So we finally find ourselves counting down to a National League play off semi final against Barnet.
There have been times during the last few months that many would have felt the great form Notts found themselves in prior to the virus enforced lock down would be for nought, but thankfully it served to propel the Magpies to a 3rd place final standing in a PPG calculated league table and a home tie semi final to look forward to.
Normally my previews would be heavily form related but considering the time that has passed since we last played it is difficult to see how that can now be a consideration. All we really have to go on is how the two teams compared throughout the season and the performance Barnet gave in their win away at Yeovil in the eliminator match.
During that game we saw a Barnet side that rode their luck, absorbed considerable periods of pressure and used their pace to counter swiftly on the break. It just proved to show that anything can happen in a one off 90 minute knock out match, played behind closed doors and thus eliminating an element of home advantage . . . oh joy!
We can take some solace from the fact that in general Notts' results against Barnet are better than against Yeovil.
We have played Barnet 20 times in total, winning 10, drawing 3 and losing 7.
Comparing the two clubs over the the matches completed in the league this season suggests Notts would be edging it as favourites overall. However, Barnet have been better away from home and have already beaten Notts at Meadow Lane, albeit very early in the season.
The Bees, like Notts have a tendency to score more goals in the second half. They have taken the lead 16 times in 35 league matches and were leading at half time in just 9 of 35 league matches.
Additionally when conceding the lead they have managed to equalise on 12 occasions out of 21 giving them a 57% equaliser rate.
In comparison Notts have taken the lead in 19 of 38 games and have lead at half time on 12 occasions.
Interestingly both clubs share the same stats for equalising goals from losing positions.
How each teams goals compare per game segment:
Bees boss Darren Currie was unable to hold on to a few senior players due to contracts ending but those he does have at his disposal will be feeling confident of getting some success in the semi final after a courageous if not fortunate display at Yeovil.
In my last post I mentioned Paul McCallum, (pictured) would be a key player for Barnet and he didn't let me down, scoring with a well taken strike for the opening goal. Without a doubt he will be one for the Notts rear guard to keep an eye on.
Notts will be without Regan Booty (pictured) and Damien McCrory who are both feeling the effects of existing injuries but Neal Ardley was boosted by being able to recall former loanee Joel Bagan into the squad from Cardiff City as well as managing to sign forward Scott Wilson on a short term deal from Oldham.
Stats aside you have to feel that a Notts side fielding the likes of Boldewijn, Roberts and Wootton etc will just have too much for Barnet. Yeovil only have themselves to blame for some poor finishing and you would imagine the Magpies, second only to Barrow in the "goals for" column will have more success given the same circumstances.
Barnet's victory at Yeovil will not only galvanise their confidence but will have provided them with the kind of preparation only a competitive game of football can offer. It's been 4 months since any Notts player kicked a ball in anger but they can take comfort in the fact that this is a game where there will be no extra time played ensuring any lack of fitness should not be too much of a hindrance.
Knowing Neal Ardley as we do it's probably fair to say that Slocombe, Wootton, Doyle, Rose, Boldewijn, and Roberts will be first on his team sheet. I could also see Brindley at RB and possibly DKE at LB with either Turner or Lacey partnering Rawlinson in the middle of defence. I also have a feeling he will favour Thomas over Dennis or Wilson as Wootton's strike partner.
Now bear in mind that with 5 subs allowed from 6 on the bench and that we still have Dennis, Wilson, Crawford, O'Brien, Osborne, Turner/Lacey, Bakayogo and Bagan waiting in the wings you can't help but feel Notts' strength in depth is what will see them through.
Bet365 have Notts as favourites with odds of 6/5 and are offering a generous 9/4 on a Barnet win.
I was going to do some stats on penalties, but to be honest I don't want to tempt fate so fingers crossed the business is done for Notts in the 90 mins and I have plenty of positives to report on come 7pm on Saturday!
Once again, thanks for reading . . . COYP!
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