League Two Gameweek 41: Notts County’s Survival Bid Back On5 min read
Notts County’s huge win
Last week’s 3-0 victory at Stevenage was arguably the biggest indication that we have seen in 2019 that Notts County can beat the drop.
For much of the campaign, the Magpies’ problem has been leaking goals: they conceded 58 of them in 38 League Two encounters without Ryan Schofield.
Since the tall, imposing goalkeeper joined on loan from Huddersfield, he has only let in 14 goals in 12 games, a return that would equate to the seventh-best defensive record if extended across a whole campaign.
The improvement has not just been about Schofield, though: despite only starting his senior career in 2019, Sam Stubbs has shown surprisingly strong leadership qualities at centre-back since joining on loan from Middlesbrough, quick enough to aid a high line.
Neal Ardley has recently opted to partner Stubbs with a more experienced centre-back partner in Richard Duffy.
That, along with Matt Tootle and Rob Milsom starting at right-back and left-back respectively, plus Jonathan Stead up top, means there are at least four longer-serving players in that side who have some grasp of what this relegation battle means to the club.
Plus, County also possess a pair of battle-hardened ball-winners in Michael Doyle, an inspirational presence behind Coventry’s promotion last term and the equally industrious Jim O’Brien, who hit a belter at Stevenage.
We've got Michael Doyle
With Jimmy in the middle
He never gives the ball away
The only way is up
— H (@H4rrisonholland) February 1, 2019
Plus, Kane Hemmings is coming into form with an impressive four goals in his last five appearances, chiefly from the left of a three-pronged attack.
Northampton’s season fading
Northampton Town lost 2-1 at home to Port Vale last week, despite having a man advantage throughout the second half.
Ironically, the Cobblers had played reasonably well at 11 against 11 and arguably created the better chances in the first half.
Their performance after the red card, however, left a lot to be desired and Keith Curle was very candid in his post-match interview with BBC Radio Northampton.
It is a very difficult situation for Curle, who has only signed two of the 11 players who started that match and must be very keen to get to the summer, when he can construct the squad in his image.
Been a lot of stick for the style of football. Fair. It's turgid. But I wouldn't judge Curle's philosophy based on this season given the dire situation he walked into. Needs must. Confident he'll be more expansive next season. Whether successful or not is another matter #ntfc
— James Heneghan (@James_ChronNTFC) April 2, 2019
For now though, he has taken a very brave step in questioning the mentality of his players, implying that some of them are not as good as they think they are and have not done the basics of football.
Normally, it takes a lot for a manager to be as open as that, so we can presume that Curle is only scratching the surface in terms of the problems in that Northampton dressing room and everybody should be accountable.
It can sometimes help a manager if they have some dominant figures in the group who can do some of the necessary telling off and share some of the unpopularity that comes with that.
At Northampton, it is difficult to imagine anyone other than maybe David Buchanan being that type of figure and that puts Curle in a challenging situation between now and the summer transfer window.
Tip: Notts County to win –
Read Gabriel’s weekend Championship preview.