On Friday night, “Bloody hell, Notts” was trending again on Twitter as Kevin Nolan’s side threw away what seemed like a comfortable two-goal advantage. We did it last week; we’ve done it this week, and it’s safe to say we’ll probably do it a few more times this season.
Six days prior, away at Wycombe Wanderers, we could forgive shipping two worldies – more so when you consider how we ended the match – but this was one of those games where even the most pessimistic Notts fans assumed the points were in the bag. We were coasting, yet somehow we went from a certain three points to being lucky to escape with one… “Bloody hell, Notts.”
Friday night football couldn’t have been positioned better than at the beginning of a bank holiday weekend. And, what better way to celebrate the occasion than by getting a few stamps in the pale ale book with down the Navi, before stumbling through the Meadow Lane gates 30 seconds after kick-off.
In honesty, missing the first half-an-hour wouldn’t have made much difference, as neither side threatened to produce anything worthy of creeping your backside towards the edge of this year’s slightly cleaner seats. Thankfully, things picked up after Jon Stead was bundled to the ground during an aerial challenge and Notts were awarded a penalty. It appeared soft in real time, though nobody in the home ends minded when the last two seasons’ top scorer slid the ball into the bottom-right corner for his first goal of the campaign.
Another goal ahead of the break seemed unlikely and a smattering of supporters made their way down to the concourses with a couple of minutes left on the clock, in anticipation of beating the half time queues. Lucky they did because even the early birds in the Derek Pavis Stand were fortunate to see their food and drink before the beginning of the second 45, despite the lines being just 10 or so customers deep.
The sluggish service speed compared with other venues does make you wonder how much money is being lost by the club on each matchday. Last season, you’d often see supporters giving up on a half time pie or pint, and, frustratingly, it seems to be happening again. “Bloody hell, Notts.”
The second half action was what we came to expect on the back of last weekend’s six-goal thriller, as the Magpies opened at a much quicker pace and were rewarded when Terry Hawkridge, arguably the most impressive new arrival of the summer, surged past the visitors’ right-back and picked out Jorge Grant with a searching cross. Grant is worth a fiver to find the net in every home game and he did just that with an excellent finish from the edge of the box, only to be deducted match rating points for a dab.
Typical Notts, we let Accrington, our bogey side, back into the game with a soft goal, having failed to clear a hopeful long ball into the box. “Bloody hell, Notts.” Even then, we looked comfortable and there was every faith that we’d see out the win after the ref sent off Stanley’s Mekhi McLeod and waved away a stone-wall penalty.
In the closing stages, Shola Ameobi passed up a golden opportunity to tee up Grant, whose drive was deflected over, and half man, half slug Matt Tootle was dismissed for a second yellow card. “Bloody hell, Notts…” Both incidents proved costly, as Accrington snatched a point in the 95th minute. “Bloody hell, Notts!” And, the visitors would have snatched maximum points had it not been for Adam Collin, who continued his much improved form between the sticks with a vital stop.
This may have sounded like a bit of a moan in parts but there are still improvements to be made on and off the pitch. What’s clear is that significant progress has been made and we’re much stronger than we were 12 months ago.
We now look a side that has the makings of a solid defence, if we can cut out the small errors, and it’s evident that we now have the individual and collective talent to trouble any defence in this division. We may have missed out on a chance to go top for a few hours but you can put a lot of that down to the Accrington goalkeeper, because on another day it could have been a hammering.
Positive signs looking ahead to the rest of the season but… “BLOODY HELL, NOTTS.”
Match ratings: Collin 7, Tootle 5, Duffy 6, Brisley 6, Jones 6, Hawkridge 7, Yates 6, Hewitt 6, Grant 7, Ameobi 5, Stead 5. Subs: Forte 6, Hunt 5, Milsom 5. Other: Pre-Match Speed of Service 8, Half Time Speed of Service 1, Half Time Pie 7.