donnell, who then produced a far better stop to prevent Viv Solomon-Otabor’s low shot from finding the bottom corner.
Town’s goalkeeper was a busy man in the opening stages and he also had to beat away Ryan’s stinging long-range volley as Blackpool continued their strong start while the Cobblers struggled to get going as an attacking force.
The visitors finally created their first opportunity midway through the first-half when Sam Foley’s curler from distance was easily held by Joe Lumley, but a much better sight of goal came just moments later when Lumley pulled off a fine low save from van Veen’s header.
Poole was just off target from the resulting corner and the game was now a far more even affair with chances arriving at both ends, with the clearest of the half falling to Long 10 minutes before the break.
In a frantic passage of play, Cobblers broke from deep having held off a heavy and sustained spell of Blackpool pressure and Long nipped ahead of the defender to have a clear run to goal but he hesitated and shot too close to Lumley.
And that miss proved costly in the moments prior to half-time when Blackpool struck first.
After clearing a corner, Northampton switched off and allowed Ryan to get to the byline where he picked his head up and crossed for Gnanduillet, who had the simple task of rolling the home side into a half-time lead.
And the tall striker, who had given Town’s defence grief throughout, so nearly had a second straight after the restart when hitting the post with a header, with Poole spectacularly clearing Delfouneso’s follow-up attempt off the line.
Blackpool were now rampant as Clark Robertson headed wide, Solomon-Otabor’s drilled shot was parried by O’Donnell and Gnanduillet blazed over before the inevitable second goal arrived shortly after the hour-mark.
There was little Town could do about it as Longstaff pinged a sweet shot into the top corner from 20 yards and now it became about trying to avoid another humiliating defeat for the beleaguered visitors.
Blackpool were not going to let up and Longstaff missed a glaring chance to have his second two minutes after his first, hitting the post from five yards, while Sam Hoskins sent a rare Town shot straight at Lumley.
The only notable feature of the second-half for the Cobblers was a debut appearance for Jack Bridge, who replaced Sam Foley 20 minutes from time, but Blackpool’s third was not long in coming.
There was a huge slice of luck to this one as Ryan’s free-kick took a wicked deflection to completely wrong-foot O’Donnell and drop into the bottom corner, although the visitors could hardly say it wasn’t deserved.
It could have been more by the time full-time came around, substitutes Dan Agyei and Mark Cullen both going close late on, but three would do for Blackpool.
Blackpool: Lumley, Robertson, Ryan, Longstaff (Cooke 84), Tilt, Solomon-Otabor (Agyei 83), Turton, Daniel, Spearing, Gnanduillet (Cullen 77), Delfouneso
Subs not used: Mafoumbi, Aimson, Philliskirk, Menga, Cullen
Cobblers: O’Donnell, Facey (McWilliams 55), Poole, Barnett, Buchanan, Hoskins, O’Toole, Grimes, Foley (Bridge 69), Long (Powell 69), van Veen
Subs not used: Cornell, Turnbull, Bunney, Roberts
Referee: Chris Sarginson
Cobblers fans: 349