Friday, 18 January 2019

Notts County: A Fall From Grace

It has been a disastrous season for England’s oldest football club Notts County who face the real prospect of playing out the football league for the first time in their history. The Magpies are in real danger and struggling for to score goals as well as keep them out. In addition to those problems, County are already on their third manager of the season with former Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley currently tasked with ensuring safety in the football league which is a complete contrast to 12 months ago when County were battling for promotion with League 2’s elite.

Last season ultimately ended in disappointment for Notts County and then County manager Kevin Nolan with his side missing out on promotion having been in the automatic places for much of the season but ended up losing to eventual play-off winners Coventry in the semi-finals. Kevin Nolan vowed to rebuild the squad in the number which was capable for automatic promotion this time around. Nolan added plenty of quality players including Kristian Dennis, Kane Hemmings, Nathan Thomas and Enzio Boldewijn. However, all have struggled to settle at the club with all four players struggling to recapture their best form at this level. Both Dennis and Hemmings have proven goalscoring records at the level, but the pair have notched just 10 between them thus far with 7 of those going to the former Oxford United striker Hemmings. Kristian Dennis scored 21 goals in a relegated Chesterfield side last season but has struggled for goals, confidence and game time with the managers constantly chopping and changing the team. Meanwhile, wide man Enzio Boldewijn has majorly struggled since his £750,000 move from league rivals Crawley. The Dutch winger impressed at Crawley but has flattered to deceive at County thus far with just 3 league goals have reached double figures in a poor Crawley side last season. County’s big spending spree has backfired, and chairman Alan Hardy knows this isn’t good enough.

Kevin Nolan was gone by end of August after a winless start and 4 straight defeats with just a point notched in their opening 5 games. Nolan was replaced by then Crawley manager Harry Kewell who lasted a mere 72 days in the role before Alan Hardy sacked him in November. Kewell oversaw 3 of County’s 4 wins which did come in a three-match winning streak. Kewell collected just 15 points in his 15 games in charge leaving County languishing at the wrong end of the table. Hardy’s decisions this season have alienated fans and caused unrest breaking down the relationship between owner and fans. Despite Hardy’s best efforts to get the crowds into Meadow Lane with ticket incentives, the 15,000 fans packed into Meadow Lane have been left disappointed and angered with the performances and the effort of the players. Crowds have come especially in crucial matches against relegation rivals but defeats to Cheltenham and Macclesfield have angered, upset and alienated fans.
Neal Ardley is the third manager this season to revive a dismal season but its just 1 win in his 8 league games in charge with their only success being in Ardley’s first home game against Tranmere but its 5 defeats in their last 6 since that win back in mid-December. Ardley has so far failed to sort the major issue for Notts County which is their defence. Their defensive record is abysmal with County conceding 57 goals in 28 league games and that is a major concern with an average of 2 goals conceded per game. Despite having experienced campaigners like Elliott Ward, Dan Jones, Richard Duff, Shaun Brisley to a new few, County just cannot stop conceding goals no matter who’s in charge of the team. Ardley built AFC Wimbledon on a strong defence and will be desperate to create that structure at County sooner rather than later. However, he also faces issues with County’s attack as they’ve scored just 29 goals which is the 4th worst in the league with only Macclesfield, Port Vale and Cambridge fairing worse in front of goal. Despite having a luxury forward line at this level which includes Hemmings, Dennis and Jon Stead, County struggle to find the net on a regular basis. Ardley has plenty of work to do but he needs a win from somewhere and fast to really ignite their survival charge.

County head into their next league game against fellow struggles Yeovil 6 points adrift of their opponents who are directly above the relegation zone. Macclesfield have had a bounce but Sol Campbell but Ardley has yet to have that affect on a talented squad which is majorly underperforming. The reality of dropping out the football league is beginning to hit the County fans but of course there is still a long way to go this season but time waits for nobody and England’s oldest football league club needs to get their act in gear otherwise they will be slipping away into the embers of non-league football and the spark will well and truly have gone out on one of the world’s oldest and most famous football clubs.

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