ON-LOAN Burnley full-back Luke Hendrie was sent off as York City went down 2-0 at table-topping Northampton.
The Minstermen fell behind to a first-half John-Joe O’Toole goal and the Cobblers doubled their lead eight minutes after the break with Marc Richards’ 17th goal of the season.
Hendrie went on to see red for a late 55th-minute challenge on Ricky Holmes just inside the home half and any hope of City salvaging something from a difficult afternoon disappeared up the players’ tunnel with him. Earlier, Northampton struggled to clear their lines during the opening exchanges as the severity of the wind in their faces caught the hosts by surprise.
On occasions, clearances blew back over the heads of Cobblers defenders and the visitors could have forged in front on six minutes when centre-back Zander Diamond dallied on the edge of his own penalty box and was robbed of possession by Kenny McEvoy.
The former Spurs winger then fed Matty Dixon but his shot was smothered by alert home keeper Adam Smith.
Russell Penn’s goalbound, follow-up effort was also blocked and away appeals for a penalty were rejected when Vadaine Oliver tumbled to the ground.
Northampton began to settle, though, with Richards heading over from a right-wing Holmes cross after a careless Dixon pass had been intercepted.
David Buchanan also saw a near-post effort deflected wide following Lee Martin’s left-wing delivery before Chris Wilder’s men made a 21st-minute breakthrough.
Midfielder O’Toole was more alert than any City defender to use the outside of his boot to divert Martin’s lowly-struck, left-wing corner past Scott Flinders at his near post.
Moments later, Luke Summerfield curled over with a 30-yard free kick, but Richards headed inches wide for the home side on the stroke of half-time from a Joel Byrom centre.
After the break, City threatened when Dave Winfield headed powerfully across goal from Summerfield’s left-wing free kick but the ball struck Kyle Cameron in the face and bounced wide of the opposite upright.
The game’s pivotal moment then came on 53 minutes when Winfield’s downward header from a Summerfield corner was stopped on the line by home substitute Ryan Cresswell.
Despite appeals for a shove on Dixon in the box by Buchanan, the Cobblers went on to break swiftly up the pitch and Richards curled confidently into Flinders’ bottom left-hand corner from ten yards.
After Michael Coulson saw a 15-yard attempt deflected over, a tough afternoon was then made even more difficult when Hendrie hacked down Holmes and, with the encouragement of the baying home fans, referee Brendan Malone brandished his red card.
Coulson, nevertheless, went close with a low 25-yard drive moments later but Martin and Holmes went on to miss the target from distance for the Sixfields side and Rod McDonald also headed wide.
At the other end, substitute James Berrett shot off target from range and Coulson hoisted a woeful free kick out of Sixfields.
Berrett also curled another free kick over in stoppage time, but the game had long since finished as a contest.