A third successive home victory for Notts came despite a 90 minutes that on balance, portrayed both sides of our season so far with 45 of the Jekyll, and 45 of the Hyde.
As with any league game, taking away three points is always the priority. In that respect, Saturday was a job very well done. Winning when the chips were down, and when defeat looked the more likely outcome.
The home side had taken a two goal lead inside the first 20 minutes with goals from Lee Hughes (on his 50th appearance) and Craig Westcarr. The football had been fluid with the communication exactly how you’d want it. Another Meadow Lane landslide looked likely.
Within minutes of Westy doubling the advantage though the wheels came off, quite literally.
A costly Stuart Nelson error in front of the Kop allowed Orient back into the match. A rather tame effort from all of 20 yards could easily have been plucked from the air but Nels’ went with the punch, which landed at the feet of Ryan Jarvis who’s shot into the ground bounced over the ‘keeper.
For me, it’s the first error Nelson has made that has led to us conceding. Not the kind of mistake that’s going to cost him his place in the side in the long run, but an error none the less. Whilst he continues to operate in the shadow of Kasper Schmeichel, it’s important to remember that even his predecessor was human and prone to errors.
The Orient goal was a catalyst for a Notts captitulation.
From out of nowhere our whole game fell to pieces. The longball of the season’s opening fixtures took over, players would get in eachother’s way challenging for the same ball, and going into half time you’re thinking if Leyton Orient could score early on, the game was ours to lose.
Leyton Orient were now playing the far better football in a complete role reversal. They found themselves on two occasions with a clear sight of goal in the second half that would’ve bettered their position, but where calm finishing was needed, the composure was nowhere to be found.
Ten minutes into the second half, the County football hadn’t changed, and the game was level at 2-2 with the O’s heading past Stuart Nelson. All the early momentum had been surrendered for the sake of going route one. Route one for those not familar with our club this season, just doesn’t work, with or without a big target man to play to.
County needed to find a spark from somewhere, and it came from loan signing Alan Judge coming off the bench. His interplay with those around him was the factor that brought Notts back into the game. It beggars belief that we still find periods of the game resorting to the longball when we look so comfortably playing the ball along the floor.
With 15 minutes remaining, Craig Westcarr combined with Neal Bishop for Lee Hughes to slide in with the winner. The relief was evident amongst the players as they snatched a victory when most other teams would fold having given up a two goal lead.
Mission accomplished, just. Leyton Orient are a far better side than their early league position suggests and they’ll come good in the end for Russell Slade.
But that’s three straight wins at Meadow Lane. The next side to visit Meadow Lane will be much-fancied Sheffield Wednesday. Before that encounter, Notts find themselves out of the comfort zone for the next three games, with trips to Bristol Rovers (next Saturday) and Peterborough (a week Tuesday).
More immediately though, is a trip this Tuesday evening to Premiership side Wolves in the Carling Cup. Notts should view the tie as one of the few winnable games from the Premiership options that were available. Mick McCarthy’s penchant for resting players should do us plenty of favours.
The biggest issue now will be whether manager Craig Short decides to experiment in a few areas.
Alan Judge might consider himself unlucky if he doesn’t start the game based on his game-changing display against Orient, and maybe it’s the ideal opportunity to give young goalkeeper David Grof the chance in the first team?
Whether Lee Hughes plays might prove to be a dilemma also. Hughes is despised (more so than usual) by the Wanderers’ fans so whether he is made to endure the Molineux atmosphere remains to be seen.