It’s never a nice thing when you need to write about another Notts County defeat, but it’s always that much easier when there are positives to take from the game.
A 3-0 defeat away to MK Dons in their sterile pit of a stadium sends us outside of the playoff positions, but still provides plenty of hope going forward.
Ben Burgess missed the game for whatever reason and was replaced by Christian Montano. Aside from this switch there were no stories to be found in the starting XI.
Martin Allen scouted MK Dons last Tuesday for their game with Charlton Athletic, a game which finished 1-1. Apparently the Dog saw enough to warrant him thinking MK Dons will win League One this year. Any self-respecting Notts fan in attendance on Saturday will most likely disagree.
You see this wasn’t an even contest for the duration of the afternoon with Notts being down to ten men after just three minutes. Rightfully so, Julian Kelly saw red for a rather decent point blank save on the line with his hands. If we take nothing else from the weekend, we know Kelly might make a decent stand in one day!
For the second away game in succession Notts faced an early penalty, and an uphill task. In a repeat of the sunny Stevenage afternoon though, Stuart Nelson came up trumps with another penalty save!
Alan Judge was to be another victim of Julian’s error as he made way for Jude Stirling. Excellent long throw, but little else unfortunately. Ten men, and in the searing Bedfordshire heat as well, you can’t imagine Notts will face many steeper tasks all season!
The first half essentially became one way traffic for the most part with the hosts finding plenty of space down the right wing, making the most of their man advantage.
Notts meanwhile weren’t seeing much of the ball and did extremely well to reach half time with only a 1-0 deficit – handed to the Dons by a delightfully lofted finish from Balanta who had found space behind the Notts backline to race through on goal.
The second half was very much a different affair. Notts were seeing far more of the ball and were controlling the play for long periods.
With just over 20 minutes left to play, and with Notts missing the aerial abilities of Burgess (not a sentence you’d have contemplated saying barely a month ago) Allen brought on Sam Sodje in the place of the again impressive Gavin Mahon. Fresh from his goal last week against Rochdale, you couldn’t ignore we had another goal threat on the field.
It was nothing short of an Allen masterstroke. Sodje was unrecognisable from the player who has failed to impress on so many occasions in the black and white. He was unbeatable in the air, a right menace. And he nearly found the net with an audacious bicycle kick too.
A fantastic turnaround and you started to really believe that Notts could take something from the game as he and Lee Hughes started to link well. Hughes tested the home goalkeeper with a stinging drive from an acute angle which was well saved.
Ultimately, it was the team with the most legs on the field who were to prevail though with two late goals in as many minutes that did little more than flatter the poor home side.
Was 3-0 a fair scoreline in the grand scheme? Absolutely not.
With that said, the performance Notts had put in, specifically in the second half is further evidence of the progress made under Martin Allen. It’s hard to envisage a similar performance from our side being put in last year.
But hey, at least it gave the half or dozen MK Dons fans to our left reason to celebrate, reason to make a noise after an afternoon of complete silence. The cast of Super 8 seemed delighted.
The result nudges Notts down to eighth position, whilst the old Wimbledon sit in second – meaning the top four sides in League One are the only teams to sweep aside County in the league now this term. Three of these came away from home, and over those four games we’ve only been out-played in two halves of football really.
It’s said in football that you would usually wait ten or so games to get an idea of the campaign ahead of you. Eighth place isn’t too bad at all considering the perceived lacklustre pre-season both on and off the field. If Notts can keep up similar form going into the January transfer window there’s every shout of making the playoffs this year.
Now attentions turn to Chesterfield tomorrow evening in the Johnsons Paint Trophy. Some say it’s a waste of time, others argue it’s overpriced – will any of these be a concern should we progress further into the competition?
The game will see Ishmel Demontagnac make his first professional start from Notts, whilst Charlie Allen and Hamza Bencherif come back into the side in a lineup of both established pros and fringe talent.
This is following by Sky Sports bring their cameras to Meadow Lane this coming Sunday in a repeat of Notts’ first Meadow Lane fixture of 2011 when a Tom Ince-inspired County ran out 3-0 winners over Hartlepool in a contest between the division’s two form sides of the time.
The Pools sit just one place above Notts currently in the table having only lost one game this season.
A relatively quiet weekend on the TNB Prediction League front – no one saw a 3-0 defeat on the cards and only 11 even predicted a loss for Notts County.
Jon Faulkner again extends his lead at the top of the table by another point, whilst Robert Kent in third gained a point on second placed Sean Mansfield.
This week’s “winners” were: Dave Randall, Dave Straw, Ian Clark, Jack Carnell, Jamie Thorpe, Neil Wilson, Paul Blyth, Paul Sexton, Peter Bales, Steve Sanders and Tom Burrows.
You can see the latest spreadsheet of predictions and the table here.