This weekend Notts County fans make the four-hour drive down to the coast to see ‘The Magpies’ take on Torquay United in what I am coining ‘The Battle of the Birds’. A win for Notts this weekend would put them not-so comfortably top of the table with a six-point cushion on chasing Wrexham however with Wrexham having three games in hand and therefore nine points to play for, Notts can only hope ‘The Red Dragons’ slip up and drop points, giving Notts a lifeline.
Luke Williams has said however in the recent press conference that he prefers to be the ones being chased despite the games in hand for Wrexham, as Notts then have them points secured and it’s the pressure put on Wrexham to catch up. Ruben Rodrigues also claimed that ‘nobody likes playing games in hand’ meaning the pressure most certainly does creep into the heads of the players on the pitch. If Notts can get the three points on Saturday, Wrexham play their game in the evening on the same day meaning the Notts result will be fresh in the forefront of the Wrexham players’ minds as they take on a tricky Altrincham team.
Torquay have had a very disappointing season to say it wasn’t too long ago it was Torquay knocking Notts out of the play-off semi-finals, in the second year of Notts National League tenure. As it stands, ‘The Gulls’ find themselves in the relegation zone of the National League in 21st place with a mere 26 points for the season which is quite the contrast to their visitors as Notts sit 1st place on an impressive 68 points. However, I believe Torquay will manage to survive despite the impressive new signings for relegation contenders Scunthorpe under their new ownership. Torquay have the advantage of a well experienced and highly valued manager in Gary Johnson who I think will turn around Torquay’s sub-par season…hopefully after this Saturday.
In the reverse fixture at Meadow Lane, Notts County absolutely dominated the game and the 4-0 score line reflects that with goals from Rawlinson, Castro, Rodrigues and Bajrami. Rawlinson opened the scoring on the 27th minute with a well taken effort from the edge of the box, a surprisingly good effort for a centre half. Ruben then added to the goals with a penalty on the 34th minute before the goalscoring came to a halt for a while in the game. Castro was able to reopen the mounting goals with a well struck distance effort which, before his move to Gateshead, became typical of his game. It was the 90th minute when Bajrami finished the game and more than secured the three points with the fourth goal of the game. Notts will be hoping to replicate this game at Plainmoor but I’m sure Torquay will be well equipped and ready for the matchup.
It’s important to remember that last Notts visit to Plainmoor which ended with a resounding 5-1 victory to the home side when Notts were sent back to the midlands with their tails between their legs after a masterclass from Lemonheigh-evans with a hat-trick and Armani Little with a brace who, fortunately for County, have both made moves to the football league since the previous game. Plainmoor is no easy task for ‘The Magpies’ as we know all too well and Notts will need to be on the top of their game to get a result.
Notts come into this game looking to make it three wins in a row after their recent success away at Solihull Moors midweek and currently have three wins in the last five league games with two draws to Boreham Wood and Oldham have made them drop points. In those last five games Notts have scored a less impressive return with 9 goals however only conceding four. Notts have only lost once this season which was away at Dorking Wanderers earlier in there is some reason to be optimistic for ‘The Gulls’.
Torquay however aren’t on the best of form with two wins, two draws and a loss in their last five games. Both wins came in at only 1-0 so a free scoring game for Notts is looking less likely. In the last five, Torquay have managed to score four goals and conceded only four, in my opinion showing us that it isn’t the Torquay defence which is the problem for them.
Notts’ away form however is something to be admired as a fan and be weary of as the opposition with 10 wins, 4 draws and 1 loss away from Meadow Lane, which makes Notts County a team people don’t look forward to playing, even at their own ground. This means that over half of Notts County’s points this season have so far come from away matches with 34 away points this season…more than Torquay’s entire points tally by eight.
Torquay have a better return at home than they do away, with a total of 15 points coming from their home games with results including three wins, six draws and 5 losses. A significant number of draws have been had at Plainmoor and Torquay won’t be a team easily beaten at their own ground.
Torquay have made some signings recently and I believe the most exciting is that of Newport County forward Lewis Collins who comes in on loan. The welsh U21 international has made 87 appearances for the League Two outfit but comes with a return of only five goals but his pace and ability to play out wide and up front adds a new dynamic to Gary Johnson’s side and is definitely a player Notts need to keep an eye on. Alongside Collins are the two top scorers for ‘The Gulls’ Jarvis and Goodwin who both currently sit on 7 goals for the season. Despite not being unreal stats for the season, the two players will be wanting to add to their tally for the season and will see every game as an opportunity to do so. Notts can’t underestimate their opponents.
Notts County obviously have their own attacking threats with the league’s top goal scorer in their ranks but with Ruben Rodrigues being the player of the moment at Notts, Torquay will have plenty to keep their hands full with these players. Ruben scored two penalties in the most recent fixture which as we know from the World Cup, is no easy task. Notts also have the likes of Cedwyn Scott, Sam Austin and new boy Jodi Jones who can be utilised in the squad which makes for Torquay having a busy afternoon. I believe this is going to be a game In which the midfield plays a key part and for that Matty Palmer needs to be highlighted for the travelling Notts County who has recently signed a new contract with the club. Palmer has been a calming influence at the club since his arrival and has oozed class consistently during his time in black and white, being pivotal to the way Luke Williams and his side play.
Notts County will go into this game the firm favourites on paper however on paper only means so much as they hope to make it 21 games unbeaten and three wins on the bounce. Torquay have claimed some good points recently after a draw with play-off challengers Woking and a win over Halifax Town, they will be looking to build some momentum for the rest of their season and nothing is ever certain in this league.
*Article provided by Matthew Dudley (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC the Notts County players celebrate during their win at Solihull.