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Simon Clark
Simon Clark

Analysing Notts County's first ten games in the National League

The National League, cha cha cha……..

10 games in, and what do we think?

I guess to keep thing in perspective, we need to look at the starting position, let’s say the end of July. A week before the season started and you should be organised, settled and ready.

At that time, Notts still had an owner who was more famous for accidentally putting a picture of his genitals on social media than anything he’d done in football, hadn’t paid the wages for 2 months, we under a transfer embargo and were in ready danger of being liquidated.

Now, when a team is relegated they are very rarely in a good position. When a team is relegated from the EFL, it is usually worse due to the nature of dropping out of the league.

When that club has been in the Football League since day 1 and was pre-season favourites for promotion, you can only imagine the disarray behind the scenes.

For some inexplicable reason (maybe punters having a real gamble?), the bookies had Notts as pre-season favourites to win the league – equal with Chesterfield and more of them later.

As we know, Notts were rescued by new owners who seem content to stay behind the scenes, and I’m happy with that. I’m sure they’re watching, taking it all in, and will impose their own personalities on the club, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a little time.

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A lot of new faces came in. Not quite as drastic as it sounds because somehow, the management were able to get some of these to train and play over the summer while the club was on a knife edge. But still a massive overhaul as the season was starting.

I’ve watched an awful lot of non-league football over the years, having covered Grantham Town home and away for local media for around 15 years and I was one of those people who really thought there was very little difference between League 2 and National League.

Having seen 7 of our first 10 games, I think I was way off the mark. We expected officials to be worse, that’s natural, but it almost seems as if they have different rule sometimes. The game is a lot more physical and they let more go unpunished. We need to get to grips with that and do the same.

The quality is not good at all. We’ve played 6 of last season’s top 10 and, Wrexham apart, they have been functional and effective teams and I’ve not seen anyone better than Notts. (I didn’t see the Harrogate game)

Let me be clear, I’m enjoying Non-league. I didn’t want it, I don’t want it, and I want to get back into League Two as soon as possible, but I’m enjoying the experience.

It’s seems more relaxed, less confrontational. It also really makes you appreciate the stadium and facilities we have at Notts!

6 weeks ago, most fans were saying they’d just be happy to survive, to have a club to watch and success this season would be finishing one place above relegation.

That seems to have changed very quickly for some, and we’ve had fans getting on players’ backs inside the first 15 minutes of a game. The team has been booed off at half time and the end of games. There’s been plenty of patronising comments about other clubs.

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My own view?

I’m willing to give Neal Ardley time, but the start has been frustrating. For a manager and assistant with around 1,000 appearances in League football between them, the defending seems to have stood still.

We give away far too many goals from unchallenged headers in the area, especially from set prices when we’ve had time to organise.

The set up seems more concerned around keeping things tight rather than putting the other team under pressure. For example, watch Dion Kelly-Evans. He’s a player I really like, he doesn’t stop working and is hard to beat.

However, he seems terrified of crossing the halfway line while in possession. With the ball at his feet, he looks for a square pass inside rather than running into space ahead of him, time and time again, and it’s so predictable.

I appreciate that the club has been through a torrid few months and I have patience, but I’d love Ardley to set up as if he has belief in his players. If we went for the opposition from the first whistle, I’m sure there are some games which would see us take early control of the game and then we can grow into the league.

Yes, there are games it may not work, but at the moment I feel there are plenty of chances to win going begging. We could (should) have beaten Ebbsfleet comfortably, and with a bit more positivity could have taken wins from Solihull, Sutton and maybe even Eastleigh.

How do we sit compared to other favourites?

Fellow title favourites with the bookies, Chesterfield, have failed to live up to expectations and sit bottom of the table without a win.

Wrexham, 4th last season and also a pre-season favourite, have made a slow start and are sitting in 18th, a point behind Notts with a game in hand as are big spending Fylde (5th last season) in 20th place.

All in all, I think we’re taking time to adjust to the league but there are signs that it’s not a million miles away. 1 defeat in 7 games is certainly a move in the right direction and a win or two extra would have made everyone feel that bit better.

But to the complainers, just remember how close you were to a season without a club then watching Notts AFC in Step 7 against the likes of Linby Colliery and Mansfield Hosiery Mills.

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Edited by PON_News

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I think at this stage, Neal Ardley needs to be settling down the squad, and avoiding changes which seem to be within the 4-5 amount per game.

The squad really does need to be settled, I'm sure most can manage 90 minutes and this is why we have subs.

I'd like to see him go for games a bit more, rather than throwing the one defensive player on around the 70th minute but the National League isn't that bad at all. Hopefully, the promise we have in this squad which is clear - can thrive and grow in confidence. I think we are a few good results away from clicking, just need to demand a certain level of the players on a consistent basis.

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