Cobblers boss Keith Curle had both praise and criticism for his players after their 3-1 defeat at promotion-chasing Bury on Easter Monday.
Northampton came racing out of the blocks at Gigg Lane and created a string of early chances before finally taking one, Andy Williams reaching double figures for the season with a 28th minute header.
But Chris Stokes' goal, scored six minutes before half-time, came at a crucial time for Bury who then secured victory with two second-half strikes as Danny Mayor and Nicky Maynard moved them back up to second place.
"I thought we were very competitive," said Curle. "We matched them up formation-wise and it was a good opportunity to see the divide between a team in mid-table and a team in the automatic promotion places.
"It was a chance to see how far we need to come and I've got to say we were very competitive in the game, took the lead and I didn't feel we were really threatened by their play.
"We had good energy, good determination and good willingness in the first-half to stop them from playing and track their runners and stay with them.
"But their first goal was sloppy. Shay (Facey) did excellent for the three or four crosses that came to the back stick beforehand and dealt with them well but the one time he doesn't cover the run, the lad gets in and it's 1-1.
"That was disappointing and then the second goal I think the lad has cut inside four times. He carried the ball with his left foot, chops inside and bends it into the net.
"The first one should be a warning, the second time he does it is a red flag and then you can't allow him to do it again because you'll be in trouble but he cuts inside and it's a great finish."