Is This Notts County’s Worst Ever Start to a Season?

Notts County’s 3-1 defeat at home to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday meant that they stay rock bottom of the entire EFL.

In all competitions, Notts have now lost all of their last six games, conceding 19 goals in the process, and have conceded at least three goals in all bar one of their seven games this season.

The only positive from Notts’ defeat to Forest Green was that at least they scored. Jon Stead’s goal was the first that Notts have scored at Meadow Lane this season. However, aside from that, the performance was nothing short of a nightmare.

New boss Harry Kewell watched from the stands as he was only appointed the day before the game. It was left to interim boss Mark Crossley to take the reins on Saturday. His team choice was quite simply bizarre; he played only two out-and-out defenders in the back line, instead deciding on playing a winger at right-back and a midfielder at centre half, even though he had defenders available to him left on the bench.

His job was made even harder when left-back Dan Jones got deservedly sent-off for a ridiculous two-footed lunge and so Notts finished the game with a back three that consisted of two midfielders and only one actual defender.

Tie that in with goalkeeping errors for at least two, if not possibly all three Rovers goals and it really was another miserable day for the Magpies. But just how does this awful start compare to some of the poorest starts Notts have made in recent history?

One of their worst starts in recent memory came under the stewardship of Chris Kiwomya in 2013, whilst in League One.

Notts had got the entire Football League season started, away at Sheffield United in front of the Sky Sports cameras, but when Notts defender Gary Liddle got sent-off in the opening 15 minutes, it was a sign of the things to come.

Notts lost the game 2-1, when a certain Harry Maguire headed home a second half winner for the Blades.

The Magpies got their first point in their next away game, a 1-1 draw away at Walsall, but didn’t get their first win until they beat Tranmere Rovers 2-0 in their 8th league game of the season.

Even Coventry’s ten-point deduction imposed at the beginning of the campaign, couldn’t keep Notts off the bottom of the table by this time, and Kiwomya was sacked in mid-October with County only on seven points after twelve games. Shaun Derry was named as his successor and Notts managed to stay in League One, but on the last day of the season.

Prior to that, Notts’ worst start to a season came in the old Division Two in 2003/04. A 5-0 defeat at Bristol City on opening day was followed up by three more defeats, and Notts sat bottom of the old third tier, pointless, and with a goal difference of -11. Things did pick up vaguely, with two draws and a win in the following three matches, but Notts were inevitably relegated at the end of the season, down into what would become League Two.

The following season wasn’t great either, with only one win in their opening nine games, which saw them sink to the bottom of the entire Football League for the first time since 1968. They just about managed to turn it around to finish the season safe in 19th, but this started an unwanted run of scrapping for survival from relegation to the Conference for a number of successive seasons.

Despite being in the basement two tiers of English football for the last 24 seasons, Notts’ longest continual stint without being any higher, right now is the first time that they’ve been rock bottom of the bottom tier since September 2004.

And what’s yet more damning for Notts fans is that statistically, in terms of points gained and goals conceded at this point in the season, the start that County have made this time around is actually worse than any other this century, even worse than the abysmal starts mentioned earlier. And to top it off, all those seasons ended in relegation or last-day survival, something they would really expect to avoid this time around.

But the Notts fans that still think promotion is a possibility this season probably need to re-evaluate; the Magpies, for now at least, are very much in a relegation battle to stay in the EFL.

However, they have a new manager in place, and a squad of players who have undoubted ability at this level, after all they were favourites to win the league just a month ago.

That being said, Harry Kewell has got one hell of a job to do with the League Two strugglers: improve confidence that has hit rock bottom, stop the concession of so many sloppy goals, install some grit and determination into the side, and get some points on the board, and quickly.

His first game comes at Blundell Park on Tuesday night, where the Magpies visit Grimsby Town in the Checkatrade Trophy. Whilst the competition is probably not a priority for any team, it is a huge game for Notts as it is a good chance to get that first win and install some confidence into what appears to be a broken side.

The fact that owner Alan Hardy sacked Kevin Nolan so quickly into the season would suggest that his aim is still getting promotion to League One. But if it is then new boss Harry Kewell needs to stop this downward turn as soon as possible.

Whilst he needs time to implement his tactics and work out his best eleven, if he doesn’t get a win on the board on Tuesday, then it will be the worst start ever to a season since 1966, the only time post-war that Notts have gone eight games at the start of a season in all competitions without picking up a win.

That tally this season already stands at seven, so Notts will not be wanting history to repeat itself. It’s a sign of where Notts are at the moment that the fans will actually want to win a Checkatrade Trophy match when they play Grimsby on Tuesday, otherwise it will officially be their worst start to a season in over 50 years.

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