No game last weekend leaves Notts still 13 short of the 50-point safety barrier that manager Martin Allen set at the beginning of the season.
Postponement at home to Stevenage meant the chance was gone for County to claw that gap back and they remain needing only three more goals to equal the tally for the whole of last season!
Obviously those 13 points can be attained any manor of ways. But I took a look at the remaining fixture list for the season and picked out five games that would do much to make up for the recent downturn in fortunes on the field.
Spotlands – This Saturday
What better way to kick off the final push for safety than against our old friends Rochdale – whilst in the meantime completing a second league double of the season? It’s a task Notts only managed once last year.
To say Rochdale have failed to follow up their impressive return to League One last year is an understatement. They’re currently sitting second from bottom with the worst goal difference in the division.
Their GD of -24 in fact ties them for the worst in the Football League next to Forest and Northampton – Notts meanwhile with the best goal difference in League One outside of the playoffs should surely be able to wrap up back to back League One wins for the first time since mid-October.
Meadow Lane – February 25th
A 3-1 win at the B2Net Stadium in October was to be the penultimate League One victory in 2011. It also served in a way as retribution for the somewhat embarassing exit of the same scoreline in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy little over a week before.
Not that this contest will need spicing up any further though really. The Spireites from not even 45 minutes down the road will likely (hopefully?) travel in large numbers as they attempt to clamber their way out of the relegation zone they sit last in currently.
Craig Westcarr will have shrugged off his latest injury problems for the visitors and will inevitably want to make a lasting impression if it’s to end up being his last Meadow Lane appearance for a few seasons.
That’s the scenario he faces anyway if his new side drop down as quickly as they came up! But they do face the prospect at least of a trip to Wembley just a month later in the JPT.
“Fortress” Prenton – March 6th
Little needs saying about this fixture – yet it’s inevitably the fixture i’ll end up writing most about.
It’s really very simple. The side from Birkenhead don’t like us one bit. We…well, we feel sorry for them in about as condescending a manner as you can imagine.
Last year this was the fixture in which Martin Allen picked up his first Notts win – the side’s first after nine straight defeats had put them well and truly in League Two’s crosshairs. Tranmere didn’t like this one bit. Apparently we cheated our way to three points.
You see though – when they came to Meadow Lane last season, we took it on the chin having done little with the lion’s share of possession that day. You move on. Tranmere apparently didn’t though once they were on the receiving end of a Westy-inspired smash and grab.
Fast forward to beginning of this season and both sides were already punching above their own weight in the top half of the table as they clashed at Meadow Lane. Rovers travelled with the quite obvious gameplan of firstly kicking ten shades out of Notts and secondly – getting at least a point if they could.
County won 3-2. They finished with nine men. More complaints ensued. The highlights were there for all to see, Notts could walk away heads held high. Our guests, not so much. Jolly sporting of David Raven to scream at a KO’d Ricky on the deck mind!
The last three fixtures between these two have yield 21 yellow cards, and four reds. Don’t expect much in the way of sportsmanship on this evening.
Sheffield Wednesday…or United?
Meadow Lane – March 17th or 20th
County took the lead against both Sheffield giants before going on to lose 2-1 – so let’s not be particularly fussy of whichever Notts beat.
Defeats on the road at the division’s bigger clubs like MK Dons, Huddersfield and Preston have been turned into draws back at Meadow Lane so there’s little reason to think the same couldn’t be done here – though really it’s wins we’re looking for more than draws.
Martin Allen’s chosen XI’s were never outplayed on either occasion at Hillsborough or Bramall Lane, they were merely undone by their own failure to create chances. You will hope that moves will have been made in the loan market to ensure that doesn’t happen in the return fixtures.
Meadow Lane – May 5th
To date, Notts have only lost three games by more than one goal. They’ve only conceded four though – in the 4-2 loss suffered at Colchester at the end of October. It was a costly result which set into motion a run of form which saw County only pick up one league win for the rest of 2011.
Martin Allen will get the chance to put that right with the last game of the season in front of a Meadow Lane crowd. That second half capitulation will no doubt stick in his mind as one of the lower points of the season having defensively steadied the ship massively since last year.
Ignoring what it would do for this season – it would also be a first final day Meadow Lane win for Notts since 2003. So why not send the fans into the Summer with at least a glimmer of hope?
Have any thoughts on the fixtures i’ve picked? Maybe even have one of your own? Registration to TNB is a simple as choosing a user-name and a password – then you’re free to post in the comments to discuss your views!