Let’s go back a month. Monday 21st January. Notts have just lost 2-0 away at Yeovil and most Notts fans are pretty desperate about the whole situation.
I stroll into the staff room for the weekly dissection of the football that’s just been. They’re not all there every Monday, but generally around the soft chairs you find fans of; Crewe, Cambridge, Coventry, Everton, Man City (an actual City fan, not a new money City), Sunderland, QPR, Man United (again, an actual United fan), Hull, Mansfield, Newcastle and of course, Nottingham Forest or UNICEF FC if Dan Taylor of the Guardian narrated the scene.
Now, I’m a big advocate of giving any of them stick if they’ve had a bad weekend football wise and I’m more than happy to take it back. This season I’ve had to endure more and more of it. That’s how it works. I accept that. Within minutes we get on to Notts. There’s sharp intakes of breath, faux sad faces and then the question; ‘Do you reckon that’s it then? Down?’
‘You know what, we probably are. I reckon we’re dead.’
The realisation had hit home. Fuck. We were dead. The first half of that week was dreadful. Steadily, it got better. Signings came and it started to look even better. Then, he came.
1, 2, 3, 4…
I remember saying on Friday on The Terrace, a day after the deadline has passed, that what eight new signings did bring was a change of attitude and an abundance of quality, but what they hadn’t brought was eight points. Eight points adrift. It looked difficult. With Lincoln, Forest Green and Mansfield next up, it looked somewhere near impossible.
Now, let’s bring it back to today. I’ve no doubt plenty of Notts fans are pretty gutted again after last night. Let’s face it, they were shit. Newport came with a game plan. They’re a tremendously well drilled side and have two nuisance but effective forwards at this level. Notts were bullied. Their spine beat ours.
Maybe the changes were a hinderance but plenty saw logic in them at 6.45. Alessandra had a poor game and in turn we missed Mackail-Smith’s intensity and energy. I didn’t think Hemmings was that bad. He looked to get on the ball but had a fair few dumped at his head and lacked movement around him. Stead did what Stead does when he came on but the goals conceded weren’t down to that.
Last night was punctuated by individual mistakes and poor decisions. At the back we looked panicked and never dealt with Matt. We never got Enzio in the game in the right places and we found out that Michael Doyle does actually give the ball away. It was all a bit flat, nothing quite worked and whilst we huffed and puffed, we were never going to blow a three goal deficit down.
What they didn’t do last night, was give up. Jim O’Brien epitomised that. He’s a brave man. He gets the ball whenever he can and he tries to make it work. It doesn’t always come off. But he’s brave. We’ll need that.
We’ll need it from all of them because it’s exactly what’s brought them within two points of safety. Of course in the moment, last night was infuriating but do not forget that this same group of players dragged back six out of the eight points required in three games not many people gave us any chance in.
They were top notch against Lincoln. Even better at FGR by all accounts and then completely dominant against Mansfield for 90 minutes. That’s not licence to write last night off, not by a long stretch. With 13 games left no game is ‘free’ or a ‘write off’ but the seven points from three should put last night into perspective.
I’ve no doubts that dressing room knows last night wasn’t good enough. Michael Doyle doesn’t need telling he was shit, you bet your house he knows and told himself.
When the new signings came in, everyone knew a reaction was needed. After last night, we need another. They’ve shown us they can deliver.
We go to war again Saturday.