Back On Track

On the eve of a trip to Italy this week, you figured going into Saturday’s game that anything less than a convincing victory over Bournemouth would only exacerbate the ill-feeling still residing from Wednesday’s deadline day inactivity.

As it happens, a 3-1 victory and a convincing team display should do enough to ensure a happier camp ahead of the ill-timed Juventus game.

Goals from Lee Hughes, Krystian Pearce and West Ham loanee Christian Montano cancelled out Marc Pugh’s equalising goal for the visitors in a contest that Notts appeared close to throwing away.

Whilst County still work around the departure of Craig Westcarr last week, you’re left to look at the options available closer to home. One of which being the transfer listed Ben Burgess. (update Ben is off the transfer list as of early Monday afternoon!)

Whilst Martin Allen (predictably) talks up the big man’s activity in training behind the scenes, the fact is aside from two cameo appearances last season, we’ve seen very little to get excited about from him. Everything else has been laboured, not inspiring at all.

Has his hamstring strain suffered at Hinckley United in pre-season done Notts a favour? Chances are he might’ve been shipped out in the past few months had that not occurred. Bullet dodged perhaps?

He started though. He’s a Notts County player, you get behind your own when the chips (no pun intended) are down you give them your full support.

After another week’s speculation of “will he, won’t he” regarding the starting XI place of Hughes, he started. You find it hard to be surprised now when you look down on the team sheet and see his name listed despite the chatter. He’s played in every league game so far this season, it’s already a significant improvement on what we saw from him last year.

When he struck to make it 1-0 on 52 seconds, you began to think we might see a landslide.

Bournemouth are a club in well publicised crisis. For all the anger vented towards Ray Trew and his Notts board members this week, at least he didn’t tell us to go support our local rivals! Their lack of investment, in the face of their sales make County’s pale in comparison. With their only striker retiring this week, it was left to 39-year-old Steve Fletcher to lead the Bournemouth lines.

Meanwhile, Burgess was having a fantastic game – winning the majority of the high dropping balls laid up to him, yet also demonstrating great proficiency along the floor. His link ups with Alan Judge were that of a partnership who’d been playing together for some time. The two combined to set up Burg’ with a drive from 25 yards. On target, but saved. Encouraging though!

As 1-0 leads go, it was about as comfortable as you can imagine and were it not for the wastefulness of Jeff Hughes and Alan Judge in the Bournemouth box it could’ve been even more so.

The visiting Cherries forced one great opportunity through defensive indecision from County, but they were to find no way through thankfully and Allen’s side were good value for their lead at half time.

The second half was very much more of the same, but it could’ve been 2-0 when Judge spurned a one on one chance and the subsequent volley in front of the Kop.

Some doubts started to creep in. You began to think this could be like last season when there were so many games Notts were in control only to throw away. And so, they tried!

Stuart Nelson’s miskick found an opposition player around halfway, before the ball was beautifully weighted over the top for Pugh (quite possibly offside) to finish past the concrete-booted Nelson. Here we go again then!

Not to be this time though! Where as last season (be it under Paul Ince or Craig Short) this would signal another Meadow Lane capitulation, Notts are built of sterner stuff now. When Krystian Pearce rose high above the Bournemouth defence to beastly head home an Alan Judge corner – the lead was restored.

The result was sealed by a piece of individual brilliance from substitute Montano.The Columbian had come on to the field in the place of Burgess, rightly given a fantastic standing ovation for his efforts on his way off the field.

Within ten minutes of joining the play, a Karl Hawley shot found it’s way to Tano just inside in the area. In one fluid moment he stepped on the ball with his left boot to drag it back, before lifting it high into the roof of the net beyond the despairing reach of of Flahavan in the Bournemouth goal.

3-1, richly deserved too. For those moments of uncertainty Notts had come through to take their third win of the season. And at a time when there’s much consternation over a lack of firepower up front, all four recognised strikers had put in solid shifts on their way to making Notts the fourth highest scorers in the division.

It lifts Notts County into the top half of the table, and ahead of Walsall who come to visit next Saturday – fully rested without any midweek exploits of their own.

It ensures the mood ahead of Turin on Thursday is a happy one. Had this game gone the shape of the pear you wonder how supporters might take to the fixture. For those attending it would make little to no difference – but those supporters are in the vastest of minoritys.

So, with the win in the bag – we can allow things to get just a little bit surreal from here. It’s Juventus next.

Juventus, featuring Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon and Luca Toni amongst many others. Just typing those names out alone doesn’t feel right. The idea that i’ll be seeing them on the same field as Lee Hughes, Neal Bishop and Mike Edwards makes it no less easy to comprehend.

Excuse the excitement for a moment, but this is going to be something  truly incredible.

The 3-1 win over Bournemouth saw an upturn in the luck for a fair number of people in the TNB League this week also – with ELEVEN entrants all picking the correct scoreline.

For nine people, this was the first time they’ve predicted correctly.

This week’s winners were: Andy Stokes, Ian Clark, Ian Howard, Jon Faulkner, Kirk Ward, Peter Bales, Robert Kent, Sharon Peters, Simon Jackson, Stephen Moore and Tom Burrows.

The result sees Jon join Sean Mansfield at the very top of the first TNB League Table, which is available alongside the Bournemouth predictions here – fingers crossed i’ve got everyone’s calls in properly!

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