Notts face another National League challenge on Tuesday evening when they face league leaders Stockport County at Edgeley Park.
In this report we'll will take a closer look at the Hatters. We'll consider their shape and style of play and look to identify their strengths and where their threats are likely to be, but additionally we'll look at possible weaknesses and how Notts might look to exploit them.
The report is based on Stockport's last 5 league games and any data published is from Wyscout.
Stockport County - Last 5 League Games
Formations & Playing Style
In the above games Stockport have predominantly started with a 3-5-2 formation except for the last game against Aldershot where Dave Challinor changed to a 4-3-3.
This appears to have been a forced change primarily due to the suspensions of captain Liam Hogan and left sided defender Mark Kitching. Hogan will miss the match with Notts as he serves the last of his 3 game suspension. Kitching will be available again having served his one match ban in the Aldershot game so you would expect him to come back into the starting 11 and see a return to a more familiar 3-5-2 formation.
Like Notts, Stockport are comfortable in possession and will look to play out from the back. However, they are still pretty direct in their attacking transitions and will look to move the ball into the opposition's final third as quickly as possible.
Ash Palmer in the middle of the back 3 will often look to pivot with two of the central midfielders who will occasionally drop a little deeper, this will cause the opposition forwards to be drawn inside and create space for the wide players to receive and progress the ball.
As the attacking phase develops down the wings the central midfielder moves higher up the pitch allowing him to combine and link with the two centre forwards, becoming a 3-4-1-2 formation. This in turn creates an overload in the box when a cross is delivered.
'Fig 1' below shows Stockport's typical shape in a 3-5-2 and how they transition in the build up as described above.
From open play Stockport will defend high and attack with pace and width. With an average of just under 23 crosses per 90 minutes there is no other team in the league comes close.
Most of those crosses appear to come from their right flank with Macauley Southam-Hales and Ollie Crankshaw with the most deliveries. The crossing threat from the left comes in the form of Ryan Rydel.
The main threats from crosses into the box are Paddy Madden and Will Collar who have been on the end of most deliveries in the games assessed. Also the vast majority of crosses are in the air with very few ground crosses or cut backs.
There is an aerial threat from set pieces in Ash Palmer and Scott Quigley.
The video clip below shows Ash Palmer scoring the only goal from a corner in the Woking game and highlights his aerial threat, although the Woking marking leaves a bit to be desired.
Video: Stockport County YouTube.
As you would expect from any Dave Challinor team Stockport are very well drilled in keeping their shape and how they progress the ball.
The wing backs play very high and the majority of Stockport's ball losses occur down the wings and in the opposition half. Because of this and due to the speed at which they try to progress the ball they will leave space in behind the wing backs that Notts can look to exploit on a turnover of possession.
Additionally the centre backs and/or the centre midfielders will be drawn across to cover leaving space either in behind the recovering wing back or in the hole between defence and midfield for Notts to take advantage of.
'Fig 2' below shows how space can be left to be exploited when the possession is lost in the oppositions defence third.
Ultimately Stockport will play with a high tempo and look to defend from the front with a high defensive line. This means it will be difficult for Notts to play their usual possession based build up so will need to be a little more direct in their approach.
The main threat will come from the wings and Notts will need to be resolute in their defensive shape and positioning to try and keep that threat to a minimum. That said settling into a defensive mid/low block will invite more pressure from Stockport which will become harder to deal with as the game goes on.
Notts could look to capitalise on ball losses from Stockport when they are attacking in Notts' defensive third. However they will need to be alert to the opportunity and counter at pace.
Notts' team selection and formation will probably be forced upon Ian Burchnall due to illness currently decimating the squad. With not knowing exactly who will be available it's difficult to suggest a formation but whatever the starting eleven a 4-3-3 might be the best option, allowing for a 4-5-1 when out of possession and will be better suited to a mid/low block if required. Additionally a 4-3-3 can easily switch to a 4-2-3-1 with a natural No10 when in possession, a formation Notts are more than familiar with.