Another game, another 3 points. It’s becoming a lovely habit isn’t it? Clearly positions don’t mean much at this stage but we’re 2nd in the league and probably still not playing anywhere near our full potential. Dare I suggest that we’ll still be there in May?
Swindon, on the back of a fantastic result at fancied Luton, hadn’t even dropped a point away from home before their Meadow Lane visit. In fairness, they clearly have some good footballers and pace in attacking areas, but overall really flattered to deceive. In truth, I was never worried that we weren’t going to hold onto our lead from Jon Stead’s first half penalty. Even when the ball came across the box in stoppage time and was lashed against the outside of the post, somehow you just knew it wouldn’t go in. When you’re flying, those last minute equalisers seldom happen.
It’s not like we’re sitting where we are having profited solely from mass amounts of luck. At times, some of the football played is beautifully slick, and the last time I felt I had this much faith in a Notts back 5 to keep clean sheets, we won the league at a canter. This isn’t just from the first eleven, this is from the whole squad. Strength in depth is something we haven’t had for a long time, yet Tuesday night almost proved any doubters that were left wrong. Various changes, probably most notably the excellent Dan Jones being dropped even after his Morecambe performance, yet Dickinson came in and produced one of his best displays in a Notts shirt.
As Dicko himself mentioned on Twitter, there was a moment in the second half where he sprinted what must have been 60 yards in order to be fed to the byline, yet when he arrived he missed his kick, the ball eventually trickling out of play. Yes, maybe a chance wasted. But if anything epitomised the Nolan era thus far perfectly, this was it. Determination, drive, a willingness to go that extra yard, everyone playing for their fellow man and for the pride of the shirt. Nobody berated him for missing that kick, the passion he’d shown to reach that position was good enough for us. That was a Carl Dickinson I didn’t see last season, and there are a number of others who have been completely rejuvenated under Nolan. Long may it continue.
Collin – been outstanding this year, proved a lot of people wrong so far. One excellent tip over from a header. 7
Tootle – MOTM, deserved but could have been a number of others. Always wears the shirt with pride. 8
Duffy – Solid. Absolutely solid. 8
Brisley – See Duffy. 8
Dicko – for me, the best I’ve seen him play. If he carries on like that we’ve got two excellent left backs in him and Jones. 8
Hawkridge – has such a brilliant engine and willingness to work. Superb first half then faded, probably knackered. 7
Yates – can already see him being my player of the season. At 19, has all the attributes to be a top class player one day. 8
Milsom – industrious and tenacious as usual, be interesting to see if Hewitt is back in at Crawley. 7
Alessandra – quiet in the first half but really came into his own after the break, clearly has skill and technique, more to come from him. Was unlucky with two shots blocked. 7
Stead – worked his socks off, as always. Still a way off what we’ve seen before but, stuck the pen away with ease. He deserves to do well this year. 7
Forte – just offers something different, pace really scares defenders. Glad he’s getting a proper chance now, will be an important player this season. 7
Grant (Hawkridge, 78) – when you can keep Jorge Grant on the bench, you’re going places. Intelligent when he came on. 6
Hewitt (Alessandra, 86) – steadied the right hand side in the dying embers of the game. 6
Smith (Stead, 90) – only on for a few mins, put himself about as always. N/A
Subs not used: Pindroch, Hollis, Jones, Saunders.