Northampton manager Keith Curle criticised his players for being ‘nowhere near good enough’ during their 2-1 home defeat to 10-man Port Vale.
The Cobblers were both one goal and one man to the good with 44 minutes on the clock after Sam Hoskins’ early opener was followed by a red card to Vale skipper Leon Legge.
But, against the odds, the visitors fought back as David Worrall equalised on the cusp of half-time before Tom Pope’s late spot-kick salvaged an important victory.
The defeat further dents any hopes Northampton had of reaching the play-offs this season, and a forthright Curle did not hold back afterwards.
“I need to be honest and I will be because that was nowhere near good enough,” he said.
“If you don’t do the basics right, you get found out and we didn’t do the basics right. For the first 35 or 40 minutes, we were dominant and on the front foot.
“They then had a man sent off and we had players not doing what needs to be done and not doing it quickly.
“To be honest, we’ve been working on things in training and we’re not good at it. We’re not good enough at getting the ball down and passing and moving. Those are the simple basics.
“The worrying thing is, the players think they are but they’re nowhere near where they need to be. It’s just not good enough.
“You get the feeling that some of them think the season is over. Well, it’s not over for me and it’s certainly not going to be over for the players.”
Vale boss John Askey saluted a vital three points for his side as they eased their relegation fears.
He said: “It was never in doubt, was it? We were poor in the first half although, having said that, the goal they scored was two yards offside and that was in the first two or three minutes.
“It was a ridiculous decision by the linesman but we were good enough to overcome that and I couldn’t be more pleased.
“You fear the worst and you’re hoping you won’t be beaten by four or five but the goal came at a great time and David finished it really well.
“The second half we came out well and I don’t think they caused us too many problems at all and if anything we caused them more problems.
“It was a good win and a great way to get it with Tom scoring his 100th goal for the club. It’s probably played on his mind a bit because he’s been injured for a few weeks but he stepped up and scored, although it seemed to take an age to hit the net!”