Two wins out of two for Keith Curle at Notts County – but it didn’t come without a brief warning of what might lay in wake for him when things turn sour.
Substitute Jonathan Forte’s first goal since Meadow Lane return gave Notts all three points after this unpretty Notts performance.
Chesterfield came to Meadow Lane still on a high having beaten Sheffield Wednesday at home last week so this game wasn’t the foregone conclusion that the Spireites second from bottom placing would’ve suggested.
Mike Edwards returned to the starting XI having been frozen out in recent months by Martin Allen. That had long been the rumour – Steady’s post-match comments only seem to back that up sadly.
Whilst I think Pearce and Chilvers would be the preferred centre-back pairing, recent form has been enough to intrigue me as to how Eddy’s return would change things up on the pitch.
The answer was emphatic. Edwards didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon and was (in my opinion) Man Of The Match quite comfortably ahead of the impressive (once again) Kieron Freeman.
Jeff Hughes – strangely at first began the game at left back with Jon Harley taking his place in midfield. A bit odd considering that Alan Sheehan had in fact been named in the starting XI.
It actually transpired that Sheehan injured himself in the warmup, and so Harley had left Meadow Lane upon hearing he hadn’t been selected. He then received the call whilst in town to get back to the ground because he was needed to start. Jeff started in defence so that Harley could warm up during the game having missed out pre-match.
Based on that – we can cut Harls a bit of slack for how wasteful he was with his early set-pieces!
County forged the best chances of the first half but couldn’t break the deadlock. Lee Hughes struck the crossbar as he stretched to reach a volley at the back post, whilst other Hughes, Jeff, failed to prod home past visiting goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
Chesterfield meanwhile had nothing of note going forward – only being afforded glimpses of goal through Notts’ own mistakes.
The second half started brightly though for either side. Firstly Alan Judge was released in the box where his effort from a tight angle was turned around the upright by Lee for a corner. Within a minute later it was the visitors trying their luck as Stuart Nelson had to be at his best to deny Jordan Bowery.
Craig Westcarr had returned to the Chesterfield starting XI and did little to endear himself to an already booing Meadow Lane crowd. Firstly seemingly putting the boot in on Nelson (for the second time this season) and again swinging a wild foot at a prone Notts man on the floor. He doesn’t appear to deny his part in the incident with Nelson either.
Nelson meanwhile was putting in a display that typifies his time in Nottingham.
Make no mistake, in these first two games under Curle, his role has been huge. Saves on Wednesday against Stevenage and then against Chesterfield on Saturday have kept Notts in the game – but we’re still suffering too many heart in mouth moments from him. Would be nice to see this change.
Of our two loan strikers, Jonathan Forte and Cristian Montano – it was the former who impressed me most on Wednesday so I expected him to start against Chesterfield. Tano got the nod though and showed the odd glimpse of what he know he’s capable of without ever looking too dangerous sadly.
Lee Hughes was his usual tireless self though right up until his substitution in the place of Ben Burgess. The switch went down as well as you might expect – more booing, equally as much for the loss of Hughes as it were for the introduction of Big Ben though.
The reception won’t have gone un-noticed by Keith Curle either. He’ll be more than aware now that there’s a section of the paying public who will be quick to turn on him when things aren’t going Notts’ way. Ten minutes left with no Hughes. You might’ve thought we were holding out of the draw – at least that’s become what we’re accustomed to lately.
On this occasion though – the bitterness wasn’t given time to fester as Forte slotted home with the assist from a defender. Notts had left it late once more, but who cares?
Quite the relief after months on end of ineffective substitutions to see a glimmer of strength in depth as Forte became the first scoring substitute for County since the end of October.
The deficit may have have been more had Alan Judge not been so intent on striking another crossbar from distance. We’re at the stage now where I no longer feel sympathy – it’s just plain funny! I make that five times it’s happen in the past three months. He must be doing it deliberately now.
It’s way too soon to start forming opinions about Curle and whether he’s the right man to steer Notts forward but the signs are promising thus far. This wasn’t the perfect display, but it was effective. Comfortable in defence, largely scrappy in midfield for the afternoon, and smothered up front by a side mostly parking the bus – but it’s still three points.
And without getting too far ahead of ourselves – you’d be hard pressed to find a Notts fan who would have seen Keith Curle steer Notts to six points in his first two games!
Two more big games this week now. I don’t think for a second KC will allow his players to look past Rochdale first in midweek – but Carlisle next week is massive.
I won’t say our playoff hopes ride on that result because let’s be honest, there’s no point. Hartlepool last week should’ve ended any promotion hopes we may have had this year. Now look – eighth in the table and three points outside of the top six. Notts can do this.
But if that is to happen Notts won’t want to lose ground when the team in sixth (beaten 3-0 so easily on the opening day of the season) come to play.
It’s Rochdale first though on Tuesday- with Curle our sixth different manager in six games against them in the past three seasons!
Stability is over-rated anyway.