Well, well, well. Just when you thought you could start to plan your play off schedule, the never ending rollercoaster of emotion that is Notts County Football Club chuck in another huge upward turn and what a turn it was. It was one of those afternoons that makes you believe. We might just pull this off…
At 2 o’clock, the task of recording a third league win on the bounce took a knock as it was announced that Matt Tootle and Jorge Grant would both miss out, through illness and injury respectively. Nicky Hunt and Lewis Alessandra were charged with keeping the momentum going. It was also refreshing to see Jon Forte keep his place alongside Shola Ameobi after his impressive recent form.
Notts started brightly in the opening 10 minutes as the sun shone and the Kop roared. Forte went close after 7 minutes. He brought down a well aimed and well timed long ball from Adam Collin, drove forward but pulled his shot just wide of the upright. It was an early sign that Notts fancied it. Forte was denied 10 minutes later as he cleverly flicked the ball over the onrushing Yeovil goalkeeper only to see his effort crash off the bar and fall to safety.
As the half wore on, Yeovil really grew into the game and started to put some nice passages of play together. It seemed that Notts were very close to falling victim to one of their biggest crimes of the season; not taking their chances. With little to play for, Yeovil looked calm and collected on the ball and they found their way through the heart of the Notts midfield with ease at times. Luckily, Yeovil seem to be able to get into the final third but never really knew what to do when they got there. Richard Duffy and Shaun Brisley were excellent at the heart of the defence and snuffed out all who dared cross them.
As the half slipped into 7 minutes in added time, Forte did well to recycle the ball to Hunt, who squared to Dan Jones and he took aim from 30 yards. Jones struck it sweetly and the ball cannoned off a defending head and looped over the helpless goalkeeper. Advantage Notts. Perfectly timed. 1-0.
After the debacle that is the half time Carabao Can Challenge, Notts reverted back to their first half of the season selves and came out at Yeovil with real intent. They got on the ball and looked to push on and be positive. On 54 minutes, the lead was doubled through what can only be described as the greatest own goal I’ve ever seen. Liam Noble tried to slip Alessandra in but Tom James hit the deck in an effort to intercept the pass. As he slid, he got his angles wrong and smashed the ball into the top corner from 22 yards out. It was baffling to see from the Kop. My eyes naturally diverted across to Alessandra, the intended target, but the ball flew like a bullet into the back of the net.
With the second goal came a wave of confidence that washed over everyone in black and white; players and fans alike. Notts got the ball down and passed neatly. When they had the chance, they broke with pace; Ameobi the focal point with Virtue, Hewitt, Alessandra and Forte providing the running beyond. That early season quality had come back to Meadow Lane. Kevin Nolan has told everyone to enjoy the run in, it finally, properly, looked like the players were heeding his advice too.
On 70 minutes, the ever growing reputation of Elliot Hewitt swelled further after he was found by Jon Stead. Hewitt burst into the box, collected a pass from Stead, took a touch and rifled the ball into the net from 15 yards. Ecstasy and relief all rolled into one. Hewitt has certainly been the most improved player in a Notts shirt this season and is one of the clear front runners for the Player of the Season award. It was a well taken goal and Hewitt is well worthy of all praise heaped upon him. On 74 the icing was poured lavishly over the home win cake as Forte played in Alessandra, Alessandra chopped onto his left and swept home. 4-1. “It’s just like watching Juve…”
Yeovil had the final say in added time when the Notts wall, looking like nothing near worthy of the name, split straight down the middle and allowed Fisher’s free kick to sail into the back of the net.
As the final whistle blew, Meadow Lane erupted and the players rightly took their plaudits. It was mission accomplished and in some style. To go with it, news of Wycombe’s pasting, Exeter’s draw and Mansfield’s late concession made the occasion all the more sweet. The play offs were secured and we were two point off third. You Pies and #MindTheGap
Saturday was just what was needed going into the final two games. All across the pitch we were excellent. Defensively we were sound, Duffy and Brisley holding firm throughout. Noble, whilst wayward with the ball, aided Hewitt in keeping us ticking over and Ameobi gave us a real foothold upfront with Alessandra giving us energy and options wide on the left.
Special mentions to Matty Virtue firstly. He’s been hammered, harshly in my opinion, on Twitter since his arrival he put a real shift in. Let’s not forget it’s his first taste of professional football and he’s being played out of position. Added to this that if he doesn’t give a 40 yard chase prior to the third goal, we aren’t in that corner and we don’t score. Adam Collin was also superb; positive in his area and assertive with his distribution he set the tone for the whole afternoon. Shock. Finally, the man of the moment, without scoring, made a huge difference. Forte again ran his bollocks off and his movement gave Yeovil something different to think about. By just being more mobile in the channel, he’s moving defenders around. Whilst his original inclusion may have been more down to luck than design, fair play to Nolan for sticking with him. He’s had his chance, he’s taken it and he’s kept his shirt. Fair play all round.
So, it’s onto the final tow games and you know what, I reckon they’ll be our last two of the season. There’s just something about this lot that makes me dream…