One of the major factors behind Ash Taylor’s decision to move south of the border and swap Aberdeen for Northampton in the summer was the lure of regular playing time in England’s third tier. On that front at least, things could literally have gone no better.
While he is very much a team man, no one would mind if the 27-year-old also had one eye on completing the special individual achievement of starting every single game the Cobblers have played this season, something which he is well on course to do.
Indeed, baring injury, it would be a surprise if Taylor does not go on to accomplish that feat given his importance to the team and also the fact he has started and finished all but one of their 35 games across every competition so far, whether that’s been in the league, the FA Cup or even the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy, hitting the 3,300-minute mark in Town’s most recent game at Bradford.
While all has changed around him, including his centre-back partner, his two full-backs and the goalkeeper, Taylor has remained a steadying, assured and consistent presence at the heart of Town’s back four throughout the campaign. So much so that if the player of the season vote was conducted now, he would be the overwhelming favourite.
“It’d be nice to play every minute of the season,” admitted the former Tranmere Rovers man. “I come here to play games and I don’t like not playing and I don’t like sitting on the bench and watching games.
“I want to be in the thick of it and play as many games as I possibly can. So far, so good. Hopefully, I can keep it going and keep putting in strong performances and keep myself in the team.”
Taylor’s latest centre-back partner is Regan Poole. The teenager has largely featured in midfield under manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink this season but injuries to central defensive duo Leon Barnett and Aaron Pierre have seen him return to his natural centre-half position.
It took a while for him and Taylor to develop an understanding but the duo were impressive against Southend United last weekend and even more so at Bradford seven days later when the latter was also skipper for the day.
With recent signings Shay Facey and Jordan Turnbull also new to the back four, plus Richard O’Donnell in goal and the incoming Joe Bunney at left-back, Taylor has had to quickly familiarise himself with some new surroundings.
“The new lads have come in and settled really well,” he added. “It’s important we build a foundation again.
I want to be in the thick of it and play as many games as I possibly can. So far, so good. Hopefully, I can keep it going and keep putting in strong performances and keep myself in the team.
“Regan’s a young lad. He’s still learning the game and trying to get minutes under his belt. He listens well and it’s important to pass on my experience to him.
“It was unfortunate that Aaron got injured because we had a good understanding with each other but it’s a team game and there are players waiting to come in and put in performances and that’s what they’re doing.”
For the umpteenth time this season, Taylor was a strong man of the match contender for his immense performance in Saturday’s deserved 2-1 win at Bradford City, only this was a rare occasion where he had several worthy rivals for the accolade after Northampton’s best team performance of the season.
“I was pleased with my performance and it’s always good to play well but it’s about the team and how the team performs,” he continued.
“If I can communicate with people alongside me and in front of me and help do their jobs, that’s part of my game. I want to help others around me and we’ve all done that and it’s pleasing that everyone put in a good performance.”
The big games don’t stop with Bradford. This weekend, it’s the visit of fellow strugglers Milton Keynes Dons to Sixfields when three more points would ensure Town move out of the bottom four and potentially as high as 18th place in Sky Bet League One.
“It’s another important game,” stressed Taylor. “We’re at home so that’s a big plus for us and hopefully the fans will come out in their numbers again and get right behind us because that helps.
“We’ll be looking to build on Saturday, work hard in training and put in another big performance.”