“Ohhhhh Stanley Aborah?”

This time last season, Stanley Aborah was probably most Notts fans favourite Ricardo Moniz summer signing. That being said, he was arguably a lot of fans favourite player in general. His ability on the ball, flashes of sheer brilliance and ability to play the ‘Barcelona Pass’ (slipped in between fullback and centre half) made him an almost instant hit at Meadow Lane.

Somewhat bizarrely, his ‘spat’ with Jamie Fullarton – allegedly Aborah had told Fullarton from day one of his (short) tenure that he wanted to play for Moniz and not Notts County  – only saw his position strengthened with the Notts faithful lambasting Fullarton for refusing to include Stanley in any match day squads – “Ohhhhhhhh Stanley Aborah…” could be heard from all corners of ML.

But this season, Aborah seems to have gone from hero to zero, culminating in him gifting Grimsby a second goal in the 2-2 draw 2 weekends ago, being substituted shortly after and not featuring against Accrington. The terraces, Twitter and I’m sure the message boards have been awash with murmurings that Aborah isn’t worthy of a starting berth, not bothered anymore, or useless. Now, whilst two of these are debatable (and the third ridiculous), there seems to be an issue with Stanley – but what is it?
When John Sheridan came in, he instantly commented on the ability of Aborah and intimated during pre season that he could find himself higher up the pitch this season – music to most fans ears. Sadly, it seems Aborah at ‘Number 10’ may not be long lived. I put this down, not solely to Aborah, but to the general ability level of Notts players and League 2. Any ‘Number 10’ thrives on having the ball consistently during 90 minutes – are enough Notts players good enough to get Aborah the ball in players where he can hurt the opposition? Arguably not. Apart from Michael O’Connor (who himself has yet to fully fire this season), Notts have a chronic lack of ability on and with the ball – not many players can thread intricate balls into pockets of space which Aborah can turn into danger. Add this to the fact plenty of League 2 teams will, especially at ML, come to contain Notts and pack the midfield with 5 players, Aborah often hasn’t and won’t be afforded such space. I fully appreciate that Aborah has to create himself space by being clever and working hard off the ball, but when he does, he is unable to be found by team mates.

Another issue some fans have with Aborah is his work rate. Some see Aborah as unable to dominate a midfield in League 2 in the sense of creating chances, breaking up play and ‘getting around’ opposition players. I’d tend to agree with this, but only when he is played in a 2 man midfield; particularly alongside O’Connor. These two are undoubtedly our two most gifted and ‘best’ footballers and we should definitely be building our team around them, but when they play together, Notts look easy to break through down the centre of the park – Grimsby, recently promoted from the conference, Grimsby time and again cut through the heart of Notts’ side and put plenty of pressure on an already shaky looking back four. Neither player are particularly ‘defensively minded’, they break play up by clever positioning or not actually giving the ball away in the first place. However, when an opposition packs the midfield, or break at pace, O’Connor and Aborah struggle to contain and negate this threat effectively. When Matt Tootle was pushed into CM against Grimsby, all of a sudden Notts had a platform from which to build and a Vadine Oliver inspired 25 minutes later; bingo.

I’d say the ideal scenario for allowing Aborah to flourish is by playing him in front of the back four, with O’Connor and Tootle or Curtis Thompson in front of him. By utilising two of these 3 options, firstly, the midfield has a mix of creativity, work rate and ball winning ability. Secondly, Aborah will see much more of the ball which will allow him to use his passing range and vision to start off attacks and see Notts be more of a consistent threat in the final third. In turn, this would allow the full backs to start higher up the pitch in order to give Notts a more attacking outlook – something we do not seem to have, especially at ML. Finally, having a three man midfield, would allow an element of rotation between the three – allowing Aborah to foray forward when the game allows to support a front three. A front three that could be brought in closer proximity by allowing the full backs to start higher up the pitch. We may even see Jon Forte close to the penalty area – another thing sadly lacking at ML this season.

It’ll be interesting to see what role Aborah plays for the remainder of the season. My initial thought in the summer was he wouldn’t be a ‘Sheridan type of player’, but his obvious ability has shone through for the manager. I hope we build our team around the likes of Stan and Michael O’Connor, but will the league, tactics and squad allow us to see this home to fruition? Only time will tell.

COYP x

Notts vs Stanley Match Ratings

Adam Collin 6

Still to be convinced. He does look more solid in general, but he doesn’t inspire confidence. Made 2 good saves.

Thierry Audel 6

Solid enough. Great energy and athleticism to play full back but lacked quality on the ball.

Richard Duffy 5

Solid enough, but always seems to be on the back foot, doesn’t dominate a forward; looks vulnerable too often.

Louis Liang 6

Again, solid enough. Looks good when bringing the ball out, but doesn’t have enough movement in front of him for this to be an effective tactic

Carl Dickinson 4

Poor. Distribution was generally wayward and set pieces were awful. Jordan Clark have him a tough time in one on one situations. Does he have competition for his place?

