There is never a good time for injury to strike but, for Ash Taylor, it came at a particularly bad moment in his season.
Keith Curle had just replaced Dean Austin in the hotseat and it was a chance for the Cobblers, desperately struggling for form and confidence at the time, to turn their floundering season around.
Taylor played well in Curle’s first game, a goalless draw with Bury, but a hamstring injury sustained in training two days later ruled him out of their subsequent trip to Swindon Town.
Until Saturday’s game down in Exeter, where he finally made his return as a half-time substitute, he had not been seen since.
“It was a frustrating injury,” admitted the 28-year-old. “Obviously we had a new manager come in and when you play the first game and then get injured in training it’s not great.
“But I’ve just had to get my head down and I’ve worked hard to get back fully fit and be back amongst the lads again. It was good to be back out there on the pitch.”
It can only be good for the team that everyone is pushing for each other and for a place in the starting line-up.
Despite his excellent form throughout last season, Taylor was one player whose place in the team was under scrutiny at the time of Austin’s sacking.
Curle’s arrival, therefore, offered him an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch, only for injury to cruelly intervene.
“Hopefully I’ll get 90 this weekend,” he said. “I’ve come through 45 minutes unscathed and it was nice to be back out there, but the lads have done well so we’re all pushing for a place and it’s the manager’s decision. “
Given how the team has performed in his absence, it’s no surprise to learn Taylor is ‘itching’ to make his return to action.
But with Jordan Turnbull and Aaron Pierre in such impressive form – particularly the latter – winning back his place at the heart of Town’s defence will be easier said than done.
“Of course you’re itching to get out there because the lads are doing so well,” added Taylor, who was once a permanent fixture in the back four. “It’s easier to come back into a winning team than one that’s been struggling.
“The lads that have played have been fantastic and put in performances so it can only be good for the team that everyone is pushing for each other and for a place in the starting line-up.”
Cobblers won six and drew one of the nine games Taylor missed, with their latest show of resilience – a growing trend under Curle – coming last Saturday when they twice came from behind to nick a point at Exeter.
“The lads have showed character in the last few games and it was important that we came away with a point on Saturday because it was one gained rather than two lost,” said Taylor.
“The manager has come in and put his stamp on what he wants and what he expects and the lads have bought into that. It’s been fantastic so far and hopefully we can keep pushing on.”
Town’s recent home form has been in especially stark contrast to what came before Curle’s appointment. Victorious in their past four at the PTS, they’ll be hoping to make it five against struggling Grimsby Town this weekend.
“Anyone can beat anyone on their day in this league,” warned Taylor. “It’s important to win your home games and make it a fortress and make it hard for teams.”