The Daggers slipped to a club record fifth successive league defeat at the Sixfields Stadium on Saturday to drop into League Two's bottom five, but manager John Still was full of praise for his troops, writes Ricky Butler.
"We put in a really good performance,'' he said. '' We have got to win games, I understand that, but you do not win games consistently if you are not playing well. I think our performances in the last couple of games have improved, and I thought we dominated the game today.
"Our game was strong, I thought the tempo of our play was very good, and the movement of our midfield players and wide men was excellent. Unfortunately we have given them two goals and if you do that you can come unstuck. Of course I am concerned about our league position, but you need to get the performance right first, and we did that today."
The Daggers arrived in Northamptonshire on the back of a run of six matches without a win, and the injury problems that have blighted their season so far continued when Billy Bingham, who was due to start in midfield, pulled up in the warm up. Therefore the revised starting XI showed two changes from last weekend's home defeat to leaders Morecambe. Young striker Brian Woodall came in for Gavin Tomlin up front, while Abu Ogogo returned from suspension at right back, replacing Richard Rose. Meanwhile former Daggers Seth Nana Ofori-Twumasi and Bas Savage were both unable to face their former club due to injury.
Despite their poor recent run the Daggers started well and forced a series of early corners. Ollie Lee's delivery was causing the home defence all sorts of problems, but for all their pressure the nearest the Daggers came to grabbing an early lead was a header from Sam Williams that flew over the top.
The visitors were dominating at this stage, and they came close to making the all-important breakthrough in the seventh minute. A good run down right from Lee saw him cut inside full back Ashley Corker, but his shot from 15 yards went straight into the grateful arms of Cobblers on-loan goalkeeper Sam Walker.
However, the Daggers good start was undone ten minutes later when the hosts went in front against the run of play. A corner from left by Michael Jacob caused confusion in the Daggers area, and after Chris Lewington had denied both John Johnson and Adebayo Akinfenwa, the ball fell invitingly for Aaron Davies, who smashed it into roof of the net from 12 yards, via the underside of crossbar.
That gave the hosts a lift and it was very nearly 2-0 five minutes later. A mix up at the back between Lewington and Ogogo let in the dangerous Johnson, but he shot into the side netting from a tight angle.
The Cobblers were now enjoying their best spell of the match, and a good 24th minute move saw a shot from Akinfenwa deflected wide for a corner, while Jacobs' fine dead ball delivery was headed wide by the unmarked Ashley Westwood from 12 yards. Then, ten minutes before the break, Ben Tozer pulled the ball back for Davies, who was only denied a second by a fine save from Lewington.
But the Daggers weathered the storm and were almost level three minutes before the break. Peter Gain whipped in a great ball from left and Jon Nurse headed it back for Williams at the far post, but his shot from close range was scrambled away for a corner.
Whatever Still said to his men at half time it certainly appeared to have done the trick, as the Daggers came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second period.
Williams was close again within seconds of the resumption - unable to stretch quiet enough to turn home a delightful ball in from the left by Gain - while Ogogo then dragged a shot wide from 18 yards after good work from Williams.
But the best chance of an equaliser arrived eleven minutes into the second half. Ogogo fired in a great cross from the right but Williams could only direct his header over the bar from 6 yards out, when he really ought to have tested Chelsea loanee Walker.
That proved to be the turning point as the Cobblers broke out to double their advantage two minutes later. Lewington mis-kicked a back pass from Scott Doe and the ball fell invitingly for Tozer 30 yards out. He fed Jacobs down the left and his cross to the far post was nodded home by the towering Akinfenwa to make it 2-0.
But the Daggers dug deep and continued to dictate the play. Damian Scannell forced Walker into a fine save, after making space for a shot inside the area, while captain Mark Arber then saw a header from a Lee corner come back off the crossbar.
It was all Daggers now, and Gain brought the best out of Walker again with a curling effort that seemed destined for the top left hand corner of the net.
Still brought on DJ Green for the tiring Woodall with twenty minutes left, and the young substitute almost made an immediate impression - his shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected narrowly wide with Walker wrong-footed.
In a final throw of the dice Still threw on Phil Walsh for Scannell in a switch to a more attacking 3-4-3 formation, and with two minutes to go it almost paid off. Lee sent in a dangerous free kick from the right but Walsh was somehow denied by Walker from point-blank range.
Had that gone in it would have set home nerves jangling, but by the time the Daggers did get the goal they deserved it was too late to affect the final outcome. Nurse whipped a ball in from the right in the second minute of stoppage time, and Lee arrived to finally beat the Cobblers keeper with a powerful shot on the turn from 12 yards, his second goal in successive games.
"We have been working hard with Ollie (Lee) to get him to make that third man run into the box," said Still. "We had Romain (Vincelot) doing it last year but have not really had any one this time. He is a good finisher, a calculated finisher, but we need to keep working with him on that area."
Winger Scannell, enjoying his best run of form with the club, felt the Daggers were unfortunate not to have come away with something.
"Things just did not go our way," he said. "We just need to keep going and things will turn. I don't like to use the word luck, but we have been very unfortunate. We have played Rotherham and Morecambe in recent games and have given them a good run. We have the quality, we just need to be a bit more clinical," he added.
Attendance 4,274 (231 Daggers)