The Exiles ended pre-season in defeat after a 2-1 loss at Northampton Town.
After controlling a goalless first-half, Lamar Reynolds gave County the lead on 68 minutes with a fine strike after driving into the area with composure.
The lead would last for just two minutes however as Chris Long equalised, before Leon Barnett scored the winning goal for Northampton with seven minutes remaining.
Mike Flynn chose to go with a full-team along with two trialists named on the bench. Newly selected captain Joss Labadie started as did new vice-captain Mark O’Brien, as County appeared to set-up in a 5-4-1 formation for their final pre-season friendly.
Ex-County legend and promotion hero Justin Edinburgh elected to make four changes to his Northampton Town side that beat Derby County at Sixfields on Tuesday. That meant another ex-County player Regan Poole came in for his first start at Northampton since joining on loan from Manchester United - as Yaser Kasim, Alex Revell and Daniel Powell also returned to the starting team.
Matt Dolan would be the first County player to have a chance of note within the first two minutes, but his effort from 20-yards was easily held by Cobblers goalkeeper David Cornell.
That would be the only chance of significance during the opening ten minutes, County’s midfield trio doing superbly to intercept numerous cross-field passes from the home-side.
County would have the next chance on 16 minutes, but Robbie Willmott’s inviting delivery into the area was dealt with well by Regan Poole. Dolan fired a shot back towards goal from Poole’s clearance but Aaron Pierre did well to block.
Frank Nouble came close to an opener just three minutes later, but his header from Willmott’s delivery drifted just wide.
Mickey Demetriou headed into Cornell’s hands moments later, before Poole did superbly well to thwart Nouble’s attempts to get into the area after controlling a sublime Dolan through-ball.
It would be Billy Waters to have Northampton’s first real opportunity on 32 minutes, but he fired over after intelligent work from Yaser Kasim down the County left-hand side.
Nouble would have another opportunity to give County the lead with ten minutes of the first-half remaining, but Cornell again had it covered in the home-goal.
Scot Bennett would have to be alert to cut-out Matt Taylor’s drilled delivery minutes later, before Sean Rigg tried a speculative 30-yard attempt that drifted wide of the right-hand post.
Those would be the final opportunities of the first-half where County were evidently the controlling force in the midfield, although no side really created a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Flynn made two substitutions to his side at half-time, Lamar Reynolds and Jamie Turley replacing David Pipe and Scot Bennett.
Chris Long came on for the home-side for the first minutes of his Northampton career after joining the club yesterday on a season-long loan from Burnley in one of three changes – Dean Bowditch and David Buchanan the other substitutions.
And it would be both of County’s substitutions that would create the opening chance of the second half. Within 60 seconds of the restart Jamie Turley rose highest at a corner to head towards goal - only for Cornell to pull off a miraculous save. Reynolds couldn’t quite connect to the rebound and headed over the crossbar.
Reynolds would come even closer to an opener just two minutes later, but curled his attempt over the bar after excellent work by Nouble.
Joe Day would have to be at his best to prevent Northampton taking the lead on 55 minutes, reacting superbly to deny Matt Taylor from his 30-yard freekick.
Reynolds would have another opportunity to get the opener on the hour, but shot narrowly over from just inside the area after excellent work again by strike-partner Nouble down the right-hand side.
Then when County created their next opportunity, it resulted in the opener on 68 minutes. And it would be Reynolds to get it, doing superbly to drive into the area, turn two defenders and smash it past Cornell from 12-yards.
But that lead would last no more than two minutes as Northampton equalised. And it would be the new signing Chris Long to get it. In truth, it appeared that Long had done too much with it but somehow, he managed to work a shot from just outside the penalty area which clipped the post on the way in - giving Joe Day absolutely no chance in the County goal.
Substitute Tom Owen-Evans had the next County opportunity on 78 minutes, but his effort from just inside the penalty area curled just over.
Taylor would test County again with another superb free-kick moments later, before the home-side would take the lead on 83 minutes.
It would be another of Northampton’s summer arrivals, Leon Barnett to get it, heading home from Taylor’s corner.
That would in fact turn out to be the final chance of the game, as Northampton held on for victory. This means County end pre-season with a record of three wins, two draws and two defeats but with lots of useful fitness and experience ahead of the start of the League 2 season next week.
County: Day, Pipe (Turley 45’), O’Brien (Foulston 72’), Demetriou, Butler (Trialist 1 66’), Labadie (C) (Owen-Evans 72’), Dolan (Trialist 2 80’), Bennett (Reynolds 45’), Rigg (Collins 83’), Nouble (Barnum-Bobb 80’), Willmott
Subs not used: Bittner, Press, Touray, Williams
Northampton: Cornell, Kasim, Barnett, Waters (Long 45’), Revell (Richards 62’), Powell (Phillips 66’), Pierre (Taylor 62’), Smith (Buchanan 45’), Crooks (Bowditch 45’), Poole, Taylor (C)
Subs not used: Lobjoit, Iaciofano, Goff
Referee: Darren England
Attendance: 1,346 (80 County)
Thank you to Huw Evans photography for the images.