Ever since Notts returned to the Football League, there has been the determination to make an impact. Of “putting on a show” as the terrace favourite goes. And, as anyone reflecting on the previous month at Meadow Lane will testify, it’s certainly lived up to that billing…
There’s been no shortage of breathtaking action, with Notts amassing nine goals in three league games across November, and another three coming in the FA Cup against Crawley (seeing them concede six against the Magpies in two November meetings):
But it hasn’t all been easy viewing. Notts have heavily relied on its stellar cast of Langstaff, McGoldrick and Crowley to ensure that Notts remained on script, contributing nine goals across all November’s games and, while their talent is undeniable, there is the growing question of just how often they can provide box-office performances.
Dan Crowley’s form has been particular highlight, not only scoring crucial goals but providing opportunities and assists that prove why he had been touted for a career on a bigger stage than League Two. Not that he seems to mind, maintaining that he has never enjoyed his football more than at Meadow Lane…and it certainly shows.
Yet it hasn’t all followed the script. In a gut-wrenching plot twist, Notts lost one of its leading figures to injury along the way with the mercurial Matty Palmer being ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a serious knee injury. Football, like any entertainment industry, is often full of hyperbole and less than sincere compliments, but I think I speak for all Notts fans when I say Palmer has been an instrumental figure in the Notts brand, orchestrating play almost effortlessly in both the National League and League Two. However Notts’ story ends this season, Palmer will be a big miss from its narrative.
There has been some elements of comedy thrown in, too. It took a 93rd minute injury to referee Simon Mather to be the turning point in Notts’ away defeat to Crewe before eventually succumbing to a 109th minute penalty. Not that fans found the funny side immediately…
Notts also found themselves providing national audiences with light relief again a few weeks later, with all three of Shrewsbury’s goals in the FA Cup tie offering an eye-watering blend of horror and slapstick:
It’d be too easy to take a seasonal dig with a panto reference here, with perhaps the only real significance in that comparison being that we can smile because we all expect these moments, like panto season, to be temporary, minor distraction in a plot that has far more serious intentions and still sees Notts sitting strong in sixth place.
These moments of mirth won’t be season defining.
What will be is the budget Notts are given to reinvigorate their depleted cast, that has already seen three season-ending injuries and recent performances suggesting that Notts need more options to rotate those jaded from a gruelling first act in League Two. For all of Williams’ outstanding qualities in directing a style of play that is often outstanding to see - attracting an average of 11,000 fans in Meadow Lane - he can only do so much with what he has got.
Once the January window opens, the profile of these players will be intriguing. Notts have previously found fortune in finding unheralded talent from the lower leagues and giving them the platform to succeed, but have also supplemented these additions with star signings like Bostock, McGoldrick and Jones who have tread the boards in the leagues above.
Getting this approach right is not an easy task, but will be crucial in providing a plot that keeps us on the edge of our seats for the right reasons.
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