A Rollercoaster Season So Far – Fans Thoughts

Well then, the 2023-24 season so far. Not quite the whirlwind of last season so far, but a whirlwind in its own right. From the heavy opening day defeat to the impressive run of form that followed, to what has been fairly disastrous away form followed by a manager departure, you can certainly see the rollercoaster we have been on in the past six or seven months.

That is what brings me here today, to discuss the key events of what we have experienced during our first half a season back as an EFL Football Club… So, let’s do this!

We have to start really with the opening day defeat. The highly anticipated first game back in the EFL, with one of what has turned out to be many of sold-out away ends from us so far this season, but ultimately a day to remember in terms of the history of the club swiftly turned into one to forget. Was the occasion too big too soon? I do not think so, especially considering our previous competitive game beforehand was the Wembley triumph. I would not even put that down to being under prepared as the whole conclusion of the pre-season preparations would have been massively set-up to play against Sutton United, the real difference was the quality step-up. Although Sutton United are one of the current strugglers in the division, they were well established and were set to play well under who was their longest serving manager at the time in Matt Gray. The defeat really exposed what some of our key weaknesses would be early on, two in particular was the exposure in space between our departments when the ball was turned over and just how exposed the backline was when counter-attacked on. The day was not helped by the dismissal of Aidan Stone, but it is branded as a day to forget for a reason, so it is certainly better left forgotten about.

For me, the most impressive part of that defeat was our response following it. To be beaten 5-1 in the first game of a new season all alarm bells are going to sound, but to then go eight unbeaten on a run against a lot of the league’s most established sides, those alarm bells are soon to become silent. That was the run for me that not only told the rest of the division that we were not here to be pushed over as a newly promoted side from the National League but the run that told us all that promotion should be the aim again this season. It still is, and this run has been the reason we have remained in the play-offs for so long despite being on horrific form at times, yet we all know we are more than capable of restarting runs such as these and if we could start one again very soon, who knows how the end of the season is going to look. I have always said and I am sure many would agree that the end of the season includes a very favourable run of fixtures and that for me invites us almost with an offer too good to turn down to go on another unbeaten run and its always important as we know to build momentum, especially if we enter the play-offs again as it is looking very likely that will be the case for us.

Injuries. Everyone in the sport hates them, and what they can do to your team, and we have been a victim to many injuries on many key players this season. It started with Geraldo Bajrami, who for me would have been more than perfect due to his versatility in being comfortable in playing inside a defensive line as well as a midfield. When a player has their season concluded so soon into the season, you always have that sympathy, but you are also left hoping that no more key injuries are sustained, but sadly we were not so fortunate as Cedwyn Scott and Matthew Palmer both joined the sidelines for the majority of the season. Beginning with Cedwyn, what a huge blow it was to lose him. Someone I tipped quite highly and quite rightfully so to have scored a handful of goals again if he had managed to stay fit across the whole season, yet sadly that has not managed to be the case. It is an even bigger shame when you consider how he concluded his last season, converting the winning penalty at Wembley to take us up but unfortunately has been robbed of the opportunity to build off that in the EFL this season. Also, whilst lacking that goalscoring threat from the bench during the most crucial periods of some big games so far this season, his absence has been felt just that little bit extra. Now for Matty, who in my and I am sure many of your opinions too has been not only the biggest loss of the season, but the player we could have done with not picking up a season ending injury the most. Obviously, you do not want any of your players to pick up any injury of the manner, but to lose Matty how we did and for the duration of time that we have, to say that is has been heart-breaking would be an understatement.  You only had to look at his heatmap from last season to understand the hole that his absence was going to create and sadly our form has dropped significantly and again it does not feel as a surprise, but it re-emphasises just how important and missed he is within this team.

