Cambridge United manager Colin Calderwood was left 'annoyed' by his side's EFL Trophy defeat to the Cobblers and criticised the decision to chalk off what he thought was a perfectly legitimate equalising goal.
United were slow to get going at the Abbey Stadium and Town striker Harry Smith took advantage when finishing off good work from Reece Hall-Johnson with 17 minutes on the clock.
The hosts upped their game in the second-half and three times came close to an equaliser but Harrison Dunk shot against his own team-mate with the goal gaping while visiting stopper Andrew Fisher denied both Andrew Dallas and Sam Smith.
“We were much more improved second-half and had a little bit more self belief and a little bit more aggression on the ball, but also took a first touch to set ourselves up, rather than just kicking it into an area,” Calderwood told the Cambridge News afterwards.
“We want to be able to make defenders face their own goal, but it’s very hard if you’re doing it constantly off your first touch.
“I thought that was quite a big problem in the first-half, and we couldn’t deal with their fluid movement at the top of the pitch and we were stretched, we were definitely stretched, but the basis of it was, similar to one of the previous games, that we gave the ball away so quickly.
“When we brought some sort of minimal content to possession, we gradually grew in a bit of confidence and a bit of rhythm, and opportunities suddenly were there and we made their defenders defend, we made their midfielders think about runners in behind them.
“I’m really pleased with the second-half. I’m annoyed and we’re all annoyed at ourselves for the first-half and we played at a level that’s unhelpful for anything if I’m honest.
"Again we’re playing catch up football but, as I’ve said before, it’s all very well being a bit more aggressive and a bit braver and better when you’re behind, we’ve got to be able to fight the fight when it’s level and they’re contesting it in the early stages and we didn’t.”
Cambridge can still qualify from Southern Group H if they beat both Arsenal U21s and Peterborough United, although Calderwood feels they should already have a point on the board after Dallas' first-half effort was ruled out for a foul on Fisher.
“He put the ball in the net in the first-half and on video evidence it’s a clumsy decision by the officials not to give the goal,” he added.
“Andy hasn’t touched him. The goalkeeper hasn’t got the ball under control, he has turned himself in the air to avoid contact from a defender or even Andy, but there is no contact and when the ball dropped he put it in with accomplish."