The Lee Hughes Conundrum

Five games down this season, and Craig Short (you know, the guy people wanted out after one game?) finds himself with three wins in his five competitive fixtures. Two of which, coming in tricky away ties where many would expect Notts to falter.

Last night the side traveled to Vicarage Road for a tie with Watford, placed eighth in the Championship after an unbeaten start. Daunting to say the least, but the side (largely in the second half, much like Saturday) gave a great account for themselves.

The win comes courtesy of a Ben Davies free-kick (his last for the club?) and a Kevin Smith header. Watford did score a late consolation to ensure a tight finish, but County were to hold on and seal a place in Saturday’s Third Round draw.

Undoubtedly fuelled further by last night’s display, speculation presently runs wild over Super Ben’s future. Derby’s Nigel Clough was at Meadow Lane this past weekend, with a view to sealing a rumoured £400k transfer in time for the closing of the transfer window a week on Tuesday.

I don’t think there’s a single Notts fan that would want Ben Davies to leave the club. He led the way in League Two for assists last year so he’s a massive part of the squad. But at the same time, i don’t think anyone should begrudge Ray Trew wanting to snap up any such bid if it exists.

Davies is yet to overly impress the season, but last night could be the catalyst the former-Shrewsbury man needs to kickstart his season. Whether the chairman will choose to think with his heart or his head is the big question for now.

Most notably for me, last night was another win the club have secured without the services of the currently injured Lee Hughes.

In the two games where manager Craig Short has tried any which way to get the ball to Lee we’ve been ran off the park. The remaining three when we’ve needed to find another route to goal, we’ve won. Make of this what you will.

But on Saturday, Notts County travel to Bournemouth’s Dean Court on the south coast as Craig’s chosen XI attempt once more to transfer League Cup form into League form. If we’re to win this game, it’ll have to be without Hughes again.

When last year’s top scorer returns to fitness, and (hypothetically) the side are winning games, do people put their very much hard-earned appreciation for Hughes’ efforts last season first and demand he go straight back in, or does Craig Short keep the faith with what has been working on the field and risk the boo-boys wrath once more?

CS has shown previously (winning at Plymouth, followed by Boundary Park embarassment) that he’d give up a winning tactic in favour of throwing Lee back into the starting lineup, has he learned from this mistake yet?

You would hope that by Saturday, he’ll be beginning to realise the importance of not breaking up a winning team.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Supernotts (aka Matt) says:

    Nice blog again Wellypie, I would like to see Hughes and Smith up front. Smith was fantastic last night dropping into the hole. He linked up well with Jervis and that should only be better with Hughes. Plus his workrate in picking up Watford midfield made Ravenhills and Bishops job far easier and hence they both looked like the players of last season.

  2. Martin says:

    It's nice to read some quality writing about Notts, for a change. And you're right: I think Craig would be absolutely wrong to break up a winning side, even if it is to bring Hughesy back in. Stick Hughes on the bench and bring him on as a sub if things don't work out.

    I am a little worried about our League form, but surely it's too soon to panic. Giving Craig the manager's job was a risk (and I was ambivalent when his appointment was announced), but he deserves to be given a fair chance.

  3. Stu says:

    Thank you both for the comments!

    Matt, do you think Craig will change things up on Saturday and we'll back with a Big Ben Burgess in the starting lineup?

    Martin i completely agree about the appointment. I'm still baffled by it now to be honest when you think of the names we had linked. But Ray Trew made his decision and i'm (still) prepared to stand by that for now.

  4. Supernotts (aka Matt) says:

    Personally I would leave Burgess out and play Jervis with Smith if Hughes is not fit, once the stopped playing high balls to Jervis last our football improved dramatically.

    On the other hand, I think Short will revert to 451 with Burgess up front for Saturdays away game. Not what I would do, but he's the manager not me.

  5. andy6025 says:

    I think you've hit the pressing issues on the head — pending transfers and selecting a starting 11. Even though Smith impressed greatly yesterday, I have little doubt that Hughes will be back in the lineup as soon as he's fit. That said, it might be Burgess that gets replaced. I was looking at BBBs record last night, and although I've not been knocking him him in the forums, the stats made me wonder why the management sought him out. He's not been consistently in a starting 11 for most of his career. As many others have also said, he's not got the fitness to go a full 90 mins. That said, it might be worth trying to pair Hughesy with a rotating Smith/Burgess start.

    Whatever line-up comes out of the next few weeks, the only likelyhood I see is that it still won't be stable. I won't be surprised if we don't even see a stable starting 11 by mid-October.

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