When Justin Edinburgh instructed Matty Taylor to take Saturday’s nerve-jangling late penalty at AFC Wimbledon, the Cobblers midfielder called upon all of his vast experience to answer the call and deliver the knock-out blow in impressively cool fashion.
Awarded a spot-kick four minutes from full-time after Chris Robertson’s brainless handball, it was Cobblers skipper Marc Richards who initially grabbed the ball before Taylor assumed responsibility on orders from the bench.
The former Premier League man missed his last penalty earlier in the season but, with Saturday’s game locked at 0-0 and heading for stalemate, he made no mistake, calmly sending James Shea the wrong way to find the bottom corner and snatch a late but extremely important away victory - Northampton’s first of 2017.
So, after being told to take over from Richards by his manager, what was going through Taylor’s head as he stepped up? “It needs to hit the back of the net, it was as simple as that,” he revealed.
“I don’t think it matters who took it. Marc and I had a conversation and that’s all it was. It’s nice it went in but I’m sure that Marc will be confident if he steps up to take another one.
“I’ve been in tougher situations and I think if you take the penalty away from it, we deserved to win and we won in a way that pleased me personally.
“We went about the game plan in a different way. We knew we were going to have to match them for aggression and it wasn’t a wonderful game for the purists but we’ve come away with a great 1-0 win.”
Taylor hits the nail on the head. It was the dogged, determined approach of Northampton that impressed most on Saturday, and though they didn’t exactly create a multitude of chances, they ultimately did enough to edge it.
Against a Wimbledon side who came into this game on the back of impressive results at Scunthorpe and Bolton, the Cobblers produced a gutsy defensive effort to restrict Adam Smith’s workload to just one save in the entire 90 minutes.
With recent away day disasters still fresh in the mind, Saturday was a welcome change.
We went about the game plan in a different way. We knew we were going to have to match them for aggression and it wasn’t a wonderful game for the purists but we’ve come away with a great 1-0 win.Matty Taylor
“We’ve come to a real tough place,” said manager Justin Edinburgh afterwards. “Wimbledon are in really good form and they have a lot of power and physicality in the team but we defended as I’ve asked for weeks now.
“We were really mentally strong and ruthless to not allow that ball to even get near our box or near our goalkeeper and I thought we had that in abundance today.”
That resilient defensive display was led by the outstanding Zander Diamond, and though his participation was unfortunately cut short by injury, Edinburgh doesn’t expect the Scot to be out for long.
He added: “He’s a bit fatigued but I don’t envisage any problems. He’s just a bit tight in certain areas and I’ll think he’ll be OK.
“Like I said to the players afterwards, we have to make sure it’s not just about the starting XI. It’s about how those ones who are coming off the bench to see the game out or to go and win the game effect it and I thought all three subs on Saturday played really well for different reasons and it was a great all-round performance.”
One of those to come off the bench and impress was Keshi Anderson.
The Cobblers boss concurred, adding: “Keshi has been disappointed of late not to be in the starting XI and I totally understand that.
“We’ve had good conversations about that in a positive way and what you expect as a manager from that kind of the player is exactly the performance when he came on.
“He lifted us, he got us going and he got us higher up the pitch and got us playing back in Wimbledon’s half.”
Meanwhile, following his match-winning exploits, Taylor had praise for the 603 Cobblers fans who headed down to London on Saturday and made their voices heard at Kingsmeadow.
“It’s nice to see the fans travel in their numbers,” he said. “The stand is quite small but they made a very very good noise and we’ll need them between now and the end of the season.
“We’ll need them home and away and I can only commend them for their support. They came in their numbers and as players, staff and a football club we’re very grateful for that.”