Notts County in real trouble

Managerless, winless in six in the league, into the bottom two of League Two yet again, and just been hammered 3-0 at home by a side who started the day as one of only two teams below the Magpies in the division, it is really not a good time to be a Notts County supporter.

Fans don’t expect to win every game. They don’t expect every player to put in a faultless display week after week. They don’t expect a manager to never make a mistake. But what they do expect is passion, wanting to play for the shirt, a willingness to not leave anything on the pitch after a match. All things that are not just lacking, but are non-existent.

Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Cheltenham was unacceptable on so many levels: an inexplicably bad performance, with the concession of three inexplicably bad goals, that left the County fans wondering what has gone so wrong over just a few months.

In May, Notts County, under Kevin Nolan, reached the semi-finals of the League Two play-offs, losing in harsh circumstances to Coventry. The summer saw some ins and outs, arguably a few more than necessary, but the new recruits all seemed an improvement on what had been seen the previous season, standing Notts, so we thought, in good stead to improve on last year’s 5th place finish.

However, that simply wasn’t to be. The Magpies haven’t even been in the top half yet this campaign, and have conceded just nine goals fewer already this term than they conceded in the whole of last season.

So, what has gone wrong? Nobody seems to know.

Chairman Alan Hardy has invested significant money in players and staff, and has not shied away from making big decisions in sacking two managers, Kevin Nolan and Harry Kewell, both seemingly the correct decision based on the poor performances.

But certain players who, including caretakers, have played under three managers this season already, should be the ones taking the blame for the sheer demise of the club.

The performances of three quarters of the side that played against Cheltenham on Saturday was utterly abject, players that have now proved themselves not up to it repeatedly this season, under as many as three different managers, who should not be given another chance.

Some players are even beyond blaming, they shouldn’t be in this situation where they are having to take any blame for what is going on. Keston Davies, on loan from Swansea City, was given his first start for Notts at the weekend, despite signing on deadline day in August – it’s quite apparent why he hasn’t made a start before Saturday – he was an emergency loan, signed somewhat in panic to get numbers in defence, who proved whilst at Yeovil on-loan last season that right now he isn’t good enough. What makes it worse is that the recently turned 21-year-old centre back was asked to play in midfield, leaving David Vaughan on the bench, and whilst Vaughan hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees during his short time at Notts, that selection, amongst others, is a complete head-scratcher.

And whilst I’m not singling young Keston Davies out – he had some nice touches and did ok in the first half – it emphasises the point that nobody knows what’s going on and that Notts are in real trouble.

A few weeks ago, when this bad run of performances started with a 4-0 defeat at Bury, the majority of Notts fans were not worried by the virtue that they’ll be safe because there’s at least two worse sides in the division than them. Unfortunately for Macclesfield, they seem to be one, having won only once this season and sitting five points adrift of safety, the huge worry now is that Cheltenham, who many would have said were the other side that would finish below the Magpies, have just thumped them 3-0 on their own patch.

The only optimism left around Meadow Lane is that this week will see a new manager appointed. Paul Hurst is now at the forefront of the odds, but if he was at the game on Saturday as he was reported to be, he may well be changing his mind pretty quickly now that he has seen the size of the task in hand.

Whoever the new manager is, he can’t afford to get it wrong; there’s no longer any room for error, if Notts make any more mistakes this season then relegation to the National League beckons.

They say to enjoy the highs, you have to embrace the lows. Well us Notts fans have had enough of the latter to last a lifetime. Just in recent years we’ve been beaten embarrassingly in the FA Cup by Havant and Waterlooville and Salford City, we’ve been thrashed 5-0 away at local rivals Mansfield Town, 5-0 at home to Carlisle, 6-0 at Rotherham, even lost ten league matches in a row, but this right now is, by far, the worst.

Picture Credit: Notts County

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