Northampton Town 2 Carlisle United 0: Carlisle United have been relegated from League One with four games to go following defeat at the Sixfields Stadium.

Goals from Keiron Bowie and Ali Koiki for Northampton sealed an immediate return to the fourth tier for Paul Simpson's strugglers.

The drop has long looked inevitable and it was finally confirmed against the Cobblers, as 335 travelling fans watched United's League One demise.

A 27th defeat of the league season - one short of equalling a club record - proved the final nail in the coffin with the Cumbrians now facing up to League Two again - just a year after ending a nine-year wait to escape the division.

Bowie struck in the 33rd minute at Sixfields, scoring from close range after United had failed to deal with a Northampton corner.

Carlisle could not find their way back and after Koiki broke to score with the last kick of the game, a campaign of struggle delivered the killer blow for the bottom-placed Blues.

News and Star: Paul Simpson's side are down with four games to goPaul Simpson's side are down with four games to go (Image: Richard Parkes)

The defeat came on a day when neither Jordan Gibson nor Alfie McCalmont were in the squad at the Sixfields Stadium.

Their absence coincided with news of a disciplinary process being confirmed by the club after a night out involving some players less than 48 hours before last Monday's defeat to Lincoln City.

In the XI, meanwhile, there was a full debut for striker Georgie Kelly, who replaced Gibson in the only change to the side.

Returning to the squad as substitutes were Fin Back, Paul Huntington and Jayden Harris.

Northampton also made one change to their XI, Akin Odimayo replacing Liam Moore, while ex-United man Jack Sowerby was among their subs. Patrick Brough was out through injury.

With a strong wind at their backs, Carlisle made a decent start with Kelly proving a strong focal point alongside Luke Armstrong up front.

Kelly had the first shot, wide from the edge of the box, while later he met a Harrison Neal cross and forced a sharp save from home keeper Lee Burge.

Carlisle kept much of the action in the home half with Jack Robinson - playing in midfield as Jon Mellish returned to defence - having a shot blocked from outside the area.

On other occasions, though, United couldn't get their deliveries right and were then hit by a double blow.

News and Star: Dan Butterworth went off injured in the first half at NorthamptonDan Butterworth went off injured in the first half at Northampton (Image: Richard Parkes)

First, Dan Butterworth, after a dribble that ended with the attacker losing possession, went down in the Northampton half and, after treatment, had to come off injured, Sean Maguire taking his place.

Moments later the hosts took the lead as a Mitch Pinnock corner was attacked by Sam Sherring in the Blues box and the resulting block fell for Bowie, who swept it home.

Soon afterwards an inswinging Marc Leonard corner forced Harry Lewis into a save while Bowie was then unable to take advantage when he beat the Blues keeper to a ball down the right.

At the other end, Armstrong's header was saved by home No1 Lee Burge, and at the break Carlisle were 45 minutes from having relegation confirmed, even with fifth-bottom Burton Albion trailing to Oxford United.

Early in the second half, the Cobblers having sent on Ali Koiki for Odimayo, Aaron McGowan was found by a Pinnock corner but couldn't keep his header down.

The home side remained on the front foot with Jack Armer having to scramble clear after Koiki and Pinnock had combined, and then Sherring was inches away from connecting with a free-kick at close range.

News and Star: Harrison Neal reacts after the first Cobblers goalHarrison Neal reacts after the first Cobblers goal (Image: Richard Parkes)

Jack Diamond came on for Kelly in the 57th minute with United now struggling to make any attacking impact, though an Armer cross forced the hosts to put the ball behind as Ellis looked to pounce at the far post.

There was little else from the Blues as Simpson handed Harris a rare outing late on, also introducing Josh Emmanuel as Robinson and Ellis were replaced.

Home sub Tony Springett tested Lewis late on, and United's final efforts cost them as, from their own corner, Koiki intercepted and broke clear, eventually getting away from Emmanuel and rounding Lewis to tap home.

Burton's 4-0 defeat to Oxford in the end proved academic with Carlisle now 13 points adrift of the safety line with 12 left to play for, and relegated.

Northampton: Burge, McGowan (Willis 78), Guthrie, Sherring, Odimayo (Koiki 46), Leonard, Fox (McWilliams 72), Pinnock, Hoskins (Sowerby 72), Bowie, Appere (Springett 78). Not used: Moulden, Simpson.

Goals: Bowie 33, Koiki 90.

United: Lewis, Ellis (Emmanuel 83), Armer, Lavelle, Barclay, Neal, Robinson (Harris 83), Mellish, Butterworth (Maguire 32), Kelly (Diamond 57), Armstrong. Not used: Breeze, Back, Huntington.

Ref: Ross Joyce.

Crowd: 6,328 (335 United fans).