County continue their winless run away in the league with an oftentimes toothless display at Bristol Rovers where without even kicking a ball, Lee Hughes was the talking point at the start of the day.
Having been listed on the official teamsheets prior to kick off, the game kicked off with Jake Jervis filling Hughes’ position in the side’s 4-5-1 with no explanation for the no show.
What followed was just over two hours of fevered speculation ranging from a simple injury, to a full blown power struggle between Hughes and Craig Short, even to Lee Hughes just not being bothered about playing away from home. You couldn’t make it up.
It emerged late in the week that Hughes had been fined as part of the club’s procedure against unnecessary cautions, which had led some to believe there had been some falling out between the club and player.
Some 30 minutes after the game’s conclusion and manager Craig Short had cleared the matter up, confirming Hughes had pulled his groin in the warmup and it was decided he wouldn’t be played. Whether he’s now fit in time for Peterborough on Tuesday remains to be seen, but with Sheffield Wednesday visiting Meadow Lane it’s surely a case of prioritising games.
On the field, not for the first time this season, County had let their opponents take an early lead, with Will Hoskins heading the home side in front after five minutes. All signs of a comeback were dealt a blow shortly before halftime with the sending off of Graeme Lee for a second bookable offence. An unimpressive Jervis was also to suffer as Craig Short reshuffled his pack to bring on Mike Edwards.
Twenty minutes of action later and the home side had doubled their lead through Hoskins once more. Notts defender Krystian Pearce will find it hard to argue that he wasn’t at fault for both goals. For the first he was caught out on the right wing, whilst his woefully short pass let Rovers in for their second.
Karl Hawley was to come on with 20 minutes left and his trickery in the box was to lead to a Ben Davies consolation with three minutes of normal time remaining on the clock. County pushed hard for another late, undeserved equaliser on the road but it wasn’t to be, leaving Craig Short with one point from a possible 12 in away games so far in the league.
Nowhere near good enough, and the games don’t get any easier with another away trip, this time to London Road for a game with second placed Peterborough.
Should Lee Hughes not be risked for the game, Hawley should be able to pick up where he left off in Bristol. Karl is still yet to prove many critics wrong at Meadow Lane and this might be the best/only chance he gets to do so all season so it’s important that he takes it.
It would certainly be ironic that after so much activity in the transfer market for someone to compliment Lee Hughes if the answer has been under our noses the whole time.
A returning-from-injury Luke Rodgers is another man looking to come back into the side and should now be approaching match fitness. Proven goalscoring cover in the absence, no matter how long, of Hughes is fortunately in abundance at the moment.
Another defeat on Notts County’s travels, so a sad result on the second anniversary of the club’s greatest manager of all time, Jimmy Sirrel.
Eight games in and they languish in 15th place in the league table. Still early days of course but this is not the start to the campaign that Ray Trew would’ve been wanting. Just this past week he had stated he would put money on us to clinch the league title yet still the squad continues to underperform away from Meadow Lane.
If things don’t change in a hurry, you’d have to envisage the cheque book making an appearance or three in January. And perhaps not just for players.