Chris Wilder has readjusted his targets for the season and says the primary aim for the Cobblers now is to reach the 50-point mark and ensure their Football League safety.
Wilder was confident in the summer that he could build a team capable of challenging for promotion just a year after completing a survival campaign after joining the club in January.
But after 10 league defeats during the current campaign, the aim has changed to avoiding being brought into a fourth Northampton relegation fight in the space of five seasons.
“First and foremost, without being negative, we have to get to 50 points,” he said. “If I can get my team out there and we can win one or two then I think we can go on and win three, four or five.
“We’ve got to get 50 points as quickly as possible, see what contracts are out in the summer and then rebuild it from there.
“Certain players that we brought in last year got us through that period and we maybe gave them longer than we needed to just to get them through the door to save us.
“We had to overspend a little bit on that one but there are certain players, my signings and ones I have inherited, that we definitely have to look at.
“We might have to settle for a mid-table situation now. I don’t like that but if you’ve lost 10 games by Christmas, you have to be realistic.”
Wilder also rejects the suggestion that the team he named to play Plymouth Argyle on Saturday was too defensive, with Marc Richards and Ollie Banks playing as split strikers in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
The manager does not feel attacking and scoring goals are areas of the team to be concerned about at the moment.
“I could say that formation was a 4-2-3-1 and we’ve got enough attacking players on the pitch, I’m more concerned about the defensive side of the team,” he said.
“The lack of aggressiveness from the back four, the lack of tackles flying in and the lack of people closing down are all a bigger concern to me.
“My teams have always been organised and disciplined, they’ve always had a go but we lacked mental courage on Saturday, physically we were not good enough and they were first to the ball.”