Well wasn’t that all tremendously satisfying and exciting. Whilst everyone knows you don’t win anything in September, what better way to start the most important week of the season to date by hammering a local rival on their ‘big day out.’
All the midweek debate over Hewitt vs Hollis for the ‘injured’ Shaun Brisley was rendered pointless as Brisley was selected alongside the rejuvenated Richard Duffy at centre half. Rob Mislom continued to partner Ryan Yates in the middle of the park and Terry Hawkridge came back in the face his former employers at the expense of Lewis Alessandra. There was no sight of Shola Ameobi in the 18 after his injury last week so the two Jon’s, Stead and Forte led the line again.
What turned out to be an excellent result and performance started oh so differently as Notts really struggled to settle into the game and made Lincoln look like the home team in front of their 4000+ travelling support. Lincoln played the ball around nicely and held Notts at arms length whilst creating three clear cut chances that thankfully weren’t taken. Firstly, Matt Green ghosted past Brisley only to screw his effort wide of Adam Collin’s right hand post. Then Josh Ginnelly drove a shot into the ground that Collin tipped over well and from the resulting corner, Sean Raggett rose unmarked only to plant his header over the bar. Phew. Let off. At minimum Green should’ve scored and Raggett should’ve done much better with his free header. Luck ridden.
Then, on 28, the momentum and the game swung massively in Notts favour with the controversial sending off of Billy Knott for a high foot on Ryan Yates in central midfield. My initial reaction, from the Kop was yellow card, free kick and move on. What most struck me was Yates’ decision to go for a ball that didn’t seem to be his to win. If he’d have gone boot first, he’d probably have caught Knott late but he threw himself forward, nicked the ball and felt Knott’s boot connect with his head. After a slight delay, the referee branded the red card. Jesus. Really? It seemed harsh at the time and looking back at it multiple times it’s still a hard decision to make. By the letter of the law, Yates’ safety was endangered by Knott’s boot but I can’t really argue it was reckless or used excessive force, but it was dangerous by virtue of Yates going in with his head. All that said, if you’ve played and you were sent off for that, you’d be furious. But thems the rules folks…
That was the moment that Notts finally settled into the game and 10 minutes later the advantage paid off as Hawkridge hussled well in the corner, laid it off to Milsom who swung the ball into Stead. He connected well and his shot bounced off his marker, wrong footing Farman and that was that; 1-0. Relief. A dodgy start had been negotiated and spun on its head. Great scenes.
Notts went in at half time in boyuant mood but as quickly as that came on it swiftly fell away as Lincoln made it 1-1. A deep cross found Harry Anderson beat Hawkridge in the air and plant one past Collin. Here we go; ‘We’re always shit against ten men!’ crowed my dad from the row infront of me. Too true dad, I’ve seen Notts struggle against 10 men on multiple occasions before; but not today!
Notts ragained their composure and from that moment on dominated the game and really put Lincoln to the sword. What Notts did brilliantly was keep the ball. Instead of going long, like they did in the first half against the 10, they kept possession and recycled it from side to side. When they probed forward and found no joy, they recycled it again. By no means were we Arsenal but they moved Lincoln around and managed the game fantastically. Ryan Yates dictated the tempo of the game brilliantly, he played simply when he needed too and supported others when the time came. The one thing I’d love him to do more is when the ball goes out wide, hit the box and give himself the chance to get amongst the goals. It’s clear Nolan wants the two CM’s to sit deep and keep us solid, but Yates could bag 5-8 goals if given that licence when the time is right.
On 55 minutes Notts took full control as Jon Stead swung a great knock to Matt Tootle who brought it down and slapped a half volley into the bottom corner much to the delight of all who witnessed it. It was a stunning finish from Tootle and one he really enjoyed. The less said about the celebration the better… #TheSlug
From that moment forward Notts looked in complete control of the game and threatened to keep adding to their tally which they did on 71 minutes. After more good work by Stead brought Notts a soft free kick, Jorge Grant stepped up from the edge of the area and curled a beautiful free kick into the far top corner. Faced with only a one man wall, Grant executed the free kick superbly and sprinkled his little bit of magic onto proceedings. My that boy is talented…
Notts wrapped up the three points in style when, under rare second half pressure, Tootle and Grant played their way out of danger neatly and Grant spread the ball to Hawkridge who carried it well, hit the 18 yard box, nipped back in past two Lincoln defenders and stroked home his first Notts goal past the stationary Farman. It was a wonderful goal from a player who has started his Notts career very, very well without quite getting the reward and praise he deserves.
The rest of the game came and went and Notts emerged victorious much to the delight of all in black and white. Saturday really showed that Notts can bury a team when the time comes. I dearly hope this trend can continue against 11 men, especially at home and we don’t have to have our regular, last 10 minute scarefest. Whilst every member of that team were excellent on Saturday a few deserve a special mention. Firstly, Shaun Brisley was an absolute man mountain at the back all afternoon. He didn’t lose a header and was a calming influence against what could have been a tricky customer in Matt Green. His partnership with Duffy is fast becoming the bedrock of our season. I’ve already waxed lyrical about Ryan Yates, but for a young man of 19 years old to be so consistently commanding in central midfield is wonderful to see. He’s got a bright future in the game. What a player.
Finally, a man whose taken plenty of stick from me for his quality on the ball is Jon Stead. Never have I called into question his commitment and work ethic; he runs his bollocks off every week no matter what but all too often his first touch and link play lets him down awfully but on Saturday he was excellent. Notts never helped him in the first 30 minutes by pumping it long to him, that’s not his game, but when Notts got it down, he looked dangerous and contributed well. His ball for Tootle’s goal was exquisite too. Hopefully, he’s playing his way back into form and can get back on the goal trail but I fear consistency could be his downfall.
Massive week. Exeter away. Stags away.