Cobblers opened their EFL Trophy campaign with a 3-1 defeat at home to Oxford United in Tuesday’s Southern Group F encounter at Sixfields.
Tyreece Simpson scored his first Northampton goal with a fourth-minute penalty but that was cancelled out thanks to another spot-kick, converted by Mark Harris, just 10 minutes later.
A makeshift Cobblers side were then given a bit of a runaround in the second half as a thumping finish from Kyle Edwards put Oxford in front before Harris’ second confirmed a comfortable victory.
Town’s evening ended on a particularly sour note after Max Dyche was shown a straight red card late on.
Jon Brady made seven changes but still named a relatively strong starting line-up that included first-team regulars Marc Leonard and Sam Sherring. Shaun McWilliams and Harvey Lintott both started for the first time this season and they were joined by stand-in captain Aaron McGowan. The bench included three academy teenagers – midfielder Jacob Scott, left-back Matty Ireland and left-sided midfielder Jamari Hart.
Harris shot into the side-netting via a deflection as Oxford began brightly, but they fell behind on four minutes when Town’s first attack of the game ended with McWilliams being tripped in the penalty box and Simpson made no mistake from the spot, calmly slotting home.
The away side were not put off their stride though and after Max Thompson saved smartly from Stanley Mills, they pulled level with a contentious penalty of their own. The ball was hammered at McGowan’s arm from barely a yard away but the ref did not hesitate in pointing to the spot and Harris went straight down the middle from 12 yards.
Lintott, who was playing as a makeshift right winger, headed McGowan’s cross wide on the half-hour mark but the first half petered out after a bright start and the teams went into the break all square.
It took just three minutes of the second half for Oxford to complete the turnaround as a swift counter-attack culminated in Edwards thumping a shot past Max Thompson at his near post.
Josh Murphy had a chance to make it three but couldn’t beat Thompson and at the other Simon Eastwood shovelled away a cross-shot from substitute Mitch Pinnock.
Oxford did extend their advantage just beyond the hour when Harris turned in Max Woltman’s cross, and they had further chances in the remaining time but failed to take them, even after Dyche was shown a straight red card for handling the ball as the last defender 14 minutes from time.
Cobblers: Thompson, McGowan ©, Sherring (Brough 45), Dyche, Monthé, Lintott, Abimbola (Scott 88), McWilliams (Pinnock 52), Leonard (Sowerby 52), Appéré, Simpson
Subs not used: Dadge, Ireland, Hart
Oxford: Eastwood ©, Thorniley, Franklin (Elliott-Wheeler 82), McEachran, Mills, Smyth, Murphy, Woltman (Griffiths 75), Negru, Edwards (Rodrigues 62), Harris
Subs not used: Moore, McGuane, McGinty, Burton
Referee: Garreth Rhodes
Oxford fans: 411