Even in defeat, you might imagine new manager Paul Ince would barely have been able to believe his luck at 4.50 on Saturday afternoon.
Just how could a win and a convincing performance possibly help him figure out what areas most needed concentrating on? Most conveniently, he got the sort of performance that has completely disjointed our season from the offset.
Saturday wasn’t without it’s positives for Ince though. For one of the supposedly strongest teams in the division the Saints were made to look rather ordinary for much of the game. And at least County were able to hold onto an advantage longer than the previous week.
Mike Edwards gave Notts an early lead, smashing home a header from Ben Davies’ corner. Had it not been for the goal netting, the ball would quite possibly still be travelling, such was the force behind the ball.
Though had the referee seen it, Southampton goalkeeper Davis would’ve been behind the ball himself, but thanks to Karl Hawley’s rather blatant interference going unsighted the goal stood.
Another early lead much like at Colchester last week. And largely the play apparently followed a similar pattern, with Notts pressing regularly without being able to finish off their opponents.
County were at least this week able to hold their lead until deep into the second half.
Right up until an onside Lee Barnard found himself in a tangle with John Thompson in the box. Both men went to ground and the referee had awarded Southampton the chance to draw level from the spot.
Fans will protest about the slightest of contact Thommo made with the ball but in truth, we’d all scream blue murder had it happened to one of ours in the box.
The modern game has changed and referees will always prioritise the contact made with the player over that which is made with the ball. Harsh maybe, but it really shouldn’t have come as that much of a shock.
Thompson was shown a red card though having taken down his man in a clear goalscoring opportunity. Rightly or wrongly, it was the fifth red card in eight games for Notts County and is without question something Paul Ince will very much need to sort out as quickly as possible.
Thompson sits out Tuesday’s game at Hartlepool having only incurred a one match ban.
Five minutes later and that lead that was held onto for so long was already a distant memory as Barnard endeared himself further to the home crowd by slotting home amidst a crowded six yard box.
County only find themselves seven conceded goals away from letting in as many goals as they did for the whole of the last league campaign. How times change! This goal has been just one of too many horrendous goals that County have conceded.
With the new man in charge and unlikely to settle for such mediocrity, you’d have to think everyone in the defence will find themselves on notice in the coming weeks.
The points were wrapped up by Southampton with a deflected, dipping Lallana drive as he found room amongst a seemingly disinterested Notts defence on the edge of the box.
And that was that, Notts County’s season completely encapsulated in 90 minutes in front of the watching eyes of new manager Paul Ince.
To call it a defeat in Ince’s first game in charge however might be harsh.
The man only arrived at the club’s stadium on Friday afternoon for the press call so what impact he could’ve had must only have been minimal, not least with him sat high in the executive boxes from the silent comforts of the Pavis Stand.
Ince’s first real test comes against Hartlepool, another team who find themselves in the lower reaches of the division.
And in his first squad are likely to be his first three acquisitions.
Paul has already got stuck into the transfer market by bringing in established talent Sam Sodje who had been languishing as a free agent following a trial at transfer-embargoed Sheffield Wednesday and Craig Short’s more-recent refusal to sign the Nigerian international.
One of Ince’s former clubs Liverpool have also come in handy, with the two month loan moves of his own son Thomas in midfield and Steven Darby (a 22 year old defender).
Both come highly recommended from Anfield, but then so were the pair Craig Short brought in on loan from the Premiership!
Three signings confirmed, already with rumours of two more to follow by the weekend, and pretty much every Notts fans will be putting their hands together hoping for an established striker, the sort of player who’s goals will only help breed confidence throughout the door.
Because God knows right now how much they must need both goals and confidence right now!