Alex Rodman 4

I’m struggling to see what he actually brings to the team. Doesn’t beat anyone or produce quality when out wide and doesn’t knit play together when played in a central three. Should be dropped.

Matt Tootle 6

Player of the season so far. Looks comfortable in CM, battles well, distributes simply. Another solid day today.

Michael O’Connor 5

Quiet today but couldn’t really get going. He has terrific ability but needs the players around him to play with.

Jon Forte 6

Not a winger, simple.

Jon Stead 5

No service, no support. Gave 100% as per, but no quality today. Oddly shifted wide right by Sheridan. 

Vadine Oliver 5

A shadow of the 20 minute man he was last week. Won little in the air, didn’t cause either centre half any issues – spent plenty of time on the floor.

Subs

Aaron Collins 5

One beat piece of play to set up Forte, but looked lightweight today. Again, probably needs more quality around him.

Adam Campbell 5

Made no real impact. Feel sorry for him; bags of ability, never given a run in his true position.

Rob Milsom 6

Looked tidy coming into the centre of midfield. Passed the ball well and kept it ticking over – just nothing too insightful.

Notts County vs Accrington Stanley Match Report

Today saw the first of various ‘Bring a Friend’ fixtures at Meadow Lane, and after that ‘performance’ not only will those friends not be back anytime soon, you’d be lucky if they’d still let you be your mate.

Simply put, Notts were awful. No invention, no creativity and very little fight – all the good will achieved by last week’s 20 minutes salvo had ebbed away when Rommy Boco fired in past Adam Collin on 66 minutes. Talking of good will, let’s go back to 2pm and the team news. Stanley Aborah and Adam Campbell dropped to the bench and Thierry Audel and Vadine Oliver, Grimsby tormentor in chief last week, made the starting line up which saw Notts, in theory, start in a 4-4-2 formation.

Although you wouldn’t have guessed it, Notts started brightly. Jon Forte was denied by a sliding block after flicking Alex Rodman’s low cross goalwards and Louis Liang had an excellent chance when he was chased down a flick over the top and headed goalwards instead of waiting momentarily for the ball to drop on the volley – he seemed rushed by his lack of awareness of the time and space he actually had.

On 16 minutes, Notts did what they’ve done best so far this season; conceded first. They had been warned of Stanley’s danger on the counter attack previously by allowing Jordan Clark too much time and space and the tricky winger squared the ball to John O’Sullivan whose low shot deflected off Carl Dickinson and looped over the already committed Adam Collin. Liang chased hard to try and prevent the goal, but to no avail. 

Forte had a chance to equalise almost instantly but was thwarted low down at Chapman’s near post by turning the low drive out for a corner. Apart from this, Notts mustered little else of note. Accrington slowly gained dominance over the game and the only real incident of note was a poor looking tackle to Richard Duffy that saw the Notts man booked after a half hearted melee ensued. Notts left the pitch to boo’s and the hope John Sheridan would give them a rocket before the second half.

Notts came out in the second half and instantly looked to dominate the ball, which they did, but with no real end product. The first 15 minutes saw Notts push Stanley back and have a few half chances, most notably Oliver nearly turning in a Forte cross, but Notts never really looked like scoring, they seemed a team devoid of a real pattern of play. For all the territory gained, it was Stanley who doubled their advantage when Boco, set free by a strong midfield header, beat Liang in a foot race and hammered the ball past Collin. 

After this, Notts managed little else than a couple of flashed in crosses from Forte and Rob Milsom (with no one there to meet either) and a scrambled effort by Forte after a nice pull back by Collins but alas, there was to be no great comeback this week, just a great sense of disappointment at the final whistle. A final whistle that was met with a strange semi silence; no one clapped, not many booed, everyone just got up and went home.

Notts looked totally devoid of any idea of how they were going to break down Stanley today. From the selection it seemed as though we’d hammer the door down with long balls into Oliver and Jon Stead up front, but after 25 minutes Stead was wide right. Sheridan got a lot of credit last week, rightfully so, but today he must take a share of the blame – games like today make you wonder what they’ve done in training all week and some performances make you wonder how certain players justify inclusion, especially Carl Dickinson, Alex Rodman and Jon Forte in a wide position today.

Sheridan has plenty of work to do, I hope he can do it, but he needs to decide on his best 11; something I fear he isn’t close to knowing yet.

‘Bring a Friend’… A beer after that today.

COYP x

Notts vs Grimsby Match Ratings

Adam Collin 6

Yet to be fully convinced. Seems reluctant to leave his line, but solid handling and distribution.

Matt Tootle 7

Much more effective personally and for the team in central midfield. Made Notts more solid and allowed O’Connor to dictate.

Richard Duffy 6

Again, yet to be convinced. Very solid at times, but likes to break ranks to pressurise which can and has been exploited.

Louis Liang 6

Very Jekyll and Hyde today. First half poor, second half commanding – allowed Notts to keep the pressure on with high pressing in the right areas.

