OXFORD United’s miserable run continued as they suffered a frustrating defeat at home to Northampton Town.

First-half goals from Ash Taylor and Chris Long proved the difference in the Sky Bet League One clash as the hosts’ winless streak in all competitions was extended to six games on an afternoon to forget.

To compound further misery, captain Curtis Nelson was stretchered off before the break with a suspected Achilles injury as United fell to a fourth straight loss.

The U’s made a terrible start when Taylor fired home from close range on 12 minutes after a scramble to clear a corner.

Wes Thomas scored his first goal in six games to level a minute before half-time.

But after the hosts had worked so hard to get back into the game, they conceded 60 seconds later as Long fired the Cobblers into a 2-1 lead.

Rob Hall came closest to earning United a draw after the break, but the Cobblers made it three victories from their last three visits to the Kassam Stadium.

United made four changes from the side which lost to Milton Keynes Dons in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.

Ricardinho was handed his first start in three games after recovering from a calf problem, while Ryan Ledson, James Henry and Thomas returned.

U’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was called into action early on, brilliantly pushing Long’s flick round a post on five minutes.

Northampton had started well, giving the hosts no time at all to settle into any rhythm, while Oxford looked vulnerable in defence.

A mix-up between Nelson and Eastwood nearly presented Long with a goalscoring opportunity, but the hard-working visitors were soon ahead.

The Cobblers took the lead from their next meaningful attack on 12 minutes as Lewis McGugan’s corner was headed up in the air and the ball fell to the feet of Taylor, who fired home via a deflection.

United were all at sea and could have been 2-0 down moments later, breathing a sigh of relief as John Joe O’Toole’s header flashed just wide.

Eastwood was then called into action again on 22 minutes, pushing McGugan’s 20-yard effort over the bar, before Long fired wide from the resulting corner.

The U’s slowly started to grow into the game, but they took until the 34th minute to have their first shot as Jack Payne fired high over the bar.

Northampton were happy to put bodies behind the ball and the game came to life in the last five minutes of the half.

United were delivered a further blow when Nelson was stretchered off with a suspected ankle injury, but within seconds of the restart they were level.

John Mousinho, who took over the captain’s armband, made a vital block to prevent a Northampton counter, before Henry fed Thomas who fired low into the bottom corner on 44 minutes.

But 60 seconds later their defensive frailties were exposed again as Long caught Ryan Ledson in possession and beat substitute Aaron Martin before firing under Eastwood.

United should have been behind within five minutes of the second half, but somehow Ricardinho cleared Long’s dangerous cross off the line and out for a corner with Billy Waters waiting for a tap-in.

The visitors looked like scoring every time they attacked the home side’s penalty area, but began to show their own defensive lapses.

Joe Rothwell volleyed wide after a corner was only half-cleared, while Henry failed to properly connect with a Payne cross on 57 minutes.

However, Northampton were winning the midfield battle and their strong pressing game was still rushing United into mistakes.

The Cobblers, as they have done for the past three seasons, were continuously frustrating the hosts, who looked to add more muscle up front, switching to 4-4-2 with Jon Obika replacing Payne.

Hall was arguably United’s biggest threat down the right, but Thomas could only head the winger’s 74th minute cross weakly at Matt Ingram.

The U’s No 7 then forced the visiting keeper into a fine stop at his near post with ten minutes remaining as the hosts continued to huff and puff.

Ingram then brilliantly tipped over Hall’s 85th minute effort from 20 yards, before Thomas shot wide from the edge of the area.

Ledson fired straight at the goalkeeper in stoppage time, but that proved their last effort on a frustrating afternoon.

Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Eastwood, Tiendalli, Nelson (Martin 43), Mousinho, Ricardinho, Hall, Rothwell, Ledson, Henry (Xemi 82), Payne (Obika 64), Thomas.

Unused subs: Shearer, Ruffels, Mowatt, Carroll.

Booked: None.

Northampton Tn (4-4-1-1): Northampton: Ingram, Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan, Waters, Grimes, McGugan, Powell (Bowditch 20), O'Toole (Foley 57), Long (Richards 90).

Unused subs: McWilliams, Crooks, McGivern, Cornell.

Booked: McGugan, Foley.

Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset).

Attendance: 8,267 (1,125 visitors).