After Notts County recently broke an unwanted record of setting their worst ever start to a season, the run doesn’t show any sign of letting up. Not only are Notts winless this season, but they’re not picking up any points at all; they’ve lost all of their last eight matches in all competitions and all of their last six league matches.
Having conceded five at Exeter, the Magpies have also conceded an average of exactly three goals per match, they’ve conceded six goals more than the next worse defence in the division which is Morecambe who conceded six on opening day alone, the only day this season so far where Notts have kept a clean sheet. In fact, this is now the most goals that Notts have conceded at the start of a season since the inaugural Football League season back in 1888, 130 years ago.
Notts are now getting dangerously close to breaking even more records that they desperately do not want to do. Under John Sheridan in 2016/17, County went on a winless run of 13 matches between the end of October and the middle of the following January, of which they lost 10 in a row, a club record.
Even though Notts are still four matches short of matching that run, there are some reasons as to why this current run is even worse than that. During the run of 2016/17, even though Notts fundamentally lost 10 league games in succession, there were several games where Notts had the lead and looked more than capable of getting at least a point; Cambridge at home, Barnet away, Colchester away and Carlisle at home to name some of them, with Notts narrowly losing these games 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2.
However, this season this just doesn’t look likely, Notts aren’t just losing games but are not really in them at all, their recent results have been thrashings, 3-1s, 4-0s, 5-1s. The hole that Notts are in at the moment seems to be one of the biggest that they’ve ever been in, and no one seems to know how to get out of it.
The problems that new boss Harry Kewell must overcome are not at all his fault, but his job now is to try and do just that. Notts were a decent side last season, their league position showed that, they were a battling side that no team wanted to come up against.
But this season they are far from that, Kevin Nolan changed his side too much over the summer and the transition that he tried to implement from an ugly but effective side to a much more attractive style was just far far too much.
Exeter’s starting 11 on Saturday showed just three players that didn’t start for them against Coventry in last season’s play-off final, but Notts County’s starting 11 showed nine changes from that that lost to Coventry in the semi-finals.
This is exactly the problem. Exeter last season were quite clearly a good side, and over the summer they made subtle signings to improve their weaker areas, Notts should have done exactly this, but didn’t, instead deciding to pretty much revamp the whole side, and with it the philosophy and went away from what made them successful last term.
And as if things couldn’t have got any worse on Saturday, Harry Kewell was shown a red card and was sent to the stands. He will more than likely receive a retrospective touchline ban for this too. Nothing is going right for the Magpies just now and people are struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Elliott Ward was made captain for Notts at Exeter, and this pretty much epitomises Notts’ problems. He only signed for the club five days before the game and the fact that he was made captain so quickly shows the real lack of leadership within the squad, he’s already the fifth captain that Notts have had this season.
With this in mind it’s no wonder that Notts are conceding so many goals. There’s no leaders, no one telling people to press and close down or pick up and track runners, no one to shout at a teammate for getting something wrong, no one to get in the face of the opposition and pick up the game by the scruff of the neck. No one looks like they care or are interested, no passion, no determination, no willingness, nothing.
When these are the sort of problems that seem to appear at a football club, especially so early into a season, then you know you are in trouble. If Harry Kewell can turn it around, then with the position that he’s taken Notts over in, he’d be one of the best managers that the club has had in recent history. That’s no exaggeration, that’s just the incredibly low situation that Notts County currently find themselves in.
However, if he can’t turn it around, which will be far from an easy feat, then Notts are well and truly facing a long season fighting from the dreaded drop out of the Football League for the first time in their history.
Right now, there’s no escaping that they are well and truly in a relegation battle.