Notts County’s pre-season campaign kicked off (in the loosest sense of the term) yesterday at local sides Ilkeston FC and Hucknall Town on a sunburningly hot day.
Martin Allen and his backroom had assembled a cast of 40 players to take part in the two games, meaning that the four different halves of football saw Notts represented by mostly completely different teams.
Both matches were essentially glorified training sessions, the results of both being massively irrelevant. The idea being simply to get the Notts squad playing actual games of football.
Days after Chelsea cancelled a friendly because five days into their pre-season training was “too soon”, Notts were playing two games just three days in. With tongue firmly in cheek you could say the depth is there this year!
In truth, a huge percentage of the 40 were only to make the numbers up. Whilst the likes of Stephen Hunt, Lee Hughes and Neal Bishop missed out through injury, it was made up of the existing first team (new signings included), members of the youth team, and a number of trialists – as listed below:
FIRST TEAM Rob Burch, Alan Judge, Ricky Ravenhill, Craig Westcarr, Stuart Nelson, Krystian Pearce, Mike Edwards, John Spicer, Karl Hawley FREE TO LEAVE Liam Chilvers, John Harley, Ben Burgess NEW SIGNINGS Liam Mitchell (previously youth team), Hamza Bencherif, Ishmel Demontagnac, Jeff Hughes, Charlie Allen, Jude Stirling, Alan Sheehan, Julian Kelly YOUTH TEAM Fabian Speiss, Kameron-Lewis Anderson, Lewis Whiteley, Mitchell Clarke, Liam Guest, Jake Wholey, Jordan Jones, Jonathan Boyack, Josh Marshall, George Nicholas, Haydn Hollis, Curtis Thompson, Kyle Dixon, Greg Tempest TRIALISTS Kyel Reid, Adi Yussuf, Andre Blackman, Nialle Rodney + two more.
Of the four different County sides that took part in the day’s events, it’s hard to argue against Ilkeston’s second half being the better. New boys Hughes and Sheehan linked up well with Judge (excecuting some superb longfield balls) in midfield throughout.
Gary Ricketts’ looping header sailed over first period goalkeeper Rob Burch giving the home side the lead before Westcarr struck home the equaliser on the stroke of half-time from 25 yards.
At half time, both teams completed wholesale personnel changes as expected.
It was beautifully lofted Sheehan ball into Judge that was to see Notts take the lead in the first fixture at Ilkeston FC. Judge’s low cross on the left wing caused panic in the Ilkeston goal mouth where an unnamed centre-back trialist was able to slot home his side’s second.
The game was to finish 2-2 though as Darryl Thomas was to pop up with Ilkeston’s equaliser with five minutes remaining as he ghosted in to flick the ball past Speiss who was in goal for the second half.
Whilst you don’t read too much into the performances of either session, you’d still say there was much to be concerned about from some of the defensive frailties on show. At times it was as if Notts were putting on a clinic in how to turn defence into attack.
The second fixture of the afternoon cross-county at Hucknall Town was a similar affair on an uneven pitch – a start contrast to the pristine playing surface at Ilkeston FC’s New Manor Ground. You don’t want to look for excuses but to say the pitch played it’s part was no understatement.
Notts were to take the win in this one with a stunning outwardly swerving hit from the right flank, dipping in off the post.
The goal from Kyel Reid (one of the day’s trialists) lit up a less than average performance from either side in a game where Notts were grateful on several occasions for the efforts of Nelson in goal. On at least three occasions in the first half, a more capable side than Hucknall Town would’ve been out of sight.
Dixon, Hawley and Reid combined well on the right in the second half following a first half reminscient at times of the narrow performances that marred last season so it was no surprise that was to be where Notts found their late breakthrough.
On paper. these certainly weren’t the results you would hope to witness, but whilst the games made for an enjoyable afternoon, but the players had spent an afternoon playing football – the only mission here really.
Still, four points in one day is promotion form surely?