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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Notts County Preview

Many people are comparing this season with last and finding excuses for our midtable position. Well, this time last season we were of course top on goal difference on 15 points and look where it got us. And after 5 games, the spanners you'll be pleased to learn were 8 points behind us with exactly the same points as we have now, a meagre 7. Last year it was game 15 before we saw our second defeat at Carlisle and we followed up that result by losing to a non-league club in the FA Cup for the first time ever at Northwich Victoria and then went on to make it three in a row by losing at Southampton. Lets hope we can recover faster this time round because a revitalised Notts County are next up.

Notts County, the oldest "professional" football club in the world, apparently, with the honours for the oldest club seemingly going to Sheffield fc who play in the Northern Premier. County were born in 1862 which makes them an amazingly 148 years old. And it hasn't all been spent in Tier Three either. Like ourselves they've won the cup once and recorded a 3rd place finish in Division One when it was the real Division One back in 1891 and again in 1901, but that was all a very long time ago.
Unlike ourselves then, their glory day memories are a bit distant although they did enjoy 3 years in top flight football in the early 80's and they also had the debatable privilege of finishing 23th out of 24 (after only one years stay) in the death knell of the old Division One in 1991-92 in the last season before it became the Premier thingy. And if you think we've hard done by, also there that year were Southampton, Wednesday and Oldham. As for history, oldest club or not,they sit just behind us in the Top Flight League Table in 33rd place with more seasons but less points.
Craig Short is now manager and has returned to his roots for he started his playing career with County before moving to Blackburn, Everton and Sheffield United. But his first coaching and mangerial job was with Ferencvaros of Budapest although he didn't stay too long there after receiving death threats once he became manager.
He was there for 22 months and for the majority of that time he was employed as a coach, but when Bobby Davison was forced out as manager in October, he found himself looking after Hungary's most famous club amid growing supporter unrest.
His first match as caretaker did not even finish. "We were 3-1 down and the fans just emptied the kop and disappeared. The next thing rioters came through the family stand to try to get to the players and the match had to be abandoned. I remember we were in the boardroom afterwards and there was an SMS to one of the Hungarians, saying: 'We will hunt you down. There will be no hiding place.'"
And then after three games as caretaker they offered him the job fulltime and thats when he received a picture of himself in a Everton shirt with a sickle in the back of his head saying, 'Go home Englishman.' But he stayed on and Ferencvaros finished seventh in the League.

County didn't enjoy their return to Tier Three after 6 years away and lost 0-3 to Huddersfield at home on opening day and then by the same score at Oldham away next up. Things improved with a 1-0 home win over Dagenham, closely followed by a very stirring performance at Dean Court where after conceding 3 goals in the first 28 minutes they then fought back to draw 3-3 with the last 2 goals coming in injury time. And game 5 was convincing won 4-0 at home to lowly Yeovil.
And they have been enjoying themselves in the League Cup, winning away at Plymouth 1-0 a few days after the Pilgrims had beaten Southampton 1-0 and then in the next round they caused the shock of the night in putting out Watford at Vicarage Rd 2-1. And in the Paint job they had another difficult away fixture at Hillsborough and again after conceding early they only lost 1-2.
So they're in 12th spot, one below us again, unbeaten in their last 3 League games scoring 8 goals in the process and although only a couple of teams have conceded more than their 9 goals, they have twice as many clean sheets as we do.

The Opposition
After encountering one Harley last weekend we come across another one in the only member of County's squad that you've probably heard off in the shape of former Chelski and Fulham star Jon Harley. Fulham actually spent 3.5m on him back in 2000 but his career since then has been on a slippery slope through Sheffield United, Burnley and Watford. He joined County in the summer on a free transfer and wears number 26.
And another player we're sure to notice is number 11 Ben Davies. He plays on the left wing and he's County's leading goalscorer with 4 goals having got a total of 16 last season. Along with right-winger Craig Westcarr, who's now on 3 goals, he was named in this weeks League One Team of the Week after their performance against Yeovil.
There's no ex-Addicks playing for County that I can find but we do have another ex player with us in Johnnie Jackson. He only had a year at County last season but played 24 times scoring twice. Perhaps not what he had in mind to see his old mates just a place behind us so perhaps he'll be set on helping us to pull three points clear of them. Lets hope that his Achilles problem from last week has gone away.
Notts County have won twice at the Valley in Cup games (FA Cup in 1978, and League Cup in 1984) but only once (in August 1975) in 15 League visits. The Addicks have won 9 with 5 draws. We've also won the last 5 League games dating back to 1984.
What are they saying
Craig Short "It will be difficult at times. That's the nature of the job. But if I have a problem, I won't have people coming through the back of the dugout, like they were with Bobby in his last game in Hungary. If that happens here I'll have failed badly."
The Team
The first thing to note is that we've hardly started with just 5 games played. Last season after 5 games behind Leeds and the Addicks and in the Play-off spots were Colchester, Bristol, Brentford and MK Dons who finished 8th, 11th, 9th and 12th come May time. And as we said the spanners were 8th with 7 points and Norwich 19th with just 4.
And the first thing to do after losing 2 in a row is not to panic. We usually lose in Exeter and our previous managers Walter Raynor, Alex MacFarlane, Albert Lindon, Jimmy Seed (played 3 - lost 3) and Mike Bailey have all lost in Exeter over the years so there's no shame there Parky, its the norm. The only one to triumph was Alex MacFarlane in 1929 in a once in a blue moon win by 5-2 when Wilson Lennox (44 goals in a total of 78 appearances - where is he when we need him?) became the first Addicks player to score 5 in one match.
So a defeat not unexpected then as history usually has a lot to answer for but both Ketts and Deepest Darkest, amongst others, have already noted that our midfield is starting to prove a bit of a problem with a distinct lack of depth in the squad and more seriously a bit of a dearth in creativity. Ketts was rather enthusiastic about Johnnie Jackson providing this spark and after two defeats in a row we may see some changes this week.
And after enthusing about our attack after our two 3 goal games against Shrewsbury and Orient we have now gone 4 games scoring only 3 times and failed to score for the first time this season at Exeter. Pawel Abbott has still failed to score in any of our 5 league games (406 minutes played) and its two full games played for Paul Benson and no goals yet but if you're looking for precedents, and we all are, you'll remember that Super Clive himself didn't score in his first two games for the Addicks either back in that beautiful late summer of 1997.
But the biggest problem perhaps is Cristian Dailly who'll be out be the next 5 weeks. Jon Fortune was on the bench against the Daggers and Exeter without playing while Miguel Llera has chalked up nearly 400 minutes of play so far. There was a behind doors win for the Reserves against Palarse on Tuesday which saw Fortune play 70 minutes and Anyinsah 65 with a goal and an assist so it could be that both see some action on Saturday. Billy Smart also got a goal in a 2-0 win.
So Parky has some selection problems this weekend and we may see a more crowded midfield as he searches for an answer to a sudden lack of goals.

Elliot; Francis, Doherty, Llera, Fry; Martin, Semedo, McCormack, Jackson, Reid; Benson

Its been thirty five years since County's one and only win at the Valley in 15 League attempts but they have recovered from their bad start to the season, have beaten Plymouth and Watford away in the League Cup and know how to score with 8 goals in their last three games . Another tough game then and a draw may be the best we can hope for.

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