A DEFENSIVE blunder halted Wrexham's play-off charge on Saturday as high-flying visitors Northampton Town left the Racecourse with a 1-0 victory in the bag.
The mix-up between defender Danny Williams and goalkeeper Michael Ingham allowed Town substitute Ryan Gilligan to nip in and net the winner with 22 minutes to play.
That was harsh on a young Dragons side who had battled valiantly against opponents who look a good bet to earn one of the three automatic promotion spots.
But as Reds manager Denis Smith admitted, 'schoolboy' defending invariably gets punished.
The chief said: 'It's so frustrating because 0-0 was possibly the right result, but we've lost the game to a bad mistake.
'It was just a punt down the middle but we dealt with a seemingly innocuous ball like schoolboys.
'The lads know they were at fault and they've held their hands up in the dressing room afterwards. They are good professionals who don't make mistakes deliberately.'
Apart from their costly aberration, Williams and co defended excellently.
They needed to as well, as the impressive Cobblers showed why they have lost just two of their last 20 outings.
Andy Kirk missed a sitter early on, before Williams did well to stop the Ulsterman moments later.
Kirk's strike partner Scott McGleish was even more wasteful, blowing a glut of goalscoring opportunities.
Wrexham, in contrast, had their best efforts from long range.
And when a chance came their way closer to goal, Shaun Pejic fluffed it, as he headed Matt Crowell's corner over.
The Dragons were building up a head of steam but the stuffing was knocked out of them when Gilligan hit the decisive strike.
Chris Doig's long ball down the channel looked easy for Williams. But he dithered, as did keeper Ingham, and the teenage striker did the rest. nNEWI Cefn Druids' unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday but manager Dixie McNeil could take positives out of the 1-0 loss at second-placed Llanelli.
The Ancients frustrated the full-timers for long periods and were just 12 minutes away from earning a deserved point but then former Chester City forward Cortez Belle struck.
The loss means Druids fall back to 16th, just one place above the Welsh Premier League relegation spots.
Tomorrow night, McNeil's men welcome another high-flying team, Welshpool Town, to Plaskynaston Lane, before travelling to Caersws on Tuesday. nSaturday was a day to forget for the three Wrexham sides in the Cymru Alliance.
Relegation-threatened Gresford Athletic suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat at rock-bottom Halkyn United. Higher up the league, Lex XI's poor form continued with a 3-1 home loss to Penrhyncoch, while Queens Park fell 4-0 to visitors and defending champions Buckley Town.
On Saturday, Gresford travel to Bodedern in the second round of the league cup, while Queens welcome Lex to the Queen-sway Stadium for a league derby.