Two points dropped or one point gained? The jury’s still out for me.
Certainly Notts did everything they possibly could to force a goal home (you couldn’t fault the effort) but ultimately a combination of wasteful finishing and bodies behind the ball saw the side coming home with an away point.
Scunthorpe, the division’s draw specialists have stood firm at Glanford Park already this season and arguably against tougher squads than Notts’. Sheffield United, Huddersfield and Champions-elect Charlton Athletic (just last weekend) have failed to take three points there – Notts find themselves in illustrious company.
But on the other hand – you’re always disappointed when you dominate a game and don’t get what you fully deserve.
The first half was a tight affair, Scunny maybe edging the opening frames with Jimmy Ryan proving a constant pain. You’d be hard pressed to say Notts were weathering a storm but certainly the defence was on edge. Indeed they were the closest to scoring in the first half when a cross deceived Stuart Nelson and bounced harmlessly off his crossbar.
In Nels’ defence he dealt with near enough everything else admirably during the game. Calls are circulating for him to be replaced again by Rob Burch but a clean sheet will go some way to raising his confidence following Tuesday’s night’s hammering by Sheffield United.
Kieron Freeman meanwhile was simply a cut above. With every passing game you’re reminded how big a loss he will be upon his return to Forest – can’t see any conceivable situation where the people across the river will let him go. One moment of skill saw him leap into the air on the stretch to reach the ball ahead of a Scunny player bringing the ball down, and then flicked it over that same player’s head before clearing – just sublime.
Special mention for Mike Edwards as well of course. 300 appearances for Notts in probably just as many managers, that’s some achievement! It didn’t go unnoticed to us right behind the goal that if his head hadn’t got in the way of a shot in the first half Scunthorpe would’ve taken the lead! Little that Eddie would’ve known about it but it was still a massive contribution – one you’d have been brave to predict he could’ve made at the turn of the year.
The second half way was very much one way traffic in the large.
Lloyd Sam down the right was again showing what a great addition he will prove to be, always a threat and never scared of whipping a ball into the box – something many will argue we’ve not done enough this year. It was one of his more subtle balls into the box though that should’ve put Notts on the scoresheet though when he placed the ball onto the head of Lee Hughes. Free to head at goal, he found nothing but crossbar.
I won’t start up the “he’s finished” chatter yet, i’ve learnt from that mistake – but this was the sort of chance that Hughesy would put away with ease in the past.
Sam and Alan Judge were really taking charge of the game, the little Irishman with a thing for wood coming close with a header that bounced off the post – quite how he’d risen high enough to reach it was remarkable, to steer it towards goal fantastic.
Any other day, County would’ve taken three points quite comfortably. But this was an afternoon of sheer frustration. If it wasn’t the woodwork denying them, it was was felt like two dozen bodies behind the ball putting their well-being on the line.
The new look squad broke in three of the week’s four latest signings – and there was plenty to admire from the two young guns.
Arsenal’s Nico Yennaris looked edgy early on, but once he got going looked quite assured on the ball – certainly deserving of the standing ovation he received when he was replaced by Louis Harris – who it turned out added more going forward than fellow substitute Ishmel Demontagnac.
Accompanying Lee Hughes to little effect though was Daniel Bogdanovic, back in League One having been their Rochdale just a few weeks back. It’s fair to point out he never really got going and looked off the pace by some distance.
Let’s not write him off yet though – you need only think back to the struggles Kieron Freeman faced for Notts in his first game at Bournemouth. How far both he and club have come since then.
No goals with the clock winding down, but there was to be one final twist.
Lee Hughes chased a lost cause down hurrying Irons’ goalkeeper Slocombe into a rash clearance straight to the feet of Alan Judge – one of the most accurate strikers of a football in the Football League.
With the goal (and more importantly three points) there for the taking, his shot cleared the bar with consummate ease and was more of a danger to those of us behind the goal. Certainly not an easy chance, but there’s not one person in the side you’d rather be in that position than Judgey.
And you could see what it meant to him at the final whistle. Seeing him inconsolable at the final whistle really rams it home how much some of these players care. You don’t want to see a player like that – but you can’t deny it’s nice to see what it means to them.
Miles away from Glanford Park and Carlisle and Stevenage were again failing to win though, maybe it is a point gained. This isn’t a race that will end within the next couple of weeks so as long as Notts keep in touch with those two during the run in it keeps things interesting.
With the additions made in recent weeks and the performance they’ve put in – it’s not arrogant to think that Notts have the stronger squad more suited to these last seven games. It remains to be seen how much of a loss Jonathan Forte is though – his was the only “what if” to come from Saturday’s match.
What is undeniable though – is Notts County are one point outside the playoffs but having played two more games than the two sides above them. Ultimately, it’s this which dictates that Saturday was ultimately two points dropped.
Carlisle and Stevenage both face tricky tests themselves tomorrow as they chop down their games in hand in half. Sit tight for another uncomfortable evening!
Carlisle travel to fifth place MK Dons who’ve only lost two games at home all season, whilst Stevenage host Bournemouth who just yesterday sacked their manager Lee Bradbury. Who knows, maybe they’ll be spurred on by a change in managerial direction like Notts, Sheffield Wednesday and Tranmere have in recent weeks?
Here’s hoping anyway!