Cobblers boss Keith Curle admitted his side were below their best at Crawley Town on Saturday, but he was nevertheless delighted with their hard-fought 1-0 victory at the Broadfield Stadium.
Kevin van Veen's second-half penalty was the difference between the teams as he powered home from 12 yards following a foul by Crawley's Ollie Palmer on Aaron Pierre.
The red mist then seemed to descend as Palmer again lashed out at Pierre within two minutes and was subsequently sent off to give Town an easier route to victory.
"You always take the clean sheet away from home," said Curle afterwards. "I thought we had our opportunities when we entered the final third but we just needed more quality and better understanding of the correct pass to play that keeps possession.
"I didn't think we kept possession well today but it was a good penalty from Kevin and there are not too many negatives to come out of it because we kept a clean sheet and kept their threat to a minimum. We came, we scored the only goal and now we leave."
On the penalty, he added: "Both players are in the box and they're looking at the ball, Pierre's grounded as he stood still and their lad has gone straight through him. Anywhere else on the pitch it's a free-kick.
And the red card? "I didn't see it. All I saw was the ball coming out of play and the next thing Aaron is on the floor.
"The view in the changing room is that there was no attempt to play the ball and a flailing arm has caught Pierre so I'm assuming the officials saw that and in their opinion there was intent and that's why he was sent off."
There was one final incident for Curle to discuss after home fans screamed for a foul and a red card for Ash Taylor after tangling with Danny Bulman.
Curle continued: "I thought Ash did well to recover and put their land under pressure. It was a genuine attempt to go for the ball, outside the box, so it's no more and no less than that."