Pre-Match: Hinckley United

Notts’ third game of the pre-season schedule comes tomorrow at Conference North side Hinckley United.

I spoke with supporter Andrew Blyth ahead of the game to get his thoughts on the fixture where Notts will be looking to continue their unbeaten run for the summer.

What have the last 12 months been like for you as a Hinckley fan?

The proverbial roller coaster, that’s what. We started last season under a transfer embargo that only allowed Dean to assemble a squad of sixteen players. We didn’t start brilliantly – indeed by the turn of the new year we had only recorded three league wins.

That said fans expectations were lowered, the football in the main was enjoyable and we were losing games by the odd goal rather than being soundly beaten. We tasted the highest highs (beating Stalybridge Celtic 5-2 despite going 2-0 down just after the second half started, winning 3-2 at Redditch with the last kick of the game after being 2-0 down at the 80 minute mark) and the lowest lows (losing 4-0 at Blyth Spartans when we should’ve been 2 or 3 up at half time their keeper played a blinder – but we beat them 5-1 at ours which levelled things up a little!) and every emotion in between.

It was just another season to be honest!! As the season ended it was quite clear that, much like yourselves our home form kept us up.

How are expectations of the season ahead?

After finishing 15th last season, and whilst we don’t possess the biggest squad, i’m looking forward to a top half finish. The goal difference last season was zero and I’m sure that doesn’t happen too often. We scored, and also conceded 76 goals.

We used three different keepers and very rarely had a settled defensive line up. This has been put right during the closed season and obviously without seeing us play yet I’m quite excited by what next season could bring. We have a young side with an average age 22 or thereabouts of very skilful players. If they’re able to meet their potential this season could be the start of something very, very good indeed.

Which of your players should Notts be wary of in their friendly game?

All of them!!

Danny Haystead our goalkeeper is back for his third spell at the club and we’re all very glad to have him back at the club!

18 year-old Connor Gudger as well. Not physically the biggest player, but very fast and effective!

Lloyd Kerry was both our Manager and Player’s Player Of The Year last season and has league experience with Sheffield United and Chesterfield.

And then Andre Gray who had a great end to last season including four away at Solihull Moors.

And then who’s the weakest link?Anyone you think might struggle through the afternoon?

There are no weak links, they are men of steel.

Well possibly they may all struggle at some point playing against professionals. Having said that our squad doesn’t start pre-season training until July 5th so Dean has just two sessions to get them ready for our game on the 9th.

Similarly,how much do you know about Notts? Who would you consider danger men and who are you not too bothered about?

I do know a little about Notts. In a former life I visited there in ’94 on the day your new away stand was opened and Notts (and in particular Mark Draper) handed a footballing lesson to Leicester City and beat them 4-1. I can still remember Derek Pavis coming onto the pitch at half time to explain that people had worked until the early hours of that morning to ensure you recieved the correct safety certification to allow the stand to open.

I can also clearly remember him swearing at the Leicester fans as they tried to drown him out with a certain ‘chant’ (and who could blame him, the bloke’s a legend). That was to be my last season following Leicester and ever since i’ve immersed myself in all things Hinckley.

Obviously a connection exists between the clubs, Dean Thomas and Nicky Platnauer being ex Notts players/legends. We also had Charlie Palmer as assistant manager until a couple of seasons ago and Carl Heggs played up front for us for a while. Ben Fairclough came from Notts to Hinckley at the start of last season and has recently signed for Eastwood Town.

I probably know more about Notts 2009-2010 season than any other due to the Munto/Sven/Campbell situations and also as I was recently lent a copy of the rather nice,fan written book ‘I Had A Wheelbarrow’ which had rather a happy ending for you as I remember.

There’s no Notts player I’m not bothered about. Certainly Hughes and Westcarr will be a handful but in saying that I’m not discounting any other of the Notts players it’s just that my knowledge concentrates on the league we play in. I am really looking forward to the match though and am really pleased you’re visiting so close to celebrating your 150th birthday – save me a slice of that cake please.

A prediction for the afternoon?

A day where we’re bathed in sunshine, having a laugh, chatting with new friends, perhaps partaking of a pint or two and football.I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it. Please come and join us!

Oh, and it’ll be a 2-2 draw. Gray and Kolodynski for us with Hughes getting a brace for you.

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