The Smooth With The Rough

Saturday saw Notts County bring their September to a close with an unbeaten record of four wins and a draw in League One.

Plenty of reasons to be cheerful then – or so you thought.

In truth, it was another unpolished display from Martin Allen’s team, buoyed by goals from Lee Hughes (his fifth goal of the month in all competitions) and The Salmon, Sam Sodje from the substitutes bench. A fair result though against a generally unthreatening Rochdale side.

There were times when it felt like you were watching a game from last season, littered with lengthy periods of passing amongst the back line before a long ball was smashed forwards. The difference this year though is Ben Burgess, a man who has recently been proving himself to be the dominant force we all knew (ok, hoped) he could be.

It was his leap and knock down in to Hughes that saw this year’s top scorer turn inside and slot calmly past ‘Dale goalie Kean. One of only a few opportunities for Notts in a scrappy first half.

There wasn’t much of an improvement in the second half truth be told.

Sodje’s nine minutes on the field are likely to be as eventful as you’ll see this year in Notts colours. His first action was to poleaxe (read: nudge) Kean to the ground, but you’d have been forgiven for thinking he’d actually been beheaded! Sodje was booked, a poor decision much like Hughes’ was just minutes earlier.

His next action was to be clattered to the ground by Nicky Adams, also booked. Right decision, but you’d expect a Notts fan to say that really. Then, nearly four minutes into the five of added time (mostly for Kean’s theatrics) and Sodje crashed a header into the net from Alan Sheehan’s free-kick.

Rochdale were never really put of sight in the game, but for all their huffing and puffing, Stuart Nelson was left a spectator for much of the afternoon.

Like I say, 2-0 was fair and it kept up the great run that Notts have found themselves in. The longer it goes, the less you gloat that the trip to Turin has been justified, and the more you wonder just how far Notts County can go this year. Bar one half of a football this year, even in defeat we’ve never been outplayed.

This Saturday sees a trip to the sterile, atmosphereless Stadium MK. This was our penultimate fixture last year where Notts were plunged right back into a relegation dogfight following a limp, lifeless display. Remember it? The one where Martin Allen was at pains to point out the fantastic display put in by Burgess?

With that said, this weekend is a fantastic opportunity to see how far Allen and his players have come. Both teams are in fine form, but MK Dons drew this evening when they could’ve found themselves in second place in the table with a win. Preston’s victory at Wycombe though sent Notts to sixth with Saturday’s hosts in fifth.

A win for Notts on Saturday and we could even leapfrog them ourselves into the second place – but let’s not get too carried away just yet.

These are great times to be a Notts fan surely? We’re doing well on the pitch, putting points away on a regular basis and we’ve even had the audacity to keep two clean sheets in the last two games.

So when you come home to see Ray Trew on the NCM messageboard pouring cold water on everyone’s enthusiasm by declaring the crowds aren’t big enough to sustain the current squad – you can’t help but wonder what the future might hold.

Was Ray wrong in his comments? Absolutely not – after all it’s hardly something we didn’t already know. We’ve heard of the drain on resources coming from the likes of Liam Chilvers, John Harley, Sam Sodje and let’s be fair, Ben Burgess. We know the majority of these will need to be moved on at the end of the season. Was the timing just a bit ill-conceived though?

Absolutely.

It was quite the sobering message to be delivered after another win, and it flies directly in the face of the positivity that his manager Martin Allen tries to squeeze out of every last supporter.

The good times are still here for now, but just maybe there’s an ominous shadow hanging over them? Time will tell.

The 2-0 Rochdale victory saw the most successful week for predictions so far this season in the TNB Prediction League with 15 entrants guessing correctly!

This week’s winners were: Aaron Armstrong, Andy Stokes, Helen Beighton, Jamie Thorpe, Jon Faulkner, Joseph Garner, Matt Dawsom, Mel Tipping, The NCFC Ticket Office, Paul Blyth, Paul Smith, Peter Caine, Simon Jackson, Steve Sanders and Tom Parker.

Jon’s correct prediction sees him pull clear by three points at the top over Sean Mansfield. Check out the latest results and the table here.

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