Full-time: Northampton 2, Robins 0How are those fingernails?
Two goals inside 13 second half minutes condemned Cheltenham Town to defeat at Northampton Town as the relegation scrap enters its final fraught fortnight.
The Robins travelled full of hope after their impressive win over Cambridge United on Tuesday evening, but they couldn't rediscover the qualities that set them on their way to victory that night, and their hopes here were eventually dashed after the break at sun-kissed Sixfields.
They were forced into a couple of early substitutions as their bad luck continued, but despite those setbacks it did look promising at the interval with their rivals at the foot of the table losing elsewhere.
With the game goalless Joe Hanks struck a post, but a pair of goals in quick succession by Ivan Toney and Marc Richards effectively ended this game as a contest.
The only consolation was that Tranmere Rovers and Hartlepool failed to mount comebacks of their own.
So we’re back to where we started at the beginning of the day, a point shy of safety with just two games to play.
Cheltenham’s injury curse raised its ugly head again, forcing Lee Vaughan (hamstring) and Danny Haynes (groin) out of this one.
It meant that manager Gary Johnson had to make two changes to the side that produced that fantastic win on Tuesday night at Whaddon Road.
Durrell Berry and Kane Ferdinand were drafted in to give the right-hand side of the manager’s team another new look.
But lacklustre Ferdinand was withdrawn after only 29 minutes, replaced by Joe Hanks before Matt Taylor limped off, with Jack Deaman taking his place in central defence on the stroke of half-time.
The first half was evenly contested, with a handful of chances for both teams.
Mathieu Manset made a surging early run into the box, and Shaun Harrad nicked it off his toe to shoot but his effort didn’t trouble Shwan Jalal in the Northampton goal.
At the other end Lawson D’Ath, the former Robins loanee, struck a volley that was comfortably gathered by Trevor Carson.
Berry dragged one wide, after a good run down the right before becoming the first player into the book for a clumsy foul on Toney, giving Evan Horwood the opportunity to test Carson from 20 yards but the left back lifted his effort well over.
Diego De Girolamo called Carson into the first meaningful save of the match with 20 minutes played, ghosting into the box before firing one too close to the Northern Irishman who dealt with the danger.
Next Joel Byron skipped past Matt Richards to fashion a shooting chance, but the midfielder missed the target.
Manset was in the thick of it from the off, and gave the Cobblers defence all sorts of problems, much to the frustration of the home faithful.
Byrom found a way to stop the big Frenchman in his tracks, but he was carded for his efforts 10 minutes before the break and it gave Matt Sparrow to send in an inswinging free-kick, but Jalal held it.
The Cobblers started the second half brightly and put the Robins defence under plenty of pressure without really testing Carson, save for a tame D’Ath effort which Carson took easily.
When Cheltenham did attack, they rattled the woodwork when Hanks unleashed a vicious effort from the angle down the right but it cannoned to safety.
But they were caught out by a sweeping move in the 57th minute which led to Northampton grabbing their first goal.
They turned defence into attack, breaking down the left through D’Ath who centred for Toney to do the rest from six yards out.
They went close again when D’Ath wriggled away from Deaman, only to push his shot from the edge of the right box wide of the right post.
Richards was sent on by Chris Wilder in the 67th minute and promptly doubled the lead, scoring from the inside right channel of the box three minutes later.
The home side had quickly countered a Cheltenham attack with the substitute and were three-on-three but he elected to go alone, firing one past Carson to stretch the lead.
Harry Williams was given five minutes to make an impression, at the expense of Kotwica, and the Robins did create a couple of late chances to get back in it.
First Richards lifted an inswinging free-kick onto the roof of the net, and then Manset guided a volley straight at Jalal.
They battled to the end, but again that bit of quality in front of goal was missing to trouble the Cobblers defence.
Two games to go then, starting with the visit of Shrewsbury Town next weekend.
It’s going down to the wire.
NORTHAMPTON TOWN (4-4-1-1): Jalal; Moloney, Diamond, Collins (c), Horwood (Carter 86); D’Ath, O’Toole, Byrom, Holmes; Toney (Gray 75); De Girolamo (Richards 67). Subs not used: Duke (Gk), Hackett, Tozer, Perry.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Carson; Berry, Taylor (Deaman 44), Brown, Braham-Barrett; Ferdinand (Hanks 29), Sparrow, Richards, Kotwica (Williams 85); Manset, Harrad. Subs not used: Mills, Gould (Gk), Sterling-James, McDonald.
REFEREE: D Sheldrake
ATTENDANCE: 4,539 (459 from Cheltenham)