Notts vs Lincoln

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.


Notts vs Morecambe 

With the opening day trouncing at Coventry a distant memory, an unbeaten in the league since then Notts entertained Morecambe and their merry band of 70-odd followers in what can be described as a solid, professional but still lacking something display.

Kevin Nolan did as Kevin Nolan does and kept faith with the same starting eleven from last week’s win away at Port Vale, so Nicky Hunt retained his right back berth ahead of Matt Tootle and our very own SAS, Stead and Shola, continued up front whilst Jon Forte had to make do with his place on the bench, again.

What was excellent to see yesterday was that Notts came out of the traps like a train and really went at Morecambe early doors. They got on the ball, looked to play forward and play forward quickly with real intent. That positive start should really have been capped off with an early goal when Ameobi rose highest at the back post to connect with a Dan Jones corner but his header went past the wrong side of the post. Ameobi then made a much better job of a more difficult chance on the 15 minute mark when he drove at the Morecambe defence and fired in a curling effort from 25 yards only to be denied by the evergreen Barry Roche. He of Pride Park plastic cup fame…

Notts’ foothold in the game owed a lot to the improvement in Stead’s all round game as he ran across the Morecambe back line intelligently and most importantly made the ball stick when it came up to him. This allowed Hawkridge, Grant and the ever improving Jones to get forward a join the attack, the latter proving a real threat in the oppositions final third.

All Notts’ good work could’ve been undone by a regular failing of the past few years; marking at corners. Steven Old out muscled Richard Duffy but could only plant his free header into the hands of Adam Collin from six yards. Big, big let off. To compound the misery for Morecambe, Ameobi was crumpled on the edge of the box and after a short council, Dan Jones stepped up and swept the resulting free kick past the diving Roche into the top corner. It was a lovely strike and the advantage was richly deserved. 1-0. Great scenes.

Stead then manufactured himself a good chance that he flashed past the post as Notts maintained their dominance until half time. The only sour note of the half saw Ameobi hobble off with a leg injury. Jon Forte took his place and whilst that could be a blessing in disguise, giving us varied options going forward, it could prove costly to a front line that’s lacking in any real strength in depth with Alan Smith and Callum Saunders lying in wait.

After a scolding hot Bovril and a few liquorice blackcurrant sweets, the start of the second half was of great contrast to the first. Notts didn’t look like a side full of ideas, energy and intent and Morecambe managed to get themselves into the game with some neat interplay, but much like Accrington for 80 odd minutes, they never really threatened in the final third. Adam Campbell not really showing us what he thought we may have been missing…

In the final third of the game, Notts regained their composure and started to force the issue once again. Only in the final ten minutes or so did Notts trouble to Morecambe goal with Stead missing two half chances, one brilliantly created by Forte driving down the left hand side. Man of the match Dan Jones nearly doubled his tally for the day but he put a beautifully curled effort just past the far post. On 86 minutes Notts and wrapped up the three points as Forte, slipped in by Grant, raced clear and slotted a cool finish into the bottom corner. 2-0. Even greater scenes.
Injury time brought about its standard wobbly moments as Adam Collin made two excellent saves to deny Morecambe the sniff of a revival, the second a fantastic, full stretch save diving to his left. With Notts’ much improved custodian in fine form, Notts held out to make it 5 unbeaten in the league since the opening day and only one home defeat since Nolan took charge.

I don’t think many Notts fans can have too many issues with the first half display on Saturday, we looked solid defensively and had plenty of forward intent. Dan Jones was absolutely fantastic going both ways and looks a real handful marauding down the left. The second half however was a slight let down. Notts never really got going but, most importantly, secured the three points. Maybe it was the fact Shola Ameobi was missing, he certainly links play better than Stead, although he had a much better game than previous outings. Fingers crossed we’ll see Shola back soon, with Stead woefully out of form and not too many options in reserve, the big man needs to come back into the fold quickly or we could soon find ourselves out of options.

Big praise as well for Nicky Hunt. I was pretty pissed when he signed, a classic bit of jobs for the boys I’m sure, but he was excellent on Saturday. He’s never going to burst forward but he was calm and assured on the ball all afternoon. That being said hopefully Matt Tootle will be back in for Saturday; a certain improvement on Hunt. I’m all for consistency but I can’t take this ‘don’t change a winning team’ mentality when that winning team can clearly be further enhanced.  Ryan Yates again had a good game in the middle; I can’t help but wonder how good he and Michael O’Connor would be in there together…