Defeat rarely offers an opportunity for you to walk away from with your head held high. Saturday’s performance at The Valley by all accounts was one of those lesser known times though.
A Notts side rejuvenated in recent weeks made the trip to London safe in the knowledge that the first team is now clearly laid out, and also in the belief that they have a squad more than capable of making an impact this season in the third tier.
For all this new found optimism though, unfortunately it was to prove to be a bad day at the office for one of the side’s most reliable assets, Lee Hughes, that was to effectively lead to the County downfall. The often-maligned front man was squandering the kind of chances that any other week would have the Notts travelling contingent celebrating.
The first half saw an astonishing miss, the sort of instinctive opportunity the man thrives on. The ball came across goal, two yards out, yet somehow Hughes managed to swerve the ball wide of goal for the sort of miss where cliches about mothers scoring and it being easier to score just don’t quite do the moment any justice.
The second half saw Hughes miss another penalty for Notts. Not sure how many it’s been now, but i alone can count at least three off the top of my head. Surely the time has come for a change of spot-kicker? To me, in future Craig Westcarr would make for a more than adequate replacements based on last season’s form.
Regardless of all that, the penalty was struck right down the middle, with minimal power, which gave the Charlton number one just enough of a chance to keep a leg outstretched. The ball cleared the crossbar for a corner, and Notts County’s shot at three points had passed.
Just ten minutes later and Charlton debutant Joe Anyinsah had sealed a victory with just five minutes left on the clock. Harsh treatment for a Notts side that had controlled the majority of the game and had created the better chances. But the performance has been enough to convince people that despite any early-season concerns they had over the appointment of Craig Short, Notts County will now do well this season.
The fact in the cold light of day though is that in two encounters with the division’s bigger sides, we’ve taken away nothing bar some optimism.
Whilst in the meantime, our fellow automatically promoted sides Bournemouth and Rochdale continue to punch above their pundit-predicted weights for the season. The south coast side recently took a convincing point at Huddersfield (owners of a 3-0 belting over Notts on opening day). Whilst ‘Dale just last week beat Southampton on their own patch.
So whilst the performances have improved greatly, they effectively mean little without the points to go with them. The points that other sides around us are still managing to pick up. Saturday, October 2nd offers County the opportunity to test their strength against Sheffield Wednesday at Meadow Lane in the league.
By then, with three league games also played before, the season’s picture for Notts County should look a whole lot clearer.
Leyton Orient are the visitors to Meadow Lane this coming Saturday. The O’s have the one league win all season to their name and find themselves just one place off the foot of the table. On paper it could be a day where the travelling side become lambs to the slaughter for a County team looking to bounce back.
But with the team (according to Craig Short) lower than they were following the Huddersfield loss, it could in fact make for another uneasy Meadow Lane atmosphere.