A dejected Matt Crooks struggled to find a reason for why the Cobblers were so out-of-sorts on Saturday when they limped to defeat against fellow strugglers Rochdale at Sixfields.
Northampton were looking to put further breathing space between themselves and the bottom four with a fifth successive game unbeaten as they played host to Rochdale, who sit above only Bury in the Sky Bet League One table.
It was one of those days where way too many players on the pitch, out of the 11 and the people who came on, didn’t perform to the level they can.
But instead the 1-0 defeat, which represented Dale’s first away league win of the season, leaves them just a solitary point above the drop zone and a further seven ahead of Keith Hill’s men, who have four games in hand.
“I just felt we were all very sloppy as a team,” admitted Crooks. “I’m not sure if it was complacency because if we’ve had a good run of results against teams higher up the league than Rochdale, but we weren’t at the races.
“I don’t think it was the pressure, if anything our recent results should have pushed us on to do even better so I don’t think it’s anything to do with pressure.
“It was one of those days where way too many players on the pitch, out of the 11 and the people who came on, didn’t perform to the level they can.”
The Cobblers particularly struggled once Shay Facey went off injured on 36 minutes and was replaced by Regan Poole as manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink attempted to match Rochdale man for man by going 3-5-2.
But that only allowed the visitors to dominate further with Crooks and Matt Grimes unable to establish any control in midfield for Town, who were deservedly beaten by Calvin Andrew’s second-half goal.
“We had change formation due to Shay going off and go to 3-5-2,” added Crooks, who picked up his eighth booking of the season for a poor challenge in the second-half. “I’m not sure if that disrupted us or not but we can still make and complete passes and run around so I don’t see that as an excuse.
“I tried to pass the ball around. We worked in training during the week on getting it wide. The formation changed and that affected it and they had an extra man in midfield but it’s still football and you’ve still got to play the game.
“Rochdale played well. They played some good football and we knew before the game that they are a good team if you allow them to play, but we weren’t good enough ourselves.
“If we had played anywhere near to our potential we’d have given them a much better game.
“The yellow was a bit silly from me. It was one of those moments where I’ve lost my head and got frustrated and did what I did.”
With 15 games remaining this season, the Cobblers will need to drastically improve if they are to avoid relegation.
“I think they’re all big games between now and the end of the season,” continued the 24-year-old. “We’ve got to scrap for every single point and there are a lot of teams close together and points up for grabs.
“There’s not much difference between all the sides down there so we’ve got to fight for every point.”