Notts County 2, Sheffield United 5

Julian Kelly’s last minute strike was enough to give 10-man Notts a 2-1 victory just as it looked like they were set to be pegged back by Lee Williamson’s break away goal.

Just a shame then that first half was a real horror show in which Sheffield United were to score four unanswered goals. This one will be a fun read i’m sure.

The night started off in a rather confused state with news of the signing on loan of Dele Adebola. Where had this come from? The announce of his signing coincided with the announcement that he was going straight on the bench tonight. A bolt from the blue is an understatement.

Looking at the starting XI you thought lessons had been learned from Saturday’s bullying by Sheffield Wednesday. In came Ben Burgess and Lloyd Sam having been on the bench on the weekend. In defence, it was to be Mike Edwards and Damion Stewart – until an injury in the warmup (too soon to speculate on the condition of the pitch?) to the latter saw Krystian Pearce drafted back in.

It’s funny how what looks strong on paper can quickly fall apart on the field though isn’t it?

We know how the game ended, so it’s going to get a bit depressing from here for some. So let’s just remind ourselves that really, we all knew the division’s top five before the season had started. It leaves one playoff place up for grabs – Tuesday night changes none of that. Whilst we were being turned over, neither Carlisle or Stevenage could escape 0-0 draws. We drop to eighth, but extending our season beyond May 5th still remains a very real prospect despite this latest embarrassment.

Anyway – on with Tuesday.

It wasn’t much fun being the side on the receiving end of a 4-0 first half battering. But at least Charlton could point to a Notts side playing great football opening them up at will – what excuse can the Notts players have for such a reversal in fortunes?

The result put to bed any questions about who the best side to visit Meadow Lane was this season. Certainly many of their goals were gifted but in truth they were rarely not a threat – their stats of only one shot off target in 14 only reinforces that.

Four of the five strikes put past an increasingly demoralised Stuart Nelson had their own horrors to share – the acres of space afforded to Stephen Quinn by Pearce and usually reliable Kieron Freeman, the ineffective presence of Mike Edwards to Ched Evans, a statuesque backline allowing Neill Collins to head home, or an uncharacteristic loss of possession from Freeman to release Williamson.

A comedy of errors in the truest sense. These weren’t even shades of the defensive frailties that cost Notts heavily under Martin Allen – we were actually living them all over again.

There was some bite left in Notts though in the second half though.

Curle made no changes at half time. Justifiable? You could argue that Notts had shown absolutely nothing in the first half to suggest there’d be a way back into the game so what would be the point in chopping and changing? Makes sense to give your starting side a chance to prove their worth after what couldn’t have been an easy half time dressing down.

Or do you object to a home game being given up on at half time? Why wouldn’t you go hell for leather and throw everything at Sheffield United when the game is already out of your reach?

For some perspective – how many substitutions did Charlton manager Chris Powell make at the Valley when it was his side on the receiving end of Notts’ mauling? None. You can argue that inactivity benefited neither man but it does at least suggest KC is in esteemed League One company at least.

Regardless, it was 15 minutes before changes were made. In that time Jonathan Forte came close slicing a volley wide from six yards after Ben Burgess had released Judgey down the right. Forte was to be withdrawn alongside Burgess, with the former picking up an injury that today was having surgery performed on – for three facial fractures.

Lee Hughes was to appear having overcome a knee injury (apparently) alongside Adebola and there were several glimpses of linkup that would suggest the pairing with a combined age in the region of 130 could prove fruitful. Certainly Forte could be out for the season as things stand so it’s a relief that steps are being taken even today to replace what’s being lost.

With the score at 4-0, Alan Judge was to take over free-kick duties from Alan Sheehan – and to great effect. Picture David Beckham’s last gasp deadball against the Greeks at Old Trafford. It was like that, but obviously better.

Notts at least had a foothold in the game with just under a quarter of an hour to play. So you’d have to ask Neal Bishop himself just what he was thinking when he got himself sent off just two minutes later. It was his second booking of the night but you’d be struggle to defend it had it even been a straight red.

That Bish went off at all was no surprise if you were watching the game unfold. His display at times times was one of great petulance, getting into verbal exchanges at every opportunity, flinging his arms out to his side if the referee intervened – the actions of a man who quite clearly didn’t want to be on the field.

It’s probably one of the more frustrating things to take from the match. I imagine Bish would accept his form has been off-key in recent weeks, but at Charlton everything clicked for him in a great performance. Skip forward ten days later and he’s back to arguing with fans on Twitter post-match.

Certainly he’s right to feel aggrieved about anyone having a pop for how he gave his armband to one of the coaching staff – but he should accept that when it comes to his performances on the field, he has to take the rough with the smooth.

Any suggestion that he’s out of his depth though are ludicrous to the extreme however.

When Williamson restored the visitors four goal cushion the gallows humour of the Kop began to shine through. Each pass pieced together by the men in pinstripes were cheered as if the scores had been reversed, The Wheelbarrow Song was belted out just as loud as it had been at any other point in the night – if we were going down we were going down in good voice!

Kelly popped up with his goal on his return to the first team, heading home well inside the area. His reintroduction at the expense of Pearce served as a timely reminder of what he brought to the side until injury cost him his place to Freeman.

Eighth in table by virtue of Stevenage and Carlisle limping towards goalless draws, as damage limitation goes it had been a successful night in that respect. Eight games left to play from which Notts only took six points in the reverse fixtures.

Starting this Saturday at Scunthorpe, the only side left on our run in that we’ve beaten this season. It was a 3-2 home win in fact that was to be Notts last league victory for almost two months at one point – it might have been even longer without a win were it not for a controversial red card for Scunny’s Oliver Horwood!

How Curle lifts his men from a second straight defeat will be interesting, how the fans react to a potential third straight loss even more so.

League One is hugely unpredictable, we’ve been in and out of the playoff picture for months. But certainly a defeat on Saturday could see Notts taken out of the playoff picture just as quickly as Keith Curle pushed them back into it.

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