Three wins, two losses, late goals for and against, and FA Cup withdrawal – Notts County have endured a rollercoaster start to the 2020/21 season.
After having their hearts broken in a 3-1 play-off final defeat by Harrogate Town, the Magpies are pushing to go one better and return to the promised land of the Football League system.
In 2018, Notts County fell out of the English Football League pyramid for the first time in 157 years of existence. Compounding matters, the world’s oldest professional football club were staring down the barrel at financial ruin and liquidation.
After the relegation, Danish brothers Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz took over ownership from ‘Big Alan’ Hardy and Neal Ardley established himself as manager. The ship has been steadied and promotion is now back on top of the agenda.
During the 19/20 campaign, the Magpies boasted the strongest defensive record in the league
The playing squad was significantly bolstered in the recent summer transfer window. Jake Reeves, who blossomed at AFC Wimbledon under Ardley, was brought in from Bradford. He has formed a tidy midfield partnership with veteran campaigner Michael Doyle and scored a superb goal from range against Altrincham.
Two other signings are already off the mark: Jimmy Knowles, a 19 year-old striker loaned from rivals Mansfield town, and Portuguese attacking midfielder Rúben Rodrigues, signed from Den Bosch, both found the net against Maidenhead United.
In defence, Sam Gordon returned on loan from Sheffield United after impressing down the home stretch of last season. Zimbabwe international left-back Adam Chicksen also joined following his release from Bolton Wanderers.
During the 19/20 campaign, the Magpies boasted the strongest defensive record in the league. No-nonsense centre-back Connell Rawlinson won Notts County’s Player of the Season among Fans and Players.
Kyle Wootton has hit the ground running. The striker was the club’s top scorer with 13 goals in the 19/20 Conference
Neal Ardley has been less than impressed by The Magpies’ porous backline this term. His team have conceded 7 goals in 5 games. This includes an 89th minute sucker punch away at Dover on the opening day, and three at Meadow Lane against Maidenhead.
The good news is that at the top of the pitch, Notts County have scored 10 in 5 matches. They possess true firepower.
Kyle Wootton has hit the ground running. The striker was the club’s top scorer with 13 goals in the 19/20 Conference. Wootton has already notched 4 in 5 this time round, including a last-gasp winner at Sutton. Since his 12-goal strike partner Kristian Dennis moved to St Mirren, Wootton will be looking to take on the brunt of the goalscoring responsibility. So far, he is excelling.
Wes Thomas can help to share Wootton’s workload. The hard-working, aggressive striker never stops running. Against Altrincham, Thomas’s determination stole the ball on the byline, before producing the perfect cross for Wootton to finish.
Notts County’s biggest setback has not come on the pitch, however. The Magpies were forced to withdraw from their FA Cup after six players tested positive for coronavirus
Newcastle Academy graduate Cal Roberts looks the picture in County’s black and white. The skilful winger has thrived since his move from Blyth Spartans last January. Roberts glides across the turf, is two-footed and possesses match-winning quality – his sumptuous curled finished against Barnet set up a 4-2 victory.
Notts County’s biggest setback has not come on the pitch, however. The Magpies were forced to withdraw from their FA Cup after six players tested positive for coronavirus. Two league matches were postponed and the Maidenhead game only went through at the eleventh hour. Chief executive Jason Turner said:
“Naturally, we are incredibly disappointed to withdraw from the FA Cup – a competition, as past winners, we have a wonderful association with – but with only 14 available players and several positions we’re now unable to cover, on top of the clear risk of more infections coming to light in the coming days, it is only right that we take decisive action to cease training and playing for the time being.”
Notts County look safer than they have done in a decade. The foundations are finally in place for success, now the team needs to find some consistency
Without revenue from fans coming through the gates, non-league clubs have been feeling the pinch. The windfall from a televised FA cup run represents a golden ticket to financial security.
However, with the Reedtz brothers at the helm, Notts County are more secure than most of their rivals. The Danish businessmen have won plaudits for funding regular tests for the staff, despite it not being mandatory for teams in the Conference.
Notts County look safer than they have done in a decade. The foundations are finally in place for success, now the team needs to find some consistency. Their season continues away at Aldershot on Saturday 7th November.
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