(Nearly) 30 years of hurt
4 days, 6 weeks and 29 years ago was the last time Notts County were in the playoffs. Back then the Division 2 playoff promotion spot was won under Neil Warnock. That was the 1990/91 season, over nine years before I was born. Since then only one (arguably anti-climactic) playoff attempt- in the 2017/18 season- was made. It is probably an understatement to say: “The club's results in recent years have not lived up to the high expectations” (Reedtz brothers, 2019). Oddly it even feels turbulent times are behind us and that we are in somewhat calmer waters (ironic for the current global pandemic situation). With stable owners, an effective manager and a talented squad it may be time for us to end the (nearly) thirty years of hurt.
Choosing of the starting XI is a job I am very glad is not on my shoulders. Upon checking the National League table, it can be seen we have some rather respectable statistics. ‘Goals against’ (GA) is the 2nd best in the league (to Solihull Moors- 37 goals) and ‘Goals for’ is the joint 2nd best in the league. Unfortunately, we are joint with fellow playoff contenders Yeovil and Harrogate, so this will be the best test of our defensive abilities.
Following the arrival of Kyle Wootton and Cal Roberts, the performances of Dennis, Enzio and Thomas have all been brought up a level. With Enzio’s magnificent sniper shots and Wootton’s noticeable physical presence surely, they are to start on the 25th at 5pm. I have always liked ‘a big man, little man’ style of forward play and would love to see Wootton paired with Dennis. With all this said I haven’t even discussed Roberts, who showed his ability with a goal in the Boston friendly.
When seeing the GA statistic (38 goals) as 2nd best I was quite shocked. Defensive quality has never been a strong attribute in my recent memory of Notts sides. Encouragingly, with solid presences of Turner, Rawlinson and Lacey I do believe they will do a service, backed up by the likes of Brindley and McCrory.
Obviously, we need our skipper Doyle in the centre of the field and with ball players O’Brien and Booty at hand, leaving a strong bench ready to jump on and refresh the legs.
As I write this article, I am listening the to Yeovil v Barnet playoff quarter final. The winner of which is to visit Meadow Lane and contest against us for a place in the National League playoff final. With COVID-19 disrupting the season the Points Per Game (PPG) method used to decide playoff and relegation spots this season have had much criticism (as George Faulconbridge highlighted to me when he explained about the relegation of Ebbsfleet on a difference of 0.094 PPG between them and Maidenhead United). Whilst some teams do properly kick-on with their season just after Christmas I feel this doesn’t reflect the talent of Barnet’s squad.
Optimistically, my prediction is we will win against Yeovil (despite some surprising scores in our most recent friendlies) and go to Wembley with Harrogate Town FC (who I am sure will win against Boreham Wood at 2:30pm 25th July). However, the playoffs always seem to throw all certainty out the window.