As we enter the closing stages of the season, Notts County, who were second at the start of 2018, now sit in fifth place in League Two and are four points behind the automatic promotion places. Kevin Nolan insists that it will take Notts to approach their remaining games as if they were all cup finals should they want to continue their promotion push -starting with Stevenage visiting Meadow Lane.
With twelve games left of the season, Notts County have had a dip in form, losing two of their last five league games, one of these being to bottom of the table Barnet. After not losing at home in the league all season, County found themselves lose two games in four days at Meadow Lane in January. These losses have attributed to their form in 2018, seeing the Magpies only win three league games so far this year.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, manager Kevin Nolan seems confident that they can still push for promotion and the automatic places are not out of contention. Nolan said that County have given themselves a fantastic chance of getting into League One and if the team gets back to where they were six weeks ago then the results they want will start to materialise. He also wants to put emphasis on how far the club has come, as this time last year they were nearly relegated out of the Football League, so even if this season doesn’t end in promotion it has still been a success.
‘because they have out performed original expectations, those expectations have raised’
Fans have been critical of some of their recent performances, with a sticking point being their loss to Cambridge on Tuesday as they registered no shots on target. However, Nolan highlighted that at the start of this season a top half finish was what most people thought would have been a success, and because they have out performed original expectations, those expectations have raised. Despite the disappointment of losing second place and falling to fifth, Nolan stressed that he wants the squad to enjoy the last games of the season and that they shouldn’t feel any pressure.
He also said that these last games are like twelve cup finals, and that although they are important and promotion is the ultimate goal, if the Magpies don’t get promoted it should not be seen as a failure. They still have the four sides above them to play, which Nolan claimed made the end of the season even more exciting and allowed County to have their destiny in their own hands.
As Saturday’s game against Stevenage approaches, defender Richard Duffy said the most important thing for the squad is to stick together, but he did accept that they need to get back to winning ways to give their promotion push momentum. He also commented on the pressure the team is under, stating that every team is under pressure and the Magpies are in a strong position with twelve games to go and need to enjoy their remaining games. Nolan has said that at the minute County are going through a rough patch and they are trying to sort it out as quickly as possible. He stated that Stevenage will be a good test and if County stick to their game plan and exploit Stevenage’s weaknesses then they have a good chance of taking all three points and have the potential to start a run of positive results which the team needs at the minute.
Stevenage approach the game after a 4-1 win at home against Yeovil Town, which was a great result, as they have lost four of their last five games. Although they sit in fifteenth and any promotion hopes are probably out the window, this is arguably the toughest game of their next five, and Darren Sarll’s team will be keen to see what they can do against a top side, particularly with County’s record of underperforming against teams in the bottom half of the table.
The Magpies will be looking to bounce back after their disappointing loss at Cambridge and try to close the gap on their promotion rivals, but Stevenage will be up for the challenge of facing County at Meadow Lane and see if they can harness the confidence from getting goals from four different players on Saturday. Winning this game is going to boost County’s promotion hopes, as if they lose and other results don’t go their way they could find themselves in seventh and on the edge of the play-offs.
Is promotion possible for Nolan’s Magpies? As the man said himself, their destiny is in their own hands. But does a side who don’t register a shot on target against a mid-table, managerless team have what it takes to fight off the competition in the arduous push for promotion out of League Two? The spirit of the team and management that I have seen makes one believe they can do it, but they’ve got to find the consistency, conviction and courage that they had in 2017 to give themselves a chance of making their promotion dreams a reality.