As the clock struck minute ninety on Saturday afternoon in North Derbyshire it looked all too familiar on a stuttering season that has so far flattered to deceive. Notts County, beaten again for what would be the fourth time in the league, ten points from eight games in the fifth tier of English football, questions creeping in on whether Neal Ardley is after all the right man for the job.
Then this happened… GOAL Rodrigues 90+1…. GOAL Wootton 90+3…. Notts turned a 2-1 defeat on its head in stoppage time to sensationally sink the Spirites 2-3 and take all three points from under the nose of derby-rivals Chesterfield thanks largely to a never say die attitude with all the Magpies goals coming from set plays.
The victory, however great it was, however important it was, however, will not cloud the fact that Notts did not play well. Notts haven’t played well enough this season, the questions are starting to be asked ‘why’ although excuses can certainly point to the unusual circumstances the side finds itself in.
Covid has ripped through the squad, literally, it ripped through last season, it has ripped through this, but Notts are in the same boat as everybody in the division, they may have been effected worse than some, but now having caught up with a large proportion of teams in the National League they should have no excuses.
Saturday’s win takes County to tenth on thirteen points, a point a foot of the playoffs but nine points off leaders Torquay who have played a game more.
Now more than ever is the time Notts County Football Club will need to start performing as they aim to get a run together that takes them towards the places that can hopefully result in progression back towards their rightful home in the football league. Wealdstone at the Lane on Friday night followed by a trip to Dagenham on December 2nd then Woking at home, Boreham Wood at home, bottom of the table Yeovil away and a road trip to Norfolk and newly promoted Kings Lynn on Boxing Day…. County should fear no-one, double digit returns should be minimum points request by the time the Turkey leftovers are thrown away.
Perhaps now, the next run of games will tell a lot about how far Notts have come, where they are at, what they need to do. No questions that the team have the ability, but have they found the right formula, the right blend, seven days from December this is something the side need to fall upon quickly.
On Saturday, Neal Ardley, who today celebrates two years at the club, tinkered in game as his team faced tricky opponents all be it ones struggling towards the foot of the division and in transition with a caretaker Manager at the helm, switching to 4-4-2 late on in the search of goals and questioning whether his players thought by “playing for Notts County we should be winning” He said “we started chasing the game too early and running out of shape, midfielders bombing on then we caused ourselves problems.”
“We changed to try and win the game, we could see the front three weren’t quite having the effect we wanted them to so we changed to a front two and a midfield four and I thought the two subs that came on were excellent.”
On whether ‘pressure’ is mounting on himself and his players, Ardley said “It’s not weighed on me, I have to be calm and think clearly about what I’m doing but you could see we are still not playing how we can play and there was still that bit of nervousness in it but that is due to the fact that confidence isn’t sky high.”
‘Confidence’ however may not now be an issue having the monkey of a first win in five weeks off the Magpies shoulder and the stoppage time turn around could be one that propels the team towards better things in the weeks to come.
Ardley said when asked if Saturdays win can help towards a turnaround in fortunes “It only can if we come off the back of this and do everything right going forward”
Doing everything right is something that Notts need to start doing for longer periods in games, if they are to impose themselves on a division, they still desperately want and need to get out of.
*Main image @Official_NCFC Notts County have a winnable run of games upcoming.