The biggest change of the season however is undoubtedly the managerial switch. Firstly, Luke Williams. For what it is worth it is always important to reiterate just how important that man’s tenure as Head Coach was to this club. From the moment he took over to the day he left, he improved the club from top to bottom and the memories he created are ones that will last a lifetime. When he moved on, and who can really blame him with all things considered tied into the move back to Wales, it did hurt of course but you always trusted the owners to make the right move and in came Stuart Maynard. What you can say about the new man is that he more than justified and deserved his opportunity to manage in an environment such as the one that has been created at Notts County. The importance and the way he transformed the fortunes of Wealdstone whilst remaining under part-time basis as a football club was impressive and was one that always was going to appeal to the owners here. I will be the first to admit that I was not sold on the appointment straight away, but now I feel like I am and as always ready to get behind the man at the helm. Already, we have seen improvements. Yes, no victories but massive defensive improvements and more gleamingly apparent when you look at the teams we have faced so far in Barrow and Mansfield Town, two of the better teams in the division with the best defences and Notts have stopped shipping 4/5 and only conceded twice in both fixtures, drawing one and losing the other. Not the best results, but the signs are there for when this does click, it will click significantly and push us further towards the position in the play-offs that we desire.

The beauty of being able to do this is being able to contribute to these articles with other perspectives from those who spend a long time during their weekends watching and travelling for this club. To conclude this, here are some of the perspectives I gathered… 

Declan Weliczko – @ARLukomski

Notts’ first season back in the Football League has been one of inconsistency. Although expected with it being our first season back, no supporter could have quite imagined the twists and turns this season has took so far.

Summer recruitment started with a bang. Jodi Jones signed a permanent deal with the club, after having helped us to promotion the previous season. He was joined by Sutton’s Will Randall, a player Luke Williams knew from his time at Swindon. Added to this was the creativity of Dan Crowley and Port Vale’s play-off hero from 2022: Aidan Stone.

The biggest news of the summer was the return of a boyhood Notts fan and 22 goal League One striker, David McGoldrick. Didzy indicated he always wanted to finish his career at Notts and seeing him in a Notts shirt again was something to behold. It was like the second coming.

Recruitment was solid in the summer but slowed towards the end of the transfer window, when options in the defence were needed, as shown by our 5-1 defeat on opening day against Sutton. Ollie Tipton had been added on loan from Wolves and Lewis Macari (also on loan) from Stoke.

Notts showed great character to bounce back in our first home game against Grimsby, the last team we faced at home in the Football League in 2019, as we avenged our play-off defeat from 2022.

We would then, go a further seven games unbeaten, which left Notts top of the league. Standouts from this run included a first away win at Doncaster, with Macaulay Langstaff getting his first two EFL goals and a memorable 2-0 win over Salford on a Friday night, in which put to bed the nightmares of eight years previous. Summer signing Dan Crowley starred in this one and has become one of our most important players.

The run came to an end with some very avoidable goals conceded against Colchester. We scored four but conceded five. It really was a sign of things to come over the next few months. Notts would then take revenge against the team who relegated them in 2019: Swindon. Notts won 3-1 with the magical front three of Macca, Didzy and Crowley all getting on the scoresheet.

Notts’ form then became inconsistent. A draw away at Barrow was followed by a Nottinghamshire derby defeat that showed up our weaknesses in defence and our lack of strength in squad depth. With play-off hero Cedwyn Scott and the dependable Geraldo Bajrami already out for the foreseeable, Notts couldn’t afford anymore.

Notts bounced back with a win at Gillingham, in a game where Lewis Macari made his first league appearance and scored a rocket to send the away end into raptures. This would be the start of an impressive run of games, which would lead to him signing permanently. Notts ended the month with a win over Newport but would lose to fellow NL promoted team Wrexham in a game of few chances but one in which, our most influential player, Matty Palmer was injured and subsequently ruled out for the season. A devastating blow and an injury Notts haven’t really recovered from since.

Our form then fluctuated over the next two months. Wins against Bradford, Crawley, Doncaster, and Morecambe, but losses against Crewe, Wimbledon, Walsall, Harrogate, Stockport, and Tranmere. The latter being Luke Williams’ final game in charge, before he left for Swansea.

The king had left, and I wish him well in everything. Luke Williams was the guy who gave us hope and belief once again. He gave us some of the best football ever seen at Meadow Lane and memories to last a lifetime. Luke also gave me my first ever promotion. Something I will forever cherish.

It’s hard losing someone so influential, but we had to move on. In the meantime, Jim O’Brien led us to the East Coast in one of the most chaotic league games in Notts’ history. 2-0 down, then back to 2-2, Then 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4 and then a 92nd minute Didzy goal should have won it, only for The Mariners to level it up at 5-5 in the 95th minute. Both sides still had chances to win it afterwards!

