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Friday, February 25, 2011

Notts County Preview

We live pretty high up, 600 metres above sea level, and because of the mountains, sometimes in winter I wake up in the middle of a cloud and you don't know where you are. And right now thats how it seems with Charlton. Forgive me my apparent ignorance, I am after all 1000 miles away, but I was beginning to see some light at the end of our Tier Three tunnel and beginning to imagine that we would soon get to the end of a nightmarish period that we are clearly not used to.
Of course, others closer to home have been constantly trying to divert me from my fantasies and delusions and have tried everything to shake me out of my dreamy state by repeating over and over again that we were just very lucky to be in 5th place, and that one day lady luck would desert us.
I laughed, we always think we know better than the others, but now, of course, it seems that the majority were all correct in their pessimism. Its now been two dreary defeats after 4 wins in a row and we find ourselves out of the Play-off places again. Not that that should surprise us really, 'cause thats where we have spent 15 of the 29 games so far this season and we are now back where we were when Sir Chris took us over.

And, after giving Exeter their first ever win at the Valley after 14 failed attempts we can move onto the other foot this time because at Notts County we face a similar picture - after 16 visits we've won only one with 7 draws and 8 defeats. The only victory took place in May 1977, a 1-0 win in the last game of the season with the goal coming from Flanagan. Overall its an embarrassing 11 wins each with 12 draws. And perhaps we should mention that although we may not think we should be superior, in fact Notts County and the Addicks just about share equal success in the history of the Football League. We've each won the FA Cup once with a 4-1 win and their best finish was a 3rd place compared with our 2nd in the 30's. We've enjoyed 26 years in the top flight and they 30, although most of theirs was a long time along, and while the Addicks are 33rd in the all-time top flight rankings, County are just behind in 34th.
The Opposition
Paul Ince took over on October 28th last year after the dismissal of Craig Short when the club was sinking towards the relegation places after 7 defeats in their first 13 games. Perhaps highlighting their early successes in the previous century, County had a very sensible and conservative total of 7 managers in their first 51 years, which is in stark contrast to recent years where Ince is now their 13th manager in the last 10 and can by all the reckoning be expected to be sacked during the summer. Lee Hughes and Craig Westcarr and leading scorers with 12 and 11. Hughes it was of course that scored the Valley goal that saw us relegated to Tier Three back in April 2009 with an injury time equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Blackpool.
County are currently 18th, twelve points behind the Addicks and only 4 above the drop zone. Overall their home record is the similar to the Addicks with 8 wins in 15 but with 6 defeats to our 4. Over the last 8 games both teams are pretty equal with the Addicks getting 13 points to County's 12 but whereas Huddersfield, Orient and Rochdale are unbeaten over the last 8, nobody has conceded less goals in that time than Notts County whose defence has only been beaten 5 times. In comparison, the Addicks have conceded 13!
And to emphasize the difficult task open to Powells boys, after a dismal October/November with their 4 defeats in a row, County have now had a run of only 2 defeats in their last 12 League games.

Whats Their Secret?

Not letting in goals and keeping clean sheets have become a passion for Mr Ince. County only kept their opponents out 3 times in their first 13 games before he joined but after an initial learning curve have now enjoyed 7 clean sheets in their last 12 games. In fact over that last 12, they have accumulated 22 points out of a possible 36 from 6 wins and 4 draws which is exactly the same record as leaders Brighton over the same period. Take note, Chris.
But while keeping the opposition out has been Plan A for Ince, down the other end you could say he's not been so productive. After climbing to 13th on January 3rd after 4 wins out of 5, there followed 5 games without a win and with only 2 goals scored. That was rectified in a midweek game at home to Colchester where a 2-0 win was the result. Last weekend, of course, saw a 0-5 away defeat at the hands of Man. City in the FA Cup.
The Team
Its at this point that a bit of encouragement is needed. For those bloggers who see 7th place as the best we can achieve, perhaps we can give supply them with some reasoning for their anxieties and at the same time encourage the rest. Because, rather surprisingly, and although we've only had 12 games against the top half of the table, we are the team to have got most out of those 12 at an average of 2 points per game. That's better than anybody else. Meanwhile, however, in proof of our inconsistencies we have failed to beat any of the bottom four at the Valley, losing 2 and drawing the other 2 and while only losing twice against the beat half of the League we have lost 6 times against the supposed crap, ie Exeter twice, Hartlepool, Brentford, Swindon and Walsall.
As for the team on Friday night it'll be interesting to see if Sir Chris makes any changes. A howler from Doherty and a lack of goals despite lots of chances created could prompt some movement off the bench by Joe Anyinsah perhaps.

With our record at Meadow Lane of one win in 16 and County's form to date, another defeat is to be expected. County have only conceded 2 goals during the first half in their last 12 games so don't expect us to score in the first 45 again and it all points to few goals being expected.
0-1 to County, then?

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