It goes without saying just how much better the 2011/12 season was compared to last year.
But it can never hurt to appreciate just how much better!
In the first of three blog posts this weekend looking back at our past nine months in nPower League One. I go through things like goalscorers, assists, Man Of The Match awards at Meadow Lane, and the ever interesting at this time of year – league ladders.
This year, managers Martin Allen and Keith Curle called upon the services of 34 different players.
This is down on 2010/11’s 39 yet still six more than 2009/10’s Coca Cola League Two-winners where four managers used 24.
10 of the 34 were loanees, with another 13 not having a future at Notts – having already been moved on, released, or transfer listed.
Stuart Nelson was one of only ten ever presents in League One this year.
MAN OF THE MATCH AWARDS
Quite unsurprisingly, Alan Judge picked up the most awards at Meadow Lane with six, with Kieron Freeman closest on four.
Freeman was the only man to pick up three consecutive, whilst Judgey took three from four games in the midst of a run that saw he and Kieron pick up eight out of nine awards on the bounce.
Jeff Hughes and Alan Sheehan both picked up two nods each.
Incidentally – the very first ten awards of this season were split between ten different players.
Last season’s tally of 46 goals was never going to be a hard number to beat this season – but having spent much of the campaign without the much vaunted proven goalscorer, hitting 75 goals seems an even greater achievement.
Only five sides in nPower League One scored more than Notts this season – even netting six more than eventual play-off qualifiers Stevenage Borough. It’s also quite the jump from last year when only one side scored less goals than County in the division!
Top scorer again was Hughes on 13. This year though it was Jeff in his maiden Meadow Lane season, three ahead of Lee. Player Of The Season Alan Judge was third highest on seven goals – he’d likely be top of the chart were it not for a mid-season woodwork obsession!
Goals were spread amongst five more players than last year too – with loanees accounting for 20 of them as opposed to the paltry four goal the short termers managed last year. Both Lloyd Sam and Jonathan Forte both picked up five goals each (including a hat-trick for both) to top score amongst the season’s borrowed additions.
Ben Burgess (four) and Karl Hawley (two) also improved on their tallys from the previous season – but that was never going to be a challenge was it?
The 2010/11 campaign was disappointing in this regard having seen Ben Davies finish the term with the most assists despite leaving in January – with just seven. Fast forward to this year and things make for far prettier reading with three players topping that figure.
Judgey has 12 to his name, whilst in their first seasons as County players Alan Sheehan and Jeff Hughes both put eight goals on a plate for someone. Taking his goals into account – Jughes is responsible for 21 of the seasons 75 goals so it’s no surprise to see him lauded as the Manager’s Player Of The Season.
Showing marked improvements on the previous years figures are Ben Burgess (1 last – 4 this), Jon Harley (1-3) and Lee Hughes, Mike Edwards, Krystian Pearce who all laid on two goals each having not managed an assist in 2010/11.
Judge finished the year fifth highest in assists for League One – only two behind Stephen Quinn of Sheffield United.
You know all those goals and the times Alan Judge was hitting post and bar? Likely something to do with his increased output when in front of goal – QUADRUPLING from 12 last year, to 48 efforts on target this. His 100 (approximate) shots in total decimated his 33 in 2010/11 in slightly more than double the appearances.
Also, no one hit the woodwork more than Judge this season, he and Ched Evans finish the season tied on seven.
Lee Hughes was another one on the up, nearly doubling his efforts this year to produce 51 shots on target. In third place was top scorer Jeff Hughes on 29.
Jeff is also the only attacking player to finish the whole term at Meadow Lane with more shots on target than he did off – 29 to 26.
Only three clubs in the division had more shots on target than Notts – Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Scunthorpe United.
At the same time though, Walsall are the only club to end the season having had more shots off target for the duration of the campaign.
No club hit the woodwork more though – both Notts and Exeter City struck post and bar 20 times each. For Notts, Judge (7), Sheehan and Lee Hughes (4) and Jeff Hughes (3) led the way.
Stuart Nelson was County’s only ever-present this season with 46 starts. 14 (that’s nearly a third) of these saw him and his defence keep clean sheets. In those terms, you can understand why many think his release from the club is seen as a bit harsh.
