Another New Era

Notts At DaggersAnother week, another manager – Martin Allen steps in on a one year contract.

The man they call Mad Dog leaves Barnet three games in to a reign at the League Two strugglers which leaves many questioning the man’s loyalty, but his explanations of his actions have done much to clear up his motives.

When you consider it in real terms, quite obviously he’s going to choose a longer contract over one where he might be out the door in a few weeks.

Assuming he’s given a chance to stick around long enough of course.

There’s been an air of honesty in Allen’s interviews on both Talk Sport and BBC’s Late Kick Off. You figure that his words are generally what every manager thinks when he takes over a club he feels no sentimental attachment to. There are no statements of grandeur here – we just needed saving from relegation. It’s that simple.

But whether he’s enthusiastic to be taking over remains to be seen. It’s certainly not something that is clear in his interviews so far. But then these were conducted after a day of abuse conveyed to him via his Twitter account – it’s only human that some of this will have been on his mind.

If we’re to survive League One under Allen, afternoons like last Saturday need to become a thing of the past immediately.

Mere days out from stressing the importance of feeding your players the sort of compliments they need to hear and Carl Heggs was taking to local radio to decimate the players he had temporary charge over.

I still say it’s fantastic to have a manager who is so refreshingly honest and sincere – but maybe this was an occasion where the honesty was too brutal? Come 5pm on Saturday afternoon there’s no way that Heggs’ comments could be perceived as anything other than massively hypocritical.

These were the words of a man visibly dumbfounded at what he had seen, a man seemingly desperate to rid himself of the players at his disposal.

With that said though – if Heggs’ criticisms struck any players as a surprise then maybe they should pull their heads out of the sand and accept Saturday’s failings?

In a season where the term “new depths” has been over-used enough already, this was another of those occasions where you start to wonder how things could possibly get worse.

First things first, Dagenham & Redbridge were terrible. I’m all for being gracious in defeat but there was little to praise from Saturday’s hosts. Obviously, what this says about Notts is open to interpretation. They’re certainly not the first bad side to turn us over this year. Give Daggers their credit though, they were ruthless pouncing on County’s mistakes.

But their first half was largely reminiscent of some of the football Notts have resorted to at times this season…yet for them it worked. Watch the goals for yourself, all three stem from the almighty longball.

This was one of the most shambolic defensive performances yet from County.

Notts were one down after just quarter of an hour, having failed to acknowledge a warning shot just moments earlier where John Akinde was to step on the ball at the back post, rather than slot it past Stuart Nelson.

Akinde was to make amends though from the same position, squeezing the ball between Nelson and post. It was another terrible goal from a County perspective, from John Harley’s complete mis-read of long Tony Roberts goal kick, Sam Sodje’s failure to close down Danny Green on the right, and Nelson managing to get a full hand to the ball before it crept in.

This catalogue of errors was merely an indication of things to come all afternoon long. County were making the mistakes that the term “schoolboy error” doesn’t even come close to describing. Be it failing to deal with the ball in the air, basic communications, or just simply not paying attention.

Graeme Lee (just come back into the side just four days previous) was to pay for such indecision five minutes before halftime having hauled down Daggers’ John Nurse as the last man. The only possible outcome was the red card.

To add further insult, Danny Green was to bury the resulting free-kick from 25 yards. 2-0 down, not even half time.

Yet it was three on the stroke of half time as Jon Spicer, his first start in a good while conceded a needless penalty for a foul on Akinde. Green again with the honours from the deadball.

Two major talking points for the match official, both he’d got right in my opinion. He was roundly jeered off by the travelling County fans as you might expect, but he wasn’t wrong in either call.

For the second half, Tony Roberts (making his 501st appearance for the home side) in goal was enjoying his role as pantomime villain for the afternoon in front of the away stand.. Yet for all the second half weight jibes from the travelling support, Roberts was still the goalkeeper to have gone largely untested.

Whether his two finger salute to Notts fans was necessary is another matter. In the week where footballers and swearing had made headlines all week long, what use is it a referee speaking to the player about it yet letting it go without punishment?

It’s admittedly a minor footnote to the day’s events though.

County were to get the goal to bring them back into the game through substitute Nyogu Demba-Nyren – on for the injured Febian Brandy. The big Gambian rose above all others to head home the consolation goal.

It could easily have been the goal to kick-start a fightback had it not been for a whistle-happy match official – a man already hardly endearing himself to County fans.

As Lee Hughes was pushed on the edge of the box, the ball dropped to Sodje on the half volley and the ball rocketed past Roberts in the net. It didn’t matter, the whistle had already blown. On another day, a more patient referee would have seen the game go to 3-2.

Harsh on Sodje, would have been the only saving grace of having him on the field all afternoon. Not that it would’ve been deserved, but whether Notts deserve points or not is just irrelevant right now.

The home side were able to see the game out without major incident – Notts even taking the opportunity to squander one free kick on the edge of box. John Spicer and Kevin Smith couldn’t even get a simple five yard pass right, very indicative of the afternoon’s display.

And so Notts are back in the relegation zone. Are we sitting comfortably? Two games in hand over Bristol Rovers above us offer little comfort when you consider every single game in hand this season has been squandered.

New manager “Mad Dog” Allen faces a massive task, make no mistake.

I question whether there’s anything any incoming manager could do to save Notts County’s season with the players seemingly running on empty. There’s only so much the likes of Hughes and Neal Bishop can do to lift those around them now – their passion in particular one of very few positives to take from the Daggers game.

Yeovil away tonight in another ol’ six pointer. They’re a team we beat 4-0 at Meadow Lane three managers ago – back in September.

Allen has said he won’t be taking charge tonight, just observing. Let’s hope we see more of the spirit we’ve shown against Premiership sides this year rather than the dire performances put on in the league!

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