A 1-0 win at Kettering Town’s Rockingham Road by a largely reserve side in typical Notts fashion didn’t come without it’s fair share of positives and negatives.
Trialist (of Maidstone United) Alex Wall’s second half goal was enough for a Notts side largely bereft of first XI qualities – Martin Allen opting for a blend of youth, and bench warmers.
Ultimately it was two of the youth teamers, Haydn Hollis and Dixon who impressed most on the night.
FIRST TEAM Rob Burch, Jude Stirling, Liam Chilvers, John Harley, Ricky Ravenhill, Ishmel Demontagnac, John Spicer YOUTH TEAM Haydn Hollis, Radi Jahidi, Lewis Whiteley, Greg Tempest, Liam Mitchell, George Nicholas TRIALIST Alex Wall
Much like against Hinckley at the weekend, Hollis overcame his nerves to finish looking solid and assured, whilst Dixon took man of the match honours with his tireless running all evening.
Alongside Hollis meanwhile, Chilvers was having a torrid time – a first half performance so weak you were left pondering just what sort of club would be interested in a League One defender being run ragged by a Blue Square Premier side.
On one first half occasion, Kettering trialist Moses Ashikodi bludgeoned his way past Chilvers who had made a mess of a long ball over the top. The Notts man essentially hauled the forward to the ground – perhaps fortunate to be on the side of the field where the referee’s assistant had struggled to keep up with the play all night long.
Joining Chilvers and the injured Ben “Lightning” Burgess on the free to leave (in a “please, hurry, you’re chomping away at our budget” kind of way) meanwhile is John Harley. And in his defence, he has actually impressed on his outings in the last two games – enough so that I’d say he’s edged ahead of the other pair in the “if you had to keep one” stakes.
The first half ended with Notts fortunate to still be level, such was the level of competitiveness offered by their hosts. Summer signing Jude Stirling again continued to look edgy at right back, with his biggest contributions (thus far for the whole of pre-season in fact) being his long throws – makes you wonder was his signing all that necessary when you consider the bombs that Mike Edwards was dropping in against Brighton on the last day of the season?
The introduction of Radi Jahidi and Lewis Whitely at half time meant Notts were now fielding a largely youth side and it changed things up just enough to make the difference.
It was a much more controlled affair in contrast to the first period, you could really pick up on the passing drills that Martin Allen and his coaching staff have been working on in training.
Wall’s goal was born out of great fortune, as his header was blocked by a defender, the next shot bounced off the turf and over the head of the Kettering goalkeeper, he might even have found himself with a second goal had he not stepped on the ball when through on goal minutes later.
But still the goal gave Notts more momentum going forward, with Dixon forcing the ‘keeper into a smart save shortly after.
Notts saw the game out on top of the game, but thankful for a late Mitchell save to maintain his side’s lead when Jerel Ifil of Kettering was in the clear.
So Notts pre-season form now stands at two wins, a defeat, and one draw. In those, Allen’s men have mustered just the four goals, with three of those coming from trialists, two of whom have since disappeared. Mansfield Town are up tonight, where you’d expect (hope) Allen will choose a stronger side than that which appeared at Rockingham Road on Wednesday.
Insert “such thing as friendly between these two sides” addage here.