Disappointing Cobblers slump to tame home defeat against Crewe
Town drop a place in League One and have it all to do to avoid relegation
Cobblers' hopes of beating the drop suffered a disappointing and costly setback when they slumped to a tame 1-0 defeat at home to Crewe Alexandra on Saturday.
The game was poor and desperately short on excitement and incident but Owen Dale's late goal handed all three points to the visitors and further dented Town's hopes of staying in League One.
It was Cobblers' most disappointing performance under interim manager Jon Brady as they struggled for any kind of attacking threat throughout the contest, reduced to only six shots and none on target.
Results elsewhere were largely favourable as only Swindon of the bottom eight won but how other teams fare will be of little relevance to Northampton if they do significantly improve for the final 10 games of the season.
Brady made two changes as Jack Sowerby missed out through injury and Ryan Edmondson dropped to the bench with Byrn Morris and Mark Marshall coming in.
Marshall started in a front three alongside Sam Hoskins and Mickel Miller but the first big chance of the game fell to Crewe on 13 minutes when Charlie Kirk got the wrong side of the home defence and forced Jonathan Mitchell into a decent low stop.
Marshall saw a shot blocked after Omar Beckles fluffed his clearance but Cobblers were otherwise unable to get their front three in the game whilst Crewe also struggled to find any fluency in the final third.
Hoskins may have been picked to play through the middle to provide energy and help press Crewe but the visitors were reluctant to play out from the back and instead opted for the direct route, making for a scrappy and turgid opening 45 minutes.
The half ended controversially when Miller appeared to have been dragged down as he tried to turn in Hoskins' low cross, but referee Sam Allison showed no interest in Town's protestations.
Goalless at the interval, Hoskins smacked one over from a tough angle early in the second-half before Brady called for Danny Rose.
Marshall made way but the game continued to be a tough watch with precious little in the way of goalmouth action in either penalty box.
The decisive 90 seconds arrived with 16 minutes to go when Cobblers missed a big chance at one end before Crewe broke immediately and took the lead. Ryan Edmondson, only just on, was sent through on goal but lofted wide of the target.
The visitors then went up the other end and Dale finished off Luke Murphy's through pass from an acute angle for what proved to be the winning goal as Town failed to muster any kind of meaningful response.
Cobblers: Mitchell, Kioso, Horsfall, L Jones, Mills (c), McWilliams (A Jones 78), Morris, Watson, Miller (Edmondson 72), Marshall (Rose 55), Hoskins
Subs not used: Berry, Harriman, Bolger, Korboa
Crewe: Jaaskelainen, Pickering, Beckles, Daniels, Lowery, Ainley (Wintle 71), Lancashire, Dale, Murphy, Kirk (Adebisi 90), Porter (Madron 85)
Subs not used: Richards, Walker, Evans, Wood
Referee: Sam Allison