After Notts made it five winless in the league following Tuesday night’s dismal 0-0 draw at home to Oldham Athletic, it will be a welcome relief that Notts’ next two games are both in cup competitions, starting on Saturday at Oakwell in the FA Cup.
Although Tuesday’s 0-0 draw looks like a solid point from the outside, getting a clean sheet and stretching the unbeaten run to two, it was far from that.
Had the Latics won the game by five or six, there would have been no complaints from the County fans, who watched their team outplayed from the first minute to the last.
Had it not been for Notts ‘keeper Ross Fitzsimons between the sticks, who pulled off at least four phenomenal saves, tied in with wasteful finishing from Oldham’s frontmen Ishmael Miller and Jonathan Benteke, then Oldham really would have walked away with it.
However, the fact of the matter is that, somehow, Notts did get a rare clean sheet and another point on the board, despite playing the last 30 minutes without a striker after Harry Kewell made the bizarre choice to replace striker Kristian Dennis for centre-back Richard Duffy on the hour mark, a substitution that caused the County faithful to become very irate.
But, on to Saturday, when Notts travel to a very good Barnsley side who are currently occupying the League One play-off positions.
Daniel Stendel has assembled a very good squad for that division; Dani Pinillos played 16 times for Nottingham Forest last year in the Championship, midfielders George Moncur, Alex Mowatt, Brad Potts and Cameron McGeehan have all scored goals from midfield this season, and strikers Kieffer Moore and Mamadou Thiam have already scored 12 goals between them so far in 16 games.
Whilst Barnsley likely won’t name their strongest team on Saturday, they will still put out a good team. The FA Cup won’t be a priority for them as they try to get back into the Championship at the first attempt, but they are normally a team that takes cup competitions seriously – they won the Checkatrade Trophy the last time they were in League One.
Notts will hopefully give some game time to some of the ‘fringe’ players on Saturday. Andy Kellett, Noor Husin, David Vaughan, Tom Crawford, David Vaughan, Dan Jones, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain and some others too seem to have fallen completely out of favour with Harry Kewell, but with the Magpies next two games being against Barnsley in the FA Cup and then Doncaster in the Checkatrade Trophy, hopefully that will give them their chance to come back into the fray.
Notts won in their last outing at Oakwell, in League One back in 2014. On-loan winger Michael Petrasso scored twice in the second half as the Magpies ran out 3-2 victors to leave them fifth in League One. No one in the 18 that day are still on the books at Notts, whilst current Notts forward Kane Hemmings was on the bench for the Tykes. Notts actually haven’t lost at Oakwell in their last seven meetings there, dating back to 1991.
Notts went further in last year’s competition than Barnsley, despite the Tykes not coming in until the third round, where they lost 4-1 at Millwall. Notts crashed out in the fourth round, 8-1 at Swansea in a replay, and it’s fair to say that the cup run as a whole had an effect on the league campaign, so Notts will be wary of that this time around, although for a different reason. Last year the cup run played it’s part in Notts dropping out of the top three and having to settle for the play-offs, if something similar happens this year, Notts could end up dropping into the bottom two as a consequence.
But that being said, Notts will still go to Barnsley looking for their first win in six, if nothing else to boost confidence, although that won’t be easy as Barnsley are yet to lose at Oakwell this season.
But it’s the cup, so anything is possible.
Picture Credit: Notts County