“I just want everyone to enjoy it. And let’s try to get over that line.”
If you wear black and white and enjoyed that yesterday you’re a lunatic.
Nolan kept faith with the starting eleven that were so dishearteningly denied in the 99th minute but would have to do without the impressive Brighton loanee Ben Hall who was on International Duty. Shaun Brisley, harshly dropped for Hall in the first place, returned to the starting line up.
It seems completely pointless to go through yesterday’s game blow by blow because as far as Notts were concerned it was 99 minutes of sheer ineptitude; even Dan Jones’ goal was in no way deserved. To be as frank as possible, they were an absolute embarrassment yesterday. Embarrassment.
From the first minute it was clear that Jack Lester had got his Chesterfield side right up for it. They flew into the game. They pressed well, hassled Notts and didn’t let us settle in any area of the pitch. And, despite them being 91st in the pyramid, they had a clear notion of how they wanted to go forward. Notts? HOOF. HOOF. HOOF. Knock that fucker somewhere near Stead and Shola, don’t get a midfielder near them and let Chesterfield pick up the seconds. Marvellous.
On 16 minutes, Chesterfield took the lead from a set play, one curse we’ve not shifted for years. An inswinging corner flew into the front post, missed a couple of Notts players, hit Sid Nelson and in. Schoolboy stuff. Instantly Adam Collin was crucified because that’s what we do know. Collin must clearly be assigned some of the blame, he was all too easily dragged all the way to his front post, but again we conceded a goal that we should have dealt with before it got near going in.
On the front post, Matt Tootle came to meet the ball in but never got there, as he arrived on the scene, the Chesterfield runner got in front of him and Elliot Hewitt. Tootle half turned away, Hewitt wasn’t close enough to his runner and neither affected the ball. Not good enough. If you go for the ball at the front post you must, must, must win that ball. If you need to clear everyone out of the way then fine. But if that ball is in your zone and you’ve gone for it, you’ve got to get here. As the ball skipped past the front post it bounced up and hit Nelson chest high and bobbled in. Whose marking him? Carl Dickinson of course. He’s not even in the same postcode as Nelson. Go with your man! It’s basic, schoolboy stuff. He’s your man, stick with him! As a result of the all going front post, Collin comes too far across and the ball drops over the line with ease. 1-0.
Reaction time. In fairness to Notts they’ve generally reacted when they’ve needed to this season. Not yesterday. 38 minutes; 2-0. A long ball was flicked on but fell to the covering Duffy who’d watched that situation transpire. As the ball bounced, Duffy went across but was charged down by the forward. Instead of just knocking it out of play, regrouping and defending from a platform he tried to hook it over the striker. Charged down, pinball, deflection to Zavon Hines (who’s strolled away from Liam Noble in the build up) and goal. 2-0. Fuck off Notts. I’ve no idea why Duffy hasn’t just knocked it out of play. He knows he’s being charged down. Play simple. There’s no shame in knocking that ball out, you’re playing the situation. It’s not even the easy option. Is the right option.
In a move you’d describe as ‘I can see it both ways’ Nolan sent out the same side to start the second half but ultimately it was to no avail. Notts didn’t even have their regular 15 minute burst of quality and energy. They were slow, lethargic and lacked any ounce of quality. Time and again the ball went forward and came back. Forward and back. Forward and back. When we did manage to pick up a second ball it was wasted. Pathetic. What was even more frustrating was that Nolan had no innovative ideas to shake things up. All three subs were like for like; Alessandra for Hawkridge, Virtue for Noble and Jones for Dickinson. We’d tried aimlessly all afternoon to knock it long; why not put Jon Forte on and try something different? Pull Grant in from out wide and get him close to the front two? Let Dan Jones maraud from left wing? No; Nothing. Stubborn. Stodgy. Devoid.
Notts got themselves a thoroughly undeserved goal direct from a Dan Jones free kick. It was excellently weighted and directed, Shola just missed it to flick in but it carried into the net at the far post. Chesterfield fans were probably pointing the finger at the goalkeeper, it seemed east enough for him to come out and clear. With what turned out to be 15 minutes remaining, Notts mustered absolutely nothing in the way of threat for an equaliser. Just to top off the afternoon, another defensive blunder saw a Chesterfield breakaway halted by Tootle. Penalty. Kristian Dennis swept home the resulting spot kick and that was very much that. 3-1.
In summary; gutless, spineless and clueless. From minute one to minute 99 Notts were dire. The worst I’ve seen them in quite a while. The go to tactic was long and aimless to somewhere near Stead and Shola. No midfielder got anywhere near a second ball. Hawkridge and Grant never came inside. The one singular time Grant did we almost scored via a Hewitt header. He and Noble were overrun in midfield by Chesterfield’s three; out thought. Hewitt did his bet to be busy and get around but lacked quality on the ball throughout. Liam Noble? Well, what a complete waste of a shirt. Two good performances backed up with that? Tragic. Been here since October and looks like a stranger. Not good enough. I said as soon as we mentioned signing him he wouldn’t fit into Nolan’s system and style of play and he doesn’t. He simply and quite obviously doesn’t. We don’t play through midfield, he doesn’t offer to take it off the back line, he doesn’t get near the front two, he doesn’t track runners, he can’t pop it off when he’s faced up. Give him time, he’ll pick you a pass, fine but football isn’t that easy. Get in his face and he might as well not even be there.
Defensively yesterday we were a shower. Matt Tootle had his worst game in months but has been one of our best players this season. Brisley and Duffy looked haphazard, made simple mistakes and just knocked it long when in position. I’d be chucking Duffy out when Hall is back. As for Carl Dickinson. Well, I’ll never know how he’s made a career out of it. He was targeted early on with the diagonal and he was found wanting all afternoon. It’s literally pointless playing Grant in front of him. What chance does he have when he’s got Dickinson thumping 50 yarders to the front two or over or under hitting simple balls to feet? Terrible.
Up front you’ve got two lads who aren’t being used to the best of their ability and are past their best. Ameobi is so much more than a header winner. Get it to his feet and get around him and play. No, head that Shola. Chase that Shola. Win that flick on Shola. Stead doesn’t have the pace to get around him, so that tactic is redundant. Mindless.
It was way way way below par from everyone; Nolan included. You cannot in one breath say lets enjoy the run in and in the other instruct them to go and play like that. I don’t mind the long ball. But to play it properly every knock has to have a purpose and a target. Alongside it, you’ve got to have a winger and a central midfielder looking get a second if the other striker is running in behind. But we’re not doing that. It’s long, stay where you are and watch it. No adventure, no guile and certainly no enjoyment.
I certainly don’t think Nolan needs sacking. He’s obviously worth persevering with but he’s still got plenty to learn. I really think he’d benefit with someone coming into the coaching staff who isn’t his mate. Someone he doesn’t know. A fresh look on things. Someone to make him think a little bit. At the minute he’s got one way of playing and not a lot else. It’s taken us so far but to push on we need something to turn too. A spark. Some invention.
I said the next four, including Chesterfield, were season defining. The complete minimum now is 7 out of 9 from the next three. Complete minimum. Three wins and you’re really motoring, but 7 points is required to keep it in our own hands. So let’s hope for a ‘Good Friday’ so we can ‘resurrect’ our season and ‘roll away the stone’ of our poor form to bring ourselves ‘salvation’ from the ‘sins’ of League two and all that awfully shitty Easter weekend punnery…