Rivals Posh too good for struggling Cobblers as they claim comfortable derby victory
Cobblers' survival hopes were dealt another blow as they suffered more derby day misery when beaten 3-1 by rivals Peterborough United at London Road on Tuesday night.
Town more than held their own in an even and tight first-half and they deservedly went into half-time all square after Sam Hoskins again kept his cool from 12 yards to cancel out Sammie Szmodics' opener.
But the gulf in league positions showed in the second-half when Posh upped their game and eased to an ultimately routine victory courtesy of goals from Szmodics and Jonson Clarke-Harris, securing their seventh successive league win against Northampton.
This game in some ways was a microcosm of Town's season.
There was no shortage of spirit or fight on display but they were simply outclassed by superior opposition and lacked the cutting edge to really trouble Peterborough's defence in open play.
Cobblers now have just four games to save themselves and they will likely need at least two wins to have any chance of avoiding an immediate return to the fourth tier.
Striker Alex Jones was handed his first Cobblers start at London Road after making a rapid recovery from an Achilles injury, and winger Mark Marshall also returned to the team.
But injury ruled out both Peter Kioso and Alan Sheehan, which meant academy midfielder Liam Cross had to make up the numbers on the bench.
Town settled well at London Road and were the first side to have an attempt on goal when a sweeping move through the middle of the pitch culminated in Bryn Morris seeing a low shot saved by Josef Bursik.
Peterborough predictably had plenty of possession and looked to get their forward players in with early balls over the top, but Cobblers held their line well and restricted the hosts to very little.
However, from nowhere, Posh scored the crucial first goal just past the half-hour mark. Dan Butler received possession on the left and his low cross was met by Szmodics and he flicked beyond Jonathan Mitchell at the near post.
Cobblers fans may have feared that would be game over but their side responded well and after Ryan Watson volleyed wide, they were handed an absolute gift to get into half-time on level terms.
Mark Beevers needlessly brought down Jones as the striker chased a weak back pass and referee Lee Swabey pointed to the spot.
Hoskins made no mistake for the second game running, again drilled his spot-kick down the middle to drag his side back into the contest at half-time.
But Town's hard work was undone in frustrating fashion just three minutes into the second-half.
Possession was lost in midfield and Cobblers were never able to recover their shape as Jack Taylor's lofted pass found Szmodics who rounded Mitchell and walked the ball into the net.
Cobblers now looked ragged and Posh were inches away from a third five minutes later when Taylor's low cross into the six-yard box evaded Clarke-Harris by a whisker.
Szmodics fired his hat-trick chance straight at Mitchell but it was game over midway through the second-half when yet another long ball caught out the Cobblers and Hoskins clumsily brought down Nathan Thompson, with Clarke-Harris converting from the spot.
United sought a fourth goal and had three shots in quick succession, Taylor was denied by Mitchell, Lloyd Jones blocked Harrison Burrows' effort and then Szmodics blazed over.
Hoskins forced Bursik into a decent late stop as Town finished strong, but a comeback never looked on and United easily saw out their victory.
Peterborough: Bursik, Butler, Ward, Thompson, Beevers (c), Kent, Taylor, Brown (Hamilton 88), Szmodics, Dembele (Burrows 62), Clarke-Harris (Eisa 88)
Subs not used: Gyollai, Reed, Jones, Mason
Cobblers: Mitchell, Harriman, Horsfall, L Jones, Mills (c), McWilliams (Rose 71), Morris, Watson, Hoskins, Marshall (Chukwuemeka 59), A Jones (Korboa 76)
Subs not used: Woods, Bolger, Cross, Edmondson
Referee: Lee Swabey