The new man at the helm was introduced midway through January. Stuart Maynard took the reins, after guiding Wealdstone to progressively better finishes, each season in the National League. His first game in charge was a 1-1 draw with Barrow, in which Jodi Jones equalled the League Two assists in a season record. A narrow defeat at Mansfield followed, but encouraging signs had been seen in both games, in taking steps to improve the defence, which had been leaking far too many goals for a team with ambitions of a 2nd successive promotion.

Before Maynard’s arrival, Scott Robertson had been added from Fleetwood. Further arrivals afterwards included Jaden Warner and Charlie Colkett on loan from Norwich and Crewe respectively. Notts’ final addition was that of Gambian and Viborg striker Alassana Jatta.

In my opinion, Notts’ recruitment has been hit and miss this season. Some we’ve got right and some we haven’t. Some haven’t started as many games as they would’ve liked, and some have been unlucky with injuries.

I would like Notts to go back to scouting the leagues below us, to find non-league gems. This got us success last season with the signings of Langstaff, Scott, Austin, Bajrami and Adebayo-Rowling. A combination of recruiting non-league gems, younger players released from further up the pyramid with potential, undervalued players and scouting the foreign market in depth to identify promising players from the continent, will make for an exciting summer window. The biggest difference between the National League and League Two is strength in depth, something we haven’t got quite right, but I know we will learn lessons from this season and use it to move forward. 7th in the league with almost 30 games gone is a positive first season back.

My player of the season so far would be Jodi Jones, who is 1 assist off breaking the record. Dan Crowley has been an excellent addition, filling the void left by Ruben Rodrigues effortlessly. No surprises to see how well Macaulay Langstaff has adapted to the level. He finds himself top scorer in League 2 and I would love if he stayed long enough to break Les Bradd’s goalscoring record.

Andy Chandler – @AChandler2409

Satisfaction, through and at the end of a season, depends on your starting expectations.

After the 22/23 Luke Williams festival of everything most fans could only dream of from a campaign, albeit lower in the pyramid than we would wish to be, it was predictable many fans would have high hopes. Fuelled by media hype and rather too much Coolade, back to backs were nailed on. Surely

But not me. Honestly, not me.

Much as I wanted another rip-roaring season, I was determined to stay grounded. That view was under pinned by a close look at what happened in L2 22/23. Whilst we were racking up 107 pts and 117 goals, Wrexham even more, last year’s table, topped by Orient, was won with 91 pts, 61 GF and 34 GA.  Similar story through the top 8. EFL2 was “different” to VNL, much different, and I had expected LW to adapt our tactics and squad to suit. But he didn’t. Even if he intended to in the window.

That surprised me somewhat. 

After a brilliant start, we lost three key first teamers in Palmer, Bajrami, and Scott. Suddenly, our midfield looked less potent, and our defence exposed. Yet tactically we did not evolve, retaining two high press wing backs and Johnny in a free roaming, mainly offensive CM role.

Much as I loved LW, I felt he had overstayed with loyalty to the heroes of last season and not adapted to EFL2 frugality. And the club acquisitions did not address the CD frailty. We found ourselves in a bumpy patch and shipped way too many daft concessions. Then Luke abandoned ship with a “too good to be true” offer.

I have no issue with Luke’s decision. Family first. Always. And nothing but goodwill for his future, professional and family.

On to succession: I never expected or wanted The Return of Warnock. Nostalgia is one thing, progress is another, and times, tactics, football models change. It was never a good idea. Sorry, but what he did before was never going to happen again.

Our new man, Stuart Maynard, for me is an unknown and frankly a gamble that I passionately hope comes good. Both for him and club. He seems a fine fellow, and undoubtedly smart. But…. how will he adapt to a FT profession in football. Is he tactically savvy “enough”, up to the challenge mentally? And how will he galvanise the dressing room, with so many highly experienced professionals that know the football industry so intimately. I cannot say. I stay positive, but with modest expectation for this term. I’m sure Stuart has a similar perspective privately.

And now we return to that word “expectation” and our starting point. Which, frankly, is now, the start of February and the sharp end of the season.

