Woeful Cobblers surrender unbeaten run as Leyton Orient claim deserved victory
Cobblers slipped to their first defeat in five games when beaten 1-0 by Leyton Orient after a poor performance on an emotional afternoon at the PTS Academy Stadium
The game was preceded by a period of applause for former Cobblers boss Justin Edinburgh, who died aged just 49 shortly after leading Orient to the National League title last season.
And it was the O's, now under the interim management of Ross Embleton, who should have been leading at half-time after dominating the first-half as Cobblers struggled to cope with the loss of influential skipper Charlie Goode.
Whilst Town survived until half-time, the visitors deserved the lead James Brophy gave to them on 57 minutes, and with Town unable to conjure a serious chance in reply, Orient were relatively comfortable in seeing out victory.
With Jordan Turnbull already out through suspension, Cobblers boss Keith Curle suffered another significant blow before kick-off as he lost the services of captain Goode due to illness.
That meant Reece Hall-Johnson's first start in nearly two months came at centre-back alongside Scott Wharton while Harry Smith also returned to the starting line-up, partnering Andy Williams in attack.
Nicky Adams, captain for the day, had a sight of goal inside 30 seconds when found by Williams but it was Orient who made the brighter start and they were inches away from an early lead as Conor Wilkinson nipped in front of Wharton and struck the base of the post.
The willingness of both teams, particularly Orient, to commit men forward made for an open and busy game, and the chances kept coming with Sam Hoskins having a header cleared off the line.
But the more the first-half wore on, the more Orient took control and caused problems for Town's struggling makeshift defence and they would have felt disappointed not to take a lead into half-time.
Much of that owed to Cobblers 'keeper David Cornell, who was quickly off his line to deny Craig Clay before producing two smart stops from Wilkinson, first parrying a long-range effort behind and then superbly tipping the striker's header onto the crossbar.
Between those incidents though, Orient were somewhat fortunate not to lose a man when Dale Gorman only saw yellow for a wild lunge on Adams.
Michael Harriman was also called upon to make a crucial last-ditch block from James Brophy as Cobblers just about kept the visitors out through to half-time.
Cobblers improved in the second-half and were a whisker away from taking the lead themselves as Smith brought down Adams' cross and teed up Hoskins, who sidefooted against the woodwork.
But it was Orient who moved in front 11 minutes into the second-half when Matt Harrold's ball down the side released Brophy and he outstripped Harriman before slotting past Cornell.
Curle made a triple substitution in an attempt to get his side back into the game, sending on Vadaine Oliver, Alan McCormack and Matty Warburton.
But the Cobblers continued to toil away, unable to get a foothold in the game and if anything it was the visitors who looked likelier to add to their lead.
It was only in the final seven minutes when Town finally posed any kind of threat on Brill's goal, and the visiting stopper had to be alert to tip over Wharton's volley.
Brill also watched Adams' shot whistle wide of his near post but in truth the Cobblers didn't deserve anything out of the game and their fate was sealed by the full-time whistle.
Cobblers: Cornell, RHJ, Wharton, Martin, Harriman, Lines, McWilliams (Warburton 70), Adams (c), Hoskins, Smith (McCormack 70), Williams (Oliver 70)
Subs not used: Fisher, Hughes, Pollock, Waters
Orient: Brill, Ling (Ekpiteta 7), Widdowson, Gorman (Marsh 80), Coulson (c), Clay, Wilkinson, Happe, Brophy, Harrold (Maguire-drew 77), Wright
Subs not used: Dayton, Sargeant, Dennis, Ogie
Referee: Tony Harrington
Orient fans: 960