This was a blog post I wasn’t actually going to bother with since today’s game at Bramall Lane and Saturday’s with Oldham were both to be condensed into a mid-season review to be published this weekend.
Today’s game though provided a pretty decent number of talking points though – considerably more than i’d have expected with the starting lineup which Martin Allen chose.
Lining up with Lee Hughes and Ben “indefinite leave” Burgess was one of several surprises in the first choice eleven. Last we heard was that Big Ben was with his wife following the two month’s premature birth of their child so him accompanying Lee was quite out of the blue.
In defence were Sam Sodje and Krystian “out long term” Pearce – another player we thought we may not see for sometime.
Allen’s injury reports have been flaky at best in recent months but this was setting a new standard. Gavin Mahon we were told this week would be out for maybe 5-8 weeks – we’ll now take that with a pinch of salt perhaps.
Accompanying Neal Bishop in midfield was Charlie Allen, a player seeing more first team appearances lately but one who is becoming visibly frustrated with his own lack of a finished product.
It was hard to expect much of Notts in this game. After all, games against the other top sides in the division have all ended in defeats – not shameful defeats by any stretch, but losses none the less.
County though were to strike first. After rattling two different crossbars in as many weeks with thunderbolts, it was an attempted cross from a deadball which was to get Alan Judge the goal his attacking play of late has deserved. Temporarily the hosts were rattled and Notts looked rather comfortable.
The lead couldn’t be held onto though for longer than quarter of an hour when Ryan Flynn ghosted in front of his marker to slot home under Nelson. The hosts were pressing with ease as the County defence looked rather shambolic for large periods.
Making it to half time with the scores tied was an achievement of sorts – but Judge’s shot just before the break which forced a decent save from the home ‘keeper could’ve made things so much better. Just five minutes into the second period and another turnaround was complete though.
Pearce will shoulder the responsibility for it as well. Having conceded (admittedly wrongly) a throw-in, his lack of awareness to see Cresswell’s run into the box cost Notts big time as the ball into the box was pushed into his own net by Alan Sheehan.
Pearce’s concession confounds a rather poor few weeks for KP. With Judge’s surge in form recently Notts are maybe looking over their shoulder for bids for Judgey and not KP like might’ve been expected much of this season.
You feared for the worst, perhaps even an almighty batting collapse.
What followed though offered much encouragement though as Notts fought their way back into the game with a performance not at all dissimilar to what we’ve seen in the games against Yeovil and Leyton Orient. The possession became largely Notts’ and such were the comfort levels that Allen made the gutsy call to replace Krystian Peace with Karl Hawley with Bish switching to centre-back.
In amongst all this, Charlie was to pick up his second yellow card of the season and be hauled off almost immediately again (mirroring events earlier in the season at Stevenage). Time to maybe look at options to get him out on loan for some first team experience in League Two? The day was always going to be a huge ask – but if he doesn’t learn from a day like today though it will really have been a huge waste of time.
County pushed, but really only forced two chances of note through Jeff Hughes deflected 20-yard effort which needed to be turned around the upright. Substitute Karl Hawley was next with a ferociously struck overhead kick straight into the hands of ‘keeper Simonsen – a yard either side and the scores would be 2-2.
Meanwhile the hosts could easily have grabbed a couple of goals themselves were it not for an incredible pair of last ditch challenges.
For all the usual bluster though a second wasn’t to come and defeat was effectively sealed in stoppage time when substitute Ishmel Demontagnac saw red for pathetically throwing the ball into Lowton’s face. We were all made aware of the lad’s temperament when he came to Meadow Lane in the Summer but this really wasn’t the time to have it thrown back down our throats.
It’s another three points thrown away from a winning position against a top half of the table rival, and a fifth defeat against the division’s top five sides – and it’s not as if a single one of those teams has played us off the park either. Hugely disappointing.
Martin Allen is insistent that he doesn’t need any new personnel bringing in – and apparently so are his players. The problem with this is that his aim for Notts is still the same 50 point target set at the beginning of the season. Certainly, we will reach that target with the current squad.
But shouldn’t the bar be set a little higher in light of the start that’s been made? Shouldn’t the existing squad be strengthened in order to push for the playoffs this season? It’s hard to envisage opportunities like this popping up every year!
Regardless of Allen’s opinion – Bish disagrees.
One game left before the transfer window swings open once more. Do we hope for the arrival of reinforcements, or watch the clock waiting for another big name departure? The January window in 2011 was a costly period for Notts, have lessons been learnt?
As seems to have been the case for some time now, we need a massive performance in our next game which will now be Oldham on Saturday – followed by the visit of Huddersfield to Meadow Lane on Monday. These were the two fixtures which we began our campaign with last year with two 3-0 reversals so expect two huge tests.