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Joe Jones
Joe Jones

Notts County 2016-17 Season Review: Jekyll and Hyde

And so ends another season in the Football League, and luckily for us Notts County fans, we had the luxury of being able to sit back and enjoy the last few fixtures of the campaign without crippling anxiety - some supporters even had the luxury of complaining about losing the final game, against Newport County, describing it as "finishing with a whimper".

I will take a season which fizzles out on a losing note with a lower-mid-table finish any day compared to what the prognosis was just a few months ago.

We've all witnessed what happened with Leyton Orient over the last few months, a proud club virtually dying before us and ending up relegated out of the EFL.

That could have been us. That WAS us, at least until Alan Hardy completed his takeover of Notts in January, and from then on, a club that appeared terminally ill has been healed, revived and galvanised to the point that safety was secured with several games to spare.

This was the same team that had lost 10 league games in a row, the kind of woeful run you get in Sunday Leagues where one team clearly just does it for a laugh, bringing together a load of hungover, overweight duffers every Sunday morning only to get spanked each week by a team whose players actually know what "cardio" means (and no, it's not Spanish).

We were losers, plain and simple.

Now, I'm not necessarily having a dig at the players, because the way their form picked up so dramatically after the takeover suggests that their minds might have not right for whatever reason beforehand, but if I can't use the word "losers" for a team that loses 10 games in a row, then when can I?

The season didn't get off to the best start - a 2-0 defeat at Yeovil Town, followed by a 2-0 loss at Scunthorpe United in the EFL Cup.

There was a mild upturn when Notts won at Hartlepool United and Crawley Town before beating Pools again in the EFL Trophy, before things took a downturn again with a draw with Grimsby Town and defeat to Accrington Stanley.

Then we got victories over Cheltenham Town, Leyton Orient and Exeter City, which saw us move into the League Two playoff places heading into October.

Defeats to Rochdale in the EFL Trophy and a 3-1 loss at bitter rivals Mansfield Town soon dampened spirits once again, but the month also included a hard-fought 2-1 win at Portsmouth, arguably the best performance and result of the first half of the season, and come the end of the month, which saw a goalless draw against Luton Town, we were sixth in the table.

And then things went wrong. Very wrong.

A 4-0 loss at Blackpool. a 3-0 hammering at Meadow Lane against Newport County. And so on, and so on for 10 painful games in the league, while the FA Cup didn't provide much solace either, having to have a replay with non-league Boreham Wood and eventually going out to Peterborough United, who then enjoyed a third-round tie at Chelsea.

By the time 2017 rolled round and we got spanked by Cambridge United and MORECAMBE (losing to a team that has a sandwich filling for a badge is particularly painful), we weren't so much flirting with the bottom two as buying it drinks in a desperate bid to take it home for the night.

Off the pitch, meanwhile, there were real fears that the takeover was in jeopardy due to "undisclosed issues", and so for a few days in early January, it looks like it - and the club - was going to collapse.

Luckily, Hardy did manage to complete the takeover, announcing his "new era" on January 11.

Out went John Sheridan, his expletive-ridden rant against Wycombe a few weeks earlier leading to dismissal for gross misconduct, in came Kevin Nolan (via a brief caretaker spell by Alan Smith) and, soon enough, the recovery began.

The first game with Hardy and Nolan at the helm was against the Stags, and all that our fans were hoping for at the time was not to get destroyed by them lot.

As it turned out, a very creditable goalless draw stopped the horror sequence of defeats and stopped Mansfield fans claiming local bragging rights again, but it would be a slow, steady process getting the confidence-depleted team back to scratch.

The following week, Grimsby claimed a 2-0 win and, even though Notts beat Crawley 2-1 seven days later, the next result - a 2-0 loss at Stanley - kept the Magpies in the doo-doo.

But by then, Nolan's leadership and Hardy's stability were reaping benefits - a 2-1 win over Cheltenham followed, and then a ridiculous, miraculous game where Notts were two goals down against Exeter with 89 minutes played, only to salvage a 2-2 draw in stoppage time.

It was still touch and go in the weeks that followed, with defeats to Stevenage and Doncaster keeping the Magpies near the bottom two, but then four consecutive wins - against Barnet, Wycombe, Colchester and Carlisle, put Notts 13 points clear of the bottom two with just five games to go. The miracle was almost complete.

By the time the Easter Bank Holiday ended, Notts were officially safe, and from then on, it was just a case of keeping the players focused for the last few games - easier said than done, but there was still time for a 1-0 win over Blackpool before the season-closer, where all the pressure was on Newport.

What a Jekyll and Hyde season it's been. It looked like Notts were on a one-way ticket to the non-league, but Hardy and Nolan have saved the club from what looked to be certain oblivion.

And now comes the summer, and with those two at the helm of the club and the team respectively, there is scope for real optimism in the pre-season and going into the new campaign.

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Good piece. How hairy did the table look at times this season! Not to mention the shenanigans behind the scenes. We only have to look a Leyton Orient to see how lucky we are.

Next season will be a different kettle of fish with stability behind the scenes. Much depends on Kevin Nolan's reshaping of the squad over the summer - an area in which he is a novice. Hopefully he can avoid Shaun Derry syndrome, bring some good talent in and give the team the right mentality by August.

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It looked very bleak for Notts at one point, I can remember doing a written interview that was published quite late - I spoke about how Notts would finish mid-table but if I was asked at the point of publication I honestly felt we was doomed. Notts just didn't look like a club that could float, however the takeover has delivered a fresh challenge and I think we needed the season in style somewhat.

The loans and Nolan have made a massive difference.

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I thought Notts were a lost cause in January and was very surprised how soon safety was achieved.Well done all concerned.

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Good season review very in depth I think there are many words we could use to describe this season and I think jeckle and Hyde are probably are two of the best words we could use to describe the Season where we have had more ups and down than tower bridge have to say it's a relief for it to be over. Keep the article coming  

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one standard, straight forward season would be nice. this is very well written joe, you are right about how poor this season has been but the shinning note is the takeover and nolan taking charge.

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