I am, where I started the season back in August. Forget that incredible semi vs BW. Forget that generational moment in time at Wembley when Cedwyn Scott hit the net and thumbed his nose towards North Wales and specifically Ben Foster. When we all wept tears of joy. Those wonderful memories stay for our lifetime, but they are now history. In the here and now, what is a realistic “expectation”?

Well, it’s not autos.

It can be play offs, but our charge MUST start on Friday vs Gillingham, and sustain at Bradford and Wrexham away. That’s a tall order. 

So, my start point remains. A solid mid table, pushing PO Places. Build. Sustain. Grow the fanbase from the roots of our community and grow the club revenues.  

Enjoy the journey and don’t over expect. Then there is no disappointment, only entertainment and great memories. 

And you never know……. we may yet get to Wembley and do it all again. 

Have fun!

Luke – @Turkey_Twizzler

I think we started really well, but since Palmer got injured, we’ve really lacked consistency. He was the glue holding the defence and midfield together.

I think if we can get a win or two, we can get on a really good run and perform to our best again. Maynard has made us more solid but it’s going to take time.

My aspirations for this season were to make top half and push for the play offs and I think that’s still very achievable!

Kieran Ashley Scott – @KieranAshley16

 No problem at all.  

With us still occupying a play-off spot at the time of writing this, I can only feel optimistic at what the rest of the season has in stall for us all. Granted, we have dropped off over the last few months and I can see why some fans may feel disgruntled that we aren’t still fighting for the automatic promotion places. But perspective is needed in my opinion. It’s our first season back in the EFL and to be fighting for a play-off spot speaks volumes on how well the club is being run.   

The financial backing that Stockport and Wrexham have, alongside Mansfield spending numerous years in this division, equips them far better for automatic promotion this time round. But should we not be successful in our quest for promotion this season, our owners will learn from this and I have no doubt we will come again even stronger in 24/25.  

Let’s not forget, we are the highest scorers in the division. Our defensive frailties have been our achilles heel all season; however, the new head coach looks to of made the right tweaks to nullify those issues and improvements have been fantastic over the last 2 games. Once we get the balance right, I have no doubt we will be scoring plenty of goals again real soon.  

I genuinely feel we will have a strong end to the season, hopefully it’s kickstarted with a win tomorrow night under the lights.  

Keep the faith Notts fans. as Johnny Bostock says. 

“The marathon continues”. 


George Vizard – @GeorgeVizard 

This is the most I’ve enjoyed a season for a long time as the pressure to be promoted is off a little. We’ve witnessed some great games already this season and we still sit within the play offs. Even after losing Williams to Swansea, it still feels like we’re on the up and going in the right direction. So, for me so far this season it’s been very much, sit back and enjoy. 

Ben Goodman – @ben_goodmann

I’m pretty happy with how Notts are doing this season. I started this season hoping for a top half finish, so if you told me we’d be in the play-offs with 17 games to go I’d have been buzzing. But having started the season as well as we did and being up at the top, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that we have now dropped to 7th with a few teams on our tails. We’ve lost our most influential player in Matty Palmer to injury, and it is clear to see. But I still believe we have a real chance of doing well, we just need a bit of for together as we’ve lacked that for a while now and we can solidify a play-off spot. Which I feel would be a great finish for our first season back in the league! COYP! 

And finally, for the input from the EFL expert himself! 

Gabriel Sutton – @GabSutton

I love what Notts are doing. They do so many things I call upon other EFL clubs to do. They have owners who care, a very good structure in place and it reflects on the managers and how they move on to better and bigger jobs if you like when the opportunities come. They have always had the right foundations in place, shown by the signings of McGoldrick and Crowley, those players do not sign for now reason.  

However, I have been frustrated by Notts as I feel you only have to have an average defence to be a top three side. Simple defensive errors have been made, some have been a by-product of the style but yet you still do carry a threat and a big threat into the play-offs. 

The Mansfield result was crucial because a win there would have reduced the gap more so I think it will be play-offs for Notts but never rule out autos.  

With Maynard, the expectation of promotion is there I guess but the stylistic principles are already in place so that has made his job easier. There is always going to be pressure on him, but it is a great opportunity for him. He was a BT Engineer previously and now he is a full-time Head Coach at Notts County, and I am really excited for him.  

*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).

*Main image @Official_NCFC new Manager Stuart Maynard (centre) with the clubs ambitious owners.

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