Preview | Boreham Wood (a)
A first away game of the season will provide Notts with their first real challenge of the season as they head just north of the capital for a tricky encounter with one of the leagues more organised sides.
Luke Garrard has developed a reputation for fielding teams that display a solid and physical defensive intent, relying on a disciplined mid-low defensive block which makes them very difficult to break down, coupled with a direct attacking style, utilising long ball progression into the final third.
However, this season may see a slight change to this with the inclusion of ex Notts loanee Zak Brunt (on loan from Sheffield United), who is playing as part of a front three, sat just behind the forwards, providing Garrard with a more creative outlet in attack.
This became apparent for The Wood's opener away at Southend where Brunt was able to receive the ball just inside the final third before dissecting the Southend back line with a slide rule pass wide right resulting in a goal from the subsequent cross.
Tom Williams analysed Brunt's potential impact at Boreham Wood in a recent Notts County Stats article which you can read here.
One familiar face Notts fans won't see at Meadow Park on Saturday is that of Dion Kelly-Evans. The popular ex-Notts right back, who provided the assist for The Wood's winning goal at Southend, finds himself suspended following a straight red card for an innocuous two footed challenge in the dying minutes of that game.
The manner of Boreham Woods win at Southend on opening day again epitomised what Luke Garrard's teams are all about. Having gone ahead in the 28th minute the Hertfordshire outfit set about their usual and efficient method of defending their lead, a task that increased in difficulty with the dismissal of front man Lee Ndlovu on 72 mins and then the DKE dismissal on 89 minutes.
Again, difficult to assess current form on just one game but we know exactly what to expect from Boreham Wood!
Left footed Centre back Femi Ilesanmi was instrumental in leading his team to victory at Roots Hall on opening day. The experienced 31 year old has previously turned out in League One with Dag & Red and was involved in a divisional game week high of 17 defensive duels and contributed 9 progressive passes.
At 6'1" and 76kg he is both physical and athletic and will be the player most likely to be tasked with keeping an eye on Sam Austin. Let's hope Notts use this to their advantage and that Austin's movement and energy will be enough to drag Ilesanmi out of position creating space for Notts to capitalise on.
At the other end of the pitch The Wood have another experienced head in 31 year old Danny Newton. Player of the season for Stevenage in 2018 Newton, the scorer of the only goal against Southend, has already proven his ability as a match winner.
He will be a player our back 3 have to watch carefully, and Newton doesn’t need many opportunities to score, needing just the one attempt at goal to convert last Saturday's winner. He also only had 2 touches in the opposition box, showing he doesn’t need a lot of time or space to make his mark.
Newton was also involved in 5 defensive duels, and with fellow forward Ndlovu suspended, his trademark work off the ball will be even more important to Luke Garrard’s side. This is further confirmed by his heatmap below.
Between the sticks Boreham Wood have Nathan Ashmore. The 32 year old keeper made 3 saves at Roots Hall last weekend, including the save of the weekend, holding onto a strike from Cavaghn Miley with just one hand.
Ashmore spent the latter half of last season on loan at Maidenhead, where he made 3.45 saves per 90, 10th highest in the division. Ashmore is a surprisingly athletic keeper, despite his larger frame, and with a better defence in front of him this season you’d expect him to add to the clean sheet he recorded last week.
As we've already touched on, Luke Garrard's teams are usually very well organised defensively.
At 0-0 you can expect them to be direct in progressing the ball coupled with a high press. If they score then it's likely they will revert to a more defensive mid-low block to try and frustrate the Notts attack and maintain their lead.
Most likely formation will be a 3-4-1-2 with wing backs, two holding midfielders and Zak Brunt just in behind the front two. However, the loss of both Ndlovu and Kelly-Evans might force Garrard go for a more traditional 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation.
It's worth noting that with temperatures looking to be in the mid 30's by 3pm Saturday this could have a big impact on how the two teams approach game and may play a part in slowing play down a little.
Last season The Wood scored 1.17 goals per 90 minutes with an xG of 1.16 suggesting they performed exactly as expected in front of goal.
Their progressive play was very much based on direct, long balls and territory gain. They averaged an unremarkable 122 forward passes per 90 minutes with a 55.2% success rate. A small tweak in playing style to accommodate the likes of Brunt and Newton might see an increase in these numbers as the season progresses.
Defensively they conceded 0.89 goals per 90 with an xCG of 1.11 suggesting they overperformed, albeit marginally in defence compared to expectations.
Boreham Wood will be the first team Notts face that will press as aggressively as Luke Williams wants his team to press. He mentioned this in his pre-match presser where he made note of the fact that Notts will have to display greater intensity in their build up to overcome the Boreham Wood press and block.
Notts back three should be enough to compete physically with the Boreham Wood attack but this game could be won or lost in midfield. If Ed Francis played his best match as the deep lying CM against Maidenhead he will have to be even better again against a much more physical team.
The movement and creativity of Rodrigues and Austin will also have a big impact on the result and expect the Notts wing backs to play a little deeper in the early stages.
Score predictions for this weekends fixtures below. We had a mixed bag of results following GW1 predicting 6 correct results with one including the correct score.
Don't forget you can enter the Notts County Stats score prediction league here.
Despite being away from home Notts are slight favourites where you can get 6/5 on a win for Luke Williams boys.
A Boreham Wood win is currently coming in around 9/4 and you are looking at 23/10 for the draw.
Based on these odds the expected chance of a Notts win is 45% but historically they win 39% of games when at these odds.
Boreham Wood expected win at 9/4 is 31%, however, historically they win 29% of games when at these odds.
This isn't Notts' first rodeo at Meadow Park so they will know exactly what to expect. Luke Garrard's plans may have been scuppered a little by the loss of Kelly-Evans and Ndlovu but this won't make them any easier to break down.
For Notts Cameron, Baldwin and Brindley should have enough to quell the expected Wood bombardment. With Palmer making an appearance off the bench last time out he might be a potential starter but equally can't see O'Brien not getting a start. This could however result in Williams reverting to a 4-2-3-1 to try and gain an advantage in the middle of the park.
Notts do have the added advantage of having the best creative attacking midfielder/forward in the league in Rodrigues, and it's his trickery and desire to track back and recover possession, coupled with the movement, pace and link up play of Austin and Langstaff that could be the difference in what should be a fascinating battle.
As always thanks for reading. If you have any questions regarding the stats or our work in general please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Betting odds and score predictions are only used as another means to assess current form and sp