Carl Dickinson 6

Has a massive left foot on him. Dependable, understated and slightly one dimensional. Some good delivery from wide.

Alex Rodman 6

Didn’t get into the game much; seems to be playing between positions. Great dink for the first goal.

Stanley Aborah 6

Got a lot of the ball, used it well (bar the second goal). Struggles defensively in a two, lacks the legs to cover the ground.

Michael O’Connor 6

Gutted about the penalty miss, seemed to make him work even harder to make amends – personified the character the whole team showed today.

Jon Forte 6

Played out of postie wide left, although he seemed to play narrower when Oliver came on. Should’ve had more joy against Ben Davies.

Adam Campbell 5

Frustrating. This lad has bundles of ability but needs a run of games. Played through the middle but withdrawn. Some nice and not so nice touches – should’ve played up with Stead.

Jon Stead 5

Gave you everything Jon Stead gives you. Lacked service and ploughed on gallantly. Struggled in the air.

Subs

Adam Collins 6

Gave Notts energy, didn’t do much but score, but goals mean points.

Thierry Audel 6

Strong, got forward well. I’d argue he’s been one of our better players in the last calendar year.

Vadine Oliver 8

Changed the game. A real nuisance factor. Won plenty in the air, looked good popping the ball off. Deserved a goal at the end. Impressive.

Notts vs *Clap, clap, clap* ‘Fish!’ Match Report

There’s one thing you can definitely say about John Sheridan’s Notts County – they’ve got some bottle. They still lack a bit of quality on the ball and defensive solidity, but they’ve got plenty of character.

Notts started the day unbeaten in three and looking at two consecutive home games; momentum was the key – carry on the unbeaten run and look ahead to a run of games that could yield plenty of early season points. To carry on that momentum, Sheridan made two changes to the starting 11 with Stanley Aborah and Jon Forte returning in place of Rob Milsom and Thierry Audel, a change that saw Matt Tootle revert to right back.

The momentum needed was seemingly nowhere to be seen during the first half, simply put, Notts were pretty awful. The warning signs were there in the first 10 minutes; Ashely Chambers had a good chance after Notts were pulled open, only for Louis Liang to make a good sliding tackle to deflect over for a corner. Grimsby dominated vast periods of the first half, Omar Bogle and Shaun Tutton made life hard for Richard Duffy and the underwhelming Liang. Tutton should have opened the scoring when through one-on-one but Shaun Pearson did break the deadlock, heading in unmarked from a corner – same old story.

Notts did have two decent chances of their own, one a volley from Duffy and one a rasping shot from Aborah but that was the sum total of their efforts – Notts lacked any real spark, Jon Stead fed of scraps (scraps fired off toward his head from 50 odd yards) and Forte, Adam Campbell and Alex Rodman failed to get involved in the game in a meaningful way. Most games in League 2 won’t be pretty, but we need a little prettier than that.

Notts came out quickly in the second half, albeit a long queue and a well earned Bovril put paid to me seeing what I feared would be our best moment of the game. As it turned out, it wasn’t to be missed but that wasn’t before Notts found themselves 2-0. Aborah swivelled to play a pass to Adam Collin but the pass lacked pace, Collin lacked conviction and Bogle nipped in. Two minutes after that sucker punch, Sheridan made a triple substitution which swing the game for Notts. Vadine Oliver, Adam Collins and Audel on, Stead, Aborah and Campbell off – game on.

Oliver, unlike Stead previously, managed to win a few flick ons, hold the ball up and knock it on and gain Notts some ground and finally we seemed to have a foothold in the game. The breakthrough came on 77 when Rodman dinked to Oliver at the back post whose header was saved but Jon Forte was on hand to flick in the rebound. Half way there. Notts should have competed the comeback less than a minute later when a ball whipped in to the box was met by Oliver who was adjudged to have been pulled by the defender. Penalty. Michael O’Connor stepped up but hit the base of the post and wide. Agony.

But 10 minutes later Notts were to have their equaliser and what a moment for debutant Adam Collins – Oliver smartly chested a diagonal into the youngsters path and he swept home a half volley from about 18 yards to send Meadow Lane into raptures. There could have been a winner as Forte, Collins and Oliver combined neatly on the edge of the box only for James McKeown to tip Oliver’s header onto the bar.

The game petered out for the final minutes and Notts left the field to hearty applause from the ML faithful. The second half was much better, Sheridan must take a massive share of the credit – it takes balls to make s triple sub and it payed off. Oliver changed the game with his strong hold up at and ariel dominance, Audel coming on freed up Matt Tootle to go into CM which steadied the ship and allowed O’Connor to get on the ball and influence the game and Collins gave us a bit of energy and bagged the equaliser. Happy Days. What concerns me is the lack of invention going forward, we don’t seem to be able to put passages of play together to stretch a defence on a consistent basis. A big part of this is Forte being played out wide, he needs to be with Stead, or Oliver, and running off any flick ons or picking up any decent hold up play.

All in all, you’d have taken that today after an hour. Plenty to do, but plenty to be happy about.

COYP x