A DISAPPOINTING conclusion to Dave Bell's brief tenure in charge left Chester City in need of vast improvement if they are to achieve new manager Keith Curle's target of finishing in the play-off places next season.
Despite Ben Davies' late penalty miss, City were flattered by the scoreline and but for the heroics of Chris Mackenzie and some poor finishing, Northampton would have left the Saunders Honda Stadium with a more emphatic victory.
The opening 20 minutes of the contest were scrappy, but once the Cobblers struck the opening goal, they showed a greater determination and adopted a physical style that Chester failed to match.
With Sean Hessey and Joe O'Neil suspended, City were short of options and were frequently exposed down the right flanks, with Cobblers boss Colin Calderwood introducing the pace of Lee Williamson at half-time to exploit Stephen Vaughan's lack of mobility.
In truth, Chester rarely threatened Lee Harper in the Northampton goal and following the hammer blow of conceding a second almost immediately after the restart, the only occasional threat came through the industry of Ryan Lowe.
Bell bemoaned the lack of passion and pride in the display, and said: 'At half-time we thought our back four were too deep, our midfield three were giving it away too easily and the front three weren't working hard enough. We didn't really improve after the break, either.
'When you're at the bottom, losing tends to be a habit and you always feel it is going to go against you.'
The display was reminiscent of the lack of fight and organisation apparent in the defeats suffered early on, and if Curle had any misconceptions about the size of his task, this performance will have surely brought home the harsh reality of the job that lies ahead.