INSTEAD of turning a corner, Latics went straight back to square one.

Keith Curle called for his side to build momentum after a dramatic comeback secured only their second home win of the season, against second placed Port Vale.

It would have meant even more to him to have achieved it against his former employers, who he won promotion with in 2020 only to be sacked the following season.

But Latics have not won back-to-back League Two games since April, and that run never looked like being broken here.

Curle was forced into one change with Jordan Clarke ruled out due to concussion protocols, after the defender suffered a clash of heads against Port Vale.

The other two alterations he made from Saturday's line-up were through choice.

With Jamie Hopcutt only recently back from injury playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday would be a big ask, and so the forward started the evening on the bench, with veteran wide man Nicky Adams in a similar boat in an effort to protect him from wear and tear.

Dylan Bahamboula, too, was only just available again after illness and did not make the starting XI.

But all three were called upon at half-time - their warm-ups cut short so that they could hear Curle's team talk.

The Latics head coach says he is not one to rant and rave at his players, but there must have been some choice words after defensive dithering put the opener on a plate for Northampton.

Oldham had just made a really promising move down the right with Davis Keillor-Dunn crossing early in the hope of meeting the run of Zak Dearnley, but the ball was just a yard too far ahead of the forward and it drifted away from goal.

Within a minute Northampton had taken the lead, after Latics left it on a plate for them. A free kick into the box needed a clearance with conviction, but for some reason there was an attempt at intricate passing - in their own box. Kion Etete eyes lit up, and he poked the ball through for Jon Guthrie to bury.

It was a dreadful goal to give away, but Latics had shown their powers of recovery in the comeback against Port Vale at Boundary Park just days earlier.

However, they almost found themselves 2-0 down straight after the restart when Ali Koiki's low cross for Hoskins was deflected behind for a corner from which Etete headed over from close range.

Although there were glimpses of goal for Latics, they were disjointed, and Northampton continued to control the game. Yet their second goal came from nowhere. Mitch Pinnock's cross from the left should have been relatively straightforward to deal with, but Etete got ahead of his marker and volleyed past a stranded Jayson Leutwiler.

There was a late first half chance for Zak Dearnley, who darted down the right and cut back on to his left to shoot, only to see goalkeeper Liam Roberts smother it at the near post.

But it was not until Curle rang the changes - all three of them - that Latics looked capable of any kind of comeback against a Northampton side looking to bounce back from a five-game winless run, in all competitions, and reignite their charge at the top of League Two.

A switch to 4-4-2 gave Latics a much better balance and within 10 minutes of the second half they had pulled a goal back.

Hope had beaten the offside trap to run onto a ball over the top but was unable to get a clear sight of goal as his marker caught up with him and in the end he fired a tame shot wide. But from there Latics came back at Northampton.

It took three attempts for captain Carl Piergianni to convert, but it was third time lucky as he bundled the ball past Roberts to give Latics a lifeline.

But despite chances - one scuffed by Keillor-Dunn, one skimmed wide off the top of Hope's head, one driven over the bar by Hopcutt, one from Sam Hart saved - they could not take it.

Frustrations spilled over into full-time fisticuffs, for which Shaun McWilliams and Harrison McGahey were booked.

There was passion on display in the end, but what Latics need more than anything is points.