A Timely Wakeup Call

Word of warning – this won’t make for good reading.

Without a ball being kicked in our latest League One campaign, we’re already needing to bounce back from an embarassing League Cup defeat at a flat, Kopless Meadow Lane.

Getting the positives out of the way firstly. Bartosz Bialkowski on today’s performance looks a great addition. I lost count of the times he would charge off his line to claim the ball in situations where Stuart Nelson most certainly wouldn’t. I’m a big fan already.

From the outfield, at a push Gavin Mahon was the only player in a black and white shirt to come away from this shambolic League Cup exit with any credit. And if you want to be really optimistic about the season ahead – days watching Notts, particularly at Meadow Lane are highly unlikely to get as bad as this.

Throwing some perspective into the mix though, it was abundantly clear from the starting lineup that Keith Curle wasn’t treating the League Cup with the respect it maybe deserved. Without question, this was little more than one last experiment ahead of the real challenge next week away at Crewe Alexandra.

At least that’s the notion we all need to cling to tonight.

The talk through the week has been Notts attacking strength. The options we’ve added up top such as Enoch Showunmi, Joss Labadie, Yoann Arquin, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Francois Zoko offer much encouragement – but walking away from today’s game you’d perhaps be forgiven for believing there’d been a flagrant disgregard to the club’s defensive qualities.

Out have gone Mike Edwards and Liam Chilvers, whilst seemingly frozen out have been Julian Kelly, Krystian Pearce (apparently he’s injured) and Haydn Hollis.

Admittedly Dean Leacock and Manny Smith are quality additions – yet who knows when we might see either man with Deano currently sidelined, and Manny being stretchered off and admitted to hospital after a nasty looking fall in the first half today.

Which leaves us with two. And my God, what a two. Carl Regan, and Tom Williams.

In my last piece I suggested these two must be magicians in training to secure contracts – but this must surely go much deeper than that. What dark, sordid secrets must these apparent professional footballers have over their manager to be getting in this team?

Williams was so wasteful in possession that you felt a sense of relief every time he could find his own player. But Regan? He was utterly humiliated in the leadup to Bradford’s extra time winner with a piece of comedic schoolboy football, the ball bouncing on his back before losing it’s flight completely.

Embarassing. You were left watching the game from behind your hands every time another ball was pumped forward into our defensive third.

I’m a big Keith Curle fan. He surpassed every single expectation any supporters had when he came in, with a fantastic selection of loan signings brought in to boost the play-off charge. Similarly, over pre-season I think he’s done a great job of bringing the team forward to where it needs to be this season.

Now, I like to afford myself one crazy, wild (possibly kneejerk) reaction every so often – and here it comes. If Williams and Regan are anywhere near the starting XI come next Saturday at Crewe, it’s enough for me to start questioning where Notts County are heading this season. I woke up this morning firmly believing we’re one striker away from pushing for automatic promotion.

With these two in or around the squad – I can’t envisage a scenario where that’s possible.

I’m left desperately clinging to the hope that the duo have only been given pre-season runouts and they’ll merely be backups going forward. But with no Smith, Kelly seemingly being out of favour, Hollis watching from the sidelines and Pearce apparently injured – there’s very much a cause for concern.

Kieron Freeman, your County needs you. Desperately.

Defeat to Bradford in a knockout cup competition before the league has even kicked off, for me is not a concern. Defeat to a League Two side with an unfamiliar lineup in a new formation will have no baring on our season

But there’s work to be done before a trip to Gresty Road next weekend – where Crewe today beat their visitors Hartlepool 5-0.

The wakeup call has been served, pray it’s heeded.

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