After an eight-game losing streak in all competitions, Notts County finally stopped the rot with an entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Stevenage to get their first point since opening day.
But whilst the losing streak comes to an end, the winless streak continues and stretches to 10 games in all competitions so far this season, their worst ever at the start of a season.
The defence and the concession of goals remains a problem too. The Magpies have now conceded 24 league goals so far this season; it took them until Boxing Day last campaign, which was 24 games in, to concede that amount of goals, they’ve done it this season in merely eight matches.
The only time that Notts have conceded more goals at the start of a season was in the very first Football League season back in 1888. After seven matches they’d conceded 23 goals, but a 7-0 defeat to eventual unbeaten champions Preston North End on Matchday Eight meant that Notts had conceded 30 goals after their opening eight matches, unbelievably six more goals than they’ve let in this campaign.
Of the 25 Notts players that they have used so far, 12 have been used in the defence and this is quite probably the reason why Notts have had so many problems defensively. The lack of leadership was seen as the problem, but it may well actually be the lack of a gelled back four. Of the back four that started against Stevenage, three of them had been fairly new signings, with two of them, Jamie Turley and Cedric Evina, being signed just the day before the game. And whilst they slotted straight into the team, just signing more defenders isn’t the answer to solving the obvious defensive issues.
County have eight out-and-out centre-backs within their squad now, it’s not necessarily too many as it provides competition that had been lacking in the opening weeks of the season, but it is definitely a lot, and makes it difficult for Harry Kewell to be sure of who makes his best and strongest 11. Competition for places is never a bad thing, but with eight centre/backs all pushing for a place in the team, it’s likely that at least half of them will miss out on a matchday squad which could be even more damaging for confidence.
What’s more is that 35-year-old veteran striker Jon Stead and winger Lewis Alessandra, who were both at the Magpies last season, were arguably the two contenders for man of the match on Saturday, which makes you question why Notts spent so much money on the strike force over the summer. Two new recruits in Enzio Boldewijn and Kane Hemmings did also make the score sheet, but the Notts squad all round feels like it’s a bit too big now.
The answer to the problems seems to be to just simplify things. Kevin Nolan tried very hard to change his own philosophy too much, he changed formations, changed positions of players who had shined in a more natural position previously, and in the end inevitably lost his job for it.
Harry Kewell needs to be cautious, even at this early stage of his Notts reign, of not going the same way. He needs to find what works and stick with it. He already seems to have found his feet with County when going forwards, he now just needs to work out a solution when defending, wholly as a team. Once he’s found that, he needs to stick with it and keep it simple, not overcomplicate it like his predecessors, and then hopefully Notts can finally start to climb the league table.
It says something when a club can make their worst ever start to a season in their history, but fans still remain optimistic. Notts fans stuck with their team wholeheartedly on Saturday, they applauded the team off and the players were clearly appreciative of the crowd sticking with them. Harry Kewell has already restored some pride and fight into his players and so here’s hoping that he can keep the turnaround going, and use this 3-3 draw as the start of a run.