Derby County fell to their first pre-season defeat as Northampton Town edged a tight meeting 1-0 at Sixfields Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Marc Richards scored the decisive goal after 18 minutes for the Cobblers against a near new-look Rams side from the one at the weekend.
Gary Rowett, the Derby manager, had promised prior to the game that he would, more than likely mix his squad for this penultimate pre-season fixture
Nine changes were made to the side that defeated 2. Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern at the weekend – with Alex Pearce and Jacob Butterfield acting as the sole survivors and remaining in the starting line-up.
It was an opportunity for Rowett’s squad to not only get more match minutes under their belts, but try and stake a claim for a starting spot ahead of the Rams’ final pre-season game against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Mason Bennett particularly caught the eye with an explosive start and had two great chances to score inside the opening 15 minutes, but was thwarted by David Cornell in the hosts’ goal.
That aside, however, the Rams struggled to build on their strong start and take the game by the scruff of the neck and, instead, found themselves behind after 18 minutes.
After Daniel Powell had robbed back possession, Derby were exposed and the midfielder played a pass out to Billy Waters down the right. The young forward then made his way into the area, before slipping a ball across the area for Richards, the captain, to plant his shot into the back of the net.
The visitors, initially, responded well as David Nugent saw an effort saved by Cornell, but that aside, they spent the rest of the half on the back foot defending.
Rowett’s side were better when they returned for the second half.
They dictated possession far more too, carefully crafting their chances and they had plenty of joy down the left flank with Ikechi Anya and Marcus Olsson.
The latter had a chance to equaliser after being cleverly played inside his opposing full back, but once again, Cornell was alert to the danger was rushed out to the left back’s feet, preventing him from having a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Rowett’s substitutions, which saw him bring on Tom Huddlestone and Johnny Russell and then later Chris Martin and Andreas Weimann, added to the control that Derby held, but there was no way past a stubborn Northampton backline as the Rams fell to their first pre-season defeat.
Northampton Town: Cornell, Buchanan, Barnett, Taylor, Waters, Richards (C), Powell, Bowditch, Pierre, Crooks, Taylor
Substitutes: Kasim, Lobjoit, Phillips, Smith, Goff, Poole
Derby County: Mitchell, Baird, Davies (C), Pearce, Olsson; Hanson (Huddlestone, 61), Bryson, Butterfield; Bennett (Russell, 61), Anya (Weimann, 78), Nugent (Martin, 78)
Substitutes not used: Carson, Forsyth, Keogh
Attendance: 2,855 (813 Derby supporters)