Doncaster Rovers 0 Northampton 2: Worrying times for Rovers - a club who have lost their mojo
Ahead of this game, they had mustered eight attempts on target in five games in March.
The tally crept up apologetically on another anaemic, low-watt occasion at the Eco-Power Stadium where the hosts mustered a derisory two efforts on target.
Gallows' humour mocking the competency of Danny Schofield’s side arrived just two minutes in when Mitch Pinnock opened the scoring for the high-flying Cobblers and it set the tone.
A chant of ‘Sack the Board’ was also aired from displeased followers in the sparsely-populated Black Bank.
On the resumption, Rovers flirted with a comeback, but it was all brief.
Returning keeper Jonathan Mitchell, who saw Pinnock’s low shot fly under him, had an even more wretched moment against one of his old clubs on 52 minutes.
As is their wont, Rovers tried to play out from the back and Mitchell’s pass was straight at the person who you did not want it to be at in Sam Hoskins.
The experienced striker was not the sort to pass up the gift and he gathered the loose ball, advanced and fired into the net, despite Mitchell’s attempts to atone. It was his 20th goal of the campaign – the entire Rovers starting XI had mustered nine goals between them in 2022-23.
Jeered off at the interval, for Rovers, who have won just once in eight matches, received opprobrium at the end.
Schofield’s side aren’t just struggling for goals, it’s got alarmingly worse than that at the minute. They are finding it difficult to create chances, yet alone find the net.
Northampton, whose absentee count was into double figures, weren’t brilliant, but they did not have to be. That is not necessary against Rovers these days.
Given their recent form, the only consolation, if there is one, is that Rovers aren’t down among the dead men at the bottom and safe enough in mid-table, even if that is pretty damning given their aspirations last summer.
As befitting such a toiling side, luck is not going for Rovers or Schofield, who saw two more players in James Brown and Caolan Lavery depart to injury, either.
For fair spells, Doncaster looked a side bereft of confidence going forward in another pretty unsatisfactory occasion which was littered by sloppiness and toothlessness in the final third.
Northampton’s front three carried any semblance of goal threat present, while the hosts were unconvincing by contrast.
The Cobblers backline, apart from one or two brief scares in isolation, were pretty untroubled in the first half.
The visitors’ opener was quick with a well-worked corner routine involving Hoskins and Marc Leonard seeing the ball arrive at the feet of Pinnock, whose low drive appeared to fly underneath fit-again Mitchell.
Tippy-tappy Rovers mustered just one first-half effort on target with Lavery heading straight at Cobblers keeper Lee Burge after a right-wing cross from James Brown, picked out by a nice crossfield pass from Tommy Rowe just before the half-hour mark.
Northampton, boasting the second best away record behind Bradford, looked a side comfortable enough in their own skin.
After opening the scoring, Pinnock - with a taste for it - cut inside and saw his angled shot deflected wide.
Appere then got the better of Olowu in a foot-race from Pinnock’s punt forward, but his low shot lacked power and was held by Mitchell, while Hoskins’ one danger moment saw him fire an audacious opportunistic strike over the top from way out.
Brown’s departure through injury shortly before the break was the precursor to Charlie Seaman switching to right wing-back and Luke Molyneux moving to the left, while Kyle Hurst was assigned with providing some badly needed support to Lavery - who had been crying out for some assistance..
Hurst almost got on the end of a searching low cross from Seaman before the break, with the dangerous Pinnock shooting low at Mitchell at the other end.
Jeers were prevalent at the interval with Doncaster needing to do much more in the second half.
While not being earth-shatteringly great, Northampton had the lead and looked the side more likely to grab a second goal, given the first half evidence.
On the resumption, Rovers gave them more to think about.
Todd Miller’s deflected shot floated just wide, while Olowu fired over - before events at the other goal shattered the illusion that the hosts might be onto something.
It was a horror moment for Mitchell, whose mistake was exposed by Hoskins.
An air of flatness soon engulfed three quarters of the stadium again.
Hurst mustered Rovers’ second shot on target, midway through the second half. It did not overly concern Burge.
Some rare animation among home punters arrived after a flare-up between Miller and Cobblers midfielder Jack Sowerby. There was nothing to shout up towards the Northampton goal.
Towards the Rovers net, substitute Tete Fengi had the chance to compound Rovers' angst on two occasions. He fired over with the goal at his mercy before Mitchell finally got something right by denying him after he was sent clear by Ryan Haynes.
More charity from Doncaster’s defence presented another chance to Hosklins, who blasted over, while Tommy Rowe headed wide. No consolation for Rovers.
Doncaster Rovers: Mitchell; Olowu, Anderson, Rowe; Brown (Hurst 42), Ravenhill (Westbrooke 78), Close, Seaman; Molyneux, T Miller (Long 78); Lavery (Agard 49). Substitutes unused: Bottomley, Barlow, Faulkner.
Northampton Town: Burge; Lintott, McGowan (Norman 90+2), Guthrie, Haynes (Osew 90+2); Hondermarck (Yengi 66), Sowerby, Leonard; Pinnock, Appere (Bowie 66), Hoskins.. Substitutes unused: Maxted, Wright-Phillips, Abimbola.
Attendance: 6,469 (911 Northampton fans).