For context, these ratings come from a fan who visits Meadow Lane far less frequently than most in the stands and, depressingly, it is not uncommon for me to visit only once or twice during any manager’s short-lived tenure. But since my last visit for the defeat at home to Cambridge United in late November, things have changed even more than usual.
Indeed, the ‘match day experience’ alone seems to have changed more in three short months than in many of the 20 years I have been a Notts fan. While cashless turnstiles and live music on the concourse may not be to everyone’s tastes, few can deny there is a real sense that life is being breathed back in to Notts County Football Club.
That is in no small part down to a chairman who has a clear vision for the club that extends beyond what happens on-the-pitch. However, credit should also be given to the chairman’s first managerial appointment, Kevin Nolan, who seems to be settling in well.
While it is clichéd, it is clear he is quickly shaping the team in his own image as a player: honest with just enough technical ability but, above all else, a fierce intensity that offers a real platform to build upon. Although today’s match saw few stand-out individual performances, the tenacity and togetherness shown by Nolan’s side by the barrow-load will be a welcome ‘culture shock’ for most Notts fans who will be forgiven for leaving Meadow Lane with real hope for what the next chapter in the club’s history could hold.
Adam Collin – 7 – Few shots to save but stood up well to the physical pressure from the visiting players, particularly in punching clear a number of corners delivered deep in to a crowded six-yard box.
Elliott Hewitt – 6 – Once looked such a promising talent but his progress seems to have faltered. A solid enough display today but still showed glimpses of the slack positioning in defence that gives cause for concern.
Richard Duffy – 8 (Man of the Match) – Have heard horror stories of his performances this season but was in fine form today. Scored the second with a clever header at the near post and bravely blocked with his stomach in the second-half. The pick of the Notts rearguard.
Thierry Audel – 7 – Returned from injury today and showed no ill-effects. Quickly becoming an important part of Nolan’s efforts to stabilise his defence. Has had his moments this season but was solid today – perhaps epitomising today’s performance.
Bola – 7.5 – Showed real intelligence and stood up to the physical nature of the opposition well where others on the Arsenal payroll may have struggled. Kept the impressive Waters at arms’ length and has plenty of potential to offer more in attack over the coming weeks.
Curtis Thompson – 7 – Back in the side after returning from suspension and proved worthy of his place. Doesn’t necessarily fit the ‘flying wingers’ championed by the new chairman but showed technical ability, made good use of possession and was unlucky not to score in the second-half.
Michael O’Connor – 8 – The club’s hopes of maintaining its Football League status will depend on the new manager’s ability to engage the obvious talents of players like O’Connor on a more consistent basis. Battled well and produced a sublime through-ball from deep for Stead’s opener.
Rob Milsom – 7 – The first time I have seen Milsom start and so have very little grounds for comparison. However, his defensive qualities and smart use of possession complemented O’Connor well.
Mark Yeates – 7 – Enjoyed an eventful first-half but faded as the game went on. Offered consistent deliveries from corners and was unlucky to see his first-half drive shave the crossbar. He also used to be good on Championship Manager, which is well-worth an extra half a mark.
Shola Ameobi – 6.5 – Visibly struggling for fitness but should prove a good foil for the more mobile Jon Stead. Looked aggrieved by the lack of decisions given in his favour but showed intelligence with his knockdowns (including one that teed up O’Connor’s assist) and an outrageous flick in the second half that brought the crowd to their feet. A solid short-term addition to the squad, once fit.
Jon Stead – 7.5 – Typically hard-working display topped by a thundering finish for the opening goal. Clearly benefitted from Ameobi occupying the Cheltenham defence but faded slightly as he reverted to the ‘target man’ role when he was joined by Forte in attack.
Jonathan Forte (Ameobi, 72) – 6 – Should have killed the game stone-dead with a feeble effort that came back off the post. Otherwise had little opportunity to impress.
Tahvon Campbell (Yeates, 72) – 6 – Blazed high and wide from Forte’s rebound but otherwise offered real pace and trickery. Didn’t look out of place when introduced into such a physical encounter late-on.
Jorge Grant (Thompson, 80) – 6 – A late introduction who, again, had little opportunity to impress.
Subs not used: Loach, Clackstone, Dickinson, Smith.
Agree? Disagree? Leave your ratings in the comments box below.