Notts County 3-0 Maidenhead United (National League) 06.08.22
Yesterday was fantastic, wasn’t it? Sunshine, football and three points, you would struggle to script your ideal Saturday afternoons any better. Just over 6,300 people turned out for our season-opener and they sure were not disappointed. The emphasis during pre-season was to ensure we keep increasing our big crowds with impressive displays and we certainly made our actions speak louder than the words on the pitch.
Where do we begin… Actually, there is only one place to begin, Macaulay Langstaff. The excitement has been forever present since the day we confirmed the signing of our new number nine and each game he leaves us all excited for the next time he pulls on our colours. Let’s talk about his first goal, shall we? A lot to admire about the move but ultimately Langstaff being the forward he is created the opportunity off the back of his fantastic movement. If truth is told, the chance could be deemed a half chance at best yet our problem last season was the lack of clinical edge now that we have a forward with that trait, I feel we can finally move forward from the high number of wasted chances this season. A typical striker’s finish from a typically fantastic forward, I can’t see that being the final time I say that this season.
The first time was so nice, the boy just had to do it twice. More impressively, this time with the opposite and supposedly weaker foot. One thing that stood out with this finish was the angle the goal was scored from. To find the far corner from the other side of the six-yard box is extremely difficult but like everything else in his game, Langstaff made it look simple. It is astonishing to me that we spent £50,000 and still feel like we got a bargain because in his two months as a Magpie, there has been no faults at all as far as individual performances go. Seven goals, including a brace and a hattrick, excited for more? Because if you are, me too.
Now then, enough talk about Macca, although honestly, I could speak about him all day and night. Let’s talk about Joel Taylor, shall we? Firstly, before we even indulge into the many words to describe THAT goal, it is important to highlight the excellence of his performance in which saw him excel out of position. Joel is left-footed left-back, seems a tongue twisted I know, and to play a good game in a position he predominantly had to use his weaker foot many of times is a testament to his performance. A fantastic display topped off with an unbelievable strike for our third. Luke Williams mentioned after the game that Austin at times found a pocket which allowed Joel the opportunity to come inside and use his left, and that exact combination was what created the goal. One-two and as soon as the ball left the left boot, it was a goal. We all share the same delight for Taylor, a player who last season evidently fell out of favour and was limited to game-time. After an impressive pre-season, Williams has put his faith in the boy, and he has returned with a glimpse of Roberto Carlos. Massively deserved and long may it continue.
The action covered, now for what was impressive.
The high-press we displayed has to be spoken about because it would almost feel wrong if it wasn’t. Last season it was felt that we sat back too often and allowed the opposition to topple pressure on to us. This season, it is the complete opposite. Not even just this
weekend but throughout the pre-season in the freakishly high temperatures we faced, the players were displaying the high intensity within their press and that is where you must credit the gaffer and his disciple. Taking our 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest as a prime example, as our opposition tired we seemed to become stronger and stronger and in reality, as well as on another day, we win that game. Obviously, with the upmost respect to Maidenhead United, there is better quality opposition to this division, and we will play harder games but for me, playing a constant high press as we do gives anyone nightmares in this division, ones that no amounts of money can prepare you for.
Next, Ed Francis and Jim O’Brien. Look, the pairing in the centre of our midfield will inevitably change once Matty Palmer returns to full match fitness but until then, we are just as good with this pair in midfield for me. With Jim, you know what you are going to get. Strong tackler, bags of energy and leadership to the point where it’s just as good as a second captain on the field. Most importantly with Jim, with the abundance of experience he brings to the table, he has the ability to improve the others around him and this is where Ed gets highlighted. I personally thought Ed looked physically better, stronger in the tackle and showed for the ball a lot more, something I felt he was more reluctant to do in the system and way of playing under Ian Burchnall. We all know the passing capabilities Francis possesses, I mean, how often have you seen him misplace a pass regardless of its distance? Exactly! It is felt that he does have a lot more to offer going forward and recently, under our new management, I feel we are seeing a more improved Ed Francis and an Ed Francis that could turn out to be an important player for us this season. There was much to admire over the duo’s performances today, and if Matty Palmer is not fit enough to begin at Meadow Park Saturday, same again please gaffer!
Finally, the best free transfer of this summer without a cast of doubt in my mind, Aden Baldwin. Most of you would have read his name there and agreed, do not worry I also saw the same excellence. There are many things to admire with Baldwin and the best way to describe him is quite literally calm and collective. A moment in the first-half which impressed me especially was a moment that saw Baldwin take the Maidenhead forward onto his weaker side before completing the tackle. It’s the basics that make good defenders, its perfecting the basics that identifies a good defender and we certainly have one here. I must emphasise FREE transfer, yes, I cannot believe it either. One thing I cannot help but feel this campaign with the introduction of Baldwin is the pressure it takes off Kyle Cameron. I especially felt last season that we relied on Cameron far too often and it was evident by the fact our results were better with our captain than without. Now, with Baldwin at the heart of our defence with Cameron, I believe our skipper can and will start to enjoy more freedom. We all know he is a good carrier of the ball and is your typical goal-scoring central defender, you can begin to expect to see his name on a few more scoresheets this campaign for sure. Our newest recruit in our backline was faultless today, not that I expect to see many games where he is not.
I know I previously said finally, but it would be rude to conclude without mentioning the fantastic support. Felt good to be back at the Lane again, right? I agree. Our home, the place we show to every other weekend, was as noisy as ever once again. The peak of the atmosphere was when Roberto Carlos took the top corner out in front of the KOP. Sorry, did
I say Roberto Carlos, I meant Joel Taylor, but I am sure you can understand where my confusion came from. We need more noise like that every single time our boys step on to the grass in front of us and this is our season. Yes, there are strong teams in this division, but not many lay a glove on us. Good boxing reference, I know. But honestly, we all know this place is a fortress and teams already dread this fixture coming up and a huge factor in that is due to the noise we as a collective create. There is certainly a feel-good factor currently and even when times get tough, which feels inevitable because as much as we continuously show love to our club, they tend to hurt us, remain in your positive spirits because as I have already mentioned, I firmly believe this is our year.
Overall, a magnificent opening day. Three good goals, three even better points. If you could paint a perfect season opener, what could you change? Nothing is perfect of course but that most certainly felt like it was.
Remember, Macaulay Langstaff scores goals and until next time, COME ON YOU PIES!
Notts County: Slocombe; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley; Chicksen, Taylor; Francis (Bajrami 83), O’Brien Palmer 66), Rodrigues, Austin; Langstaff (Scott 77).
Maidenhead United: Gyollai, Asare, Beckwith, Barratt (Clifton 69), Kpekawa, De Havilland, Clerima, Ferdinand, Acquah (Smith 64), Upward, Arthur (Keetchat 75).
Venue: Meadow Lane (6,331)
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC celebrations on day one for Notts County.