Alan Sheehan made more appearances than any other defender with 39 starts, with Julian Kelly just behind on 29.
Every statistic seems to be on the rise for Notts County this season – except the foul count!
Last year’s chief offender Neal Bishop conceded free-kicks 74 times last year – but only 61 in the latest campaign. Still though the club captain picked up eight yellow cards – with two red cards for good measure this time out.
Lee Hughes’ on the field behaviour too was a marked improvement. Having conceded 60 fouls the season previously (and 10 cautions), his tally of “just” 49 (with seven yellows, and one red card) is impressive considering how much more game time he had under Allen and Curle.
Alan Sheehan finished the year with the most yellow cards – ten. Bish’s two red cards meanwhile against both sides of Sheffield saw him end the season the only Notts man to be sent off twice.
As a team, the 2010/11 campaign was a disaster disciplinary-wise as Notts finished bottom of the division’s table with 100 yellow cards and 11 reds. Thankfully there was a decent improvement, resulting in 92 yellows (still second highest in nPower League One) but just the five sendings off.
As already stated – the impact made by this season’s crop of loanees was immense.
In defence Kieron Freeman (Nottingham Forest) and Damion Stewart (Bristol City) played more than 30 games between them, whilst up top Jonathan Forte (Southampton) and Lloyd Sam’s (Leeds United) ten goals in 14 games bolstered the club’s late play-off charge.
Christian Montano’s (West Ham) goals in the opening stages of the season were key to the club’s early successes. Later on, it was the assists and goals of Daniel Bogdanovic (Blackpool) and Dele Adebola (Hull) at vital times that put the play-offs very much within County’s grasp.
Chances of many returning? Mixed at best – but you wouldn’t turn down the majority given the chance really.
Nottingham Forest’s Freeman is rumoured to be being pushed towards “greater” things than Notts by those close to him – he is though expressing an interest in returning through the local press.
Forte may find himself frozen out at Southampton having failed to impress there – he’ll find even less chances now with them in the Premier League. The loss of him through injury without question cost Notts in some way or another.
Released by his club Leeds United, Sam has spoken highly of the faith Keith Curle has had in him since he came to Meadow Lane – if he chooses to remember that we could be in with a shout of bringing him back next year.
Boggy was very much a slow burner for Notts, but two goals in his last two games went some way to winning the fans over. His parent club are also on the verge of the Premier League with a play-off final to come. His badge kissing exploits on the final day would leave you hoping he’d like to return.
Still contracted to Bristol City beyond the Summer, Stewart partnered the now-released Chilvers in what looked like the most assured defensive centreback pairing over the season. Odds are very much against a return in this instance.
To say the league ladders for the season paint a far better picture than the previous season is certainly no understatement. Have a look at the below graph to get an idea of just how much better things were under the stewardship of Allen and Curle this season.
Click for full-size.
Mad Dog saw his time at Meadow Lane prematurely end with the side in 11th place, with 11 victories, 7 draws and 12 defeats from 30 games. This works out at a record of 1.3pts per game – if that average was to continue it would’ve been another eight games until he reached the pre-season target of 50 points.
Up until mid-October when the league form as good as disappeared for three and a half months – Allen’s average had reached as high as 1.9pts per game.
Curle came in and took Notts to 50 points within just four games. His 16 games yielded ten wins, three draws and just the three defeats – that’s 2.06pts per game, nearly double that of Allen’s but admittedly in a shorter reign.
Home form as you might expect was something else to improve dramatically this season. Losing only five games (in comparison to the previous season’s 11) and winning 13 (nine last year), Notts also took draws in two more games than last season, with five.
Keith Curle was at the helm for three of the five defeats, Allen of course for the other two.
The average attendance at Meadow Lane rose from 6,586 to 6,807.
ON THE ROAD
Opposed to 2010/11, away victories fell just short of being doubled with eight wins on County’s travels. With that said then, there were still only three less defeats away from Meadow Lane than 2011/12 – but the season did include grand days out like those at Charlton, Chesterfield and Leyton Orient so we can accept that I’m sure!