Luke Garrard's Boreham Wood are just one of a handful of sides who have taken points off Notts this season, and they’ll be looking for a repeat on Tuesday night. A Matty Palmer goal ensured the Magpies were victorious the last time the Wood visited Meadow Lane, and the hosts will be keen of a repeat to ensure their lead at the top is extended.
Twice Notts led earlier this season on their trip to Meadow Park, but coming from behind is a habit well ingrained at Boreham Wood. On 7 separate occasions they’ve earned points from winning positions, and they did so again at the weekend, forcing their FA Cup 3rd Round tie with Accrington Stanley to a replay.
Their cup run, the 2nd consecutive season where they have gone far in the competition, could explain their poor league positioning. The Wood are currently 13th, 5 points outside the playoffs, but they have 2 games in hand on Wealdstone who sit in 7th. That said, games in hand don’t come much harder than away at top of the league though.
Despite going well in the FA Cup The Wood have struggled in the league winning just once in their last 10 National League outings, a 2-1 home win against Oldham.
Notts are now 17 games unbeaten in the league and have won 5 of their last 6 in all competitions. If the Magpies can remain unbeaten at home to Boreham Wood and away at Chesterfield a week on Saturday they will go into the game against Neal Ardley's Solihull with a chance of breaking a club record set some 92 years earlier.
Looking at the playing styles very little changes from Notts who continue to stick to their possession based high pressing game.
Boreham Wood on the other hand will clearly be as direct as we would all expect with Challenge intensity, pressing (PPDA) and playing it long all key metrics in their playing style.
The Wood, as they have proved in previous seasons, pride themselves on having a solid defence. They have conceded just 24 goals, the same amount as Notts and despite sitting 13th in the table, only 3 sides have conceded fewer goals reinforcing the strength of their defensive play.
They operate with a 5-2-1-2, an attacking midfielder floating behind the 2 strikers up top, very similar to the system imposed by Notts at the weekend against Aldershot. However, unlike Notts, who’s wing backs play almost as extra attackers, Boreham Wood always err on the side of caution. Their foundations are on defensive solidity, and they look to frustrate their opposition and steal a goal, rather than attack. It’s therefore fair to say the Wood operate with a more defensive version of the 5-2-1-2 system and this is what we can expect against Notts on Tuesday night.
The Wood’s defensive ranks have been boosted by the recent signing of Chris Bush who recently terminated his contract by mutual consent at Bromley.
Bush was involved in Bromley’s 1-1 draw at Meadow Lane and the 6ft 3" central defender knows how to get points against County, and his aggressive defensive style is likely to ruffle a few Magpie feathers on Tuesday night. A left footed defender, Bush has a threatening long throw and is most comfortable on the left of the back 3. Similarly to County captain Cameron, Bush is a progressive ball player from this area playing 13.84 progressive passes per 90, 2nd most in the whole division. He will be key for them in both defence but also their build up.
The main goal threat is undoubtedly Lee Ndlovu, a forward who has 7 goals, making him Boreham Wood’s current top scorer. An extremely strong and physical attacker, Ndlovu, who is also eligible for Zimbabwe, had a slow start to the season, mainly due to injuries, but has now hit form.
Ndlovu nets at a rate of 0.45 goals per 90, 30th best in the division, better than the likes of Dallas at Solihull and Morias of Dagenham. He provides a focal point for the Wood, using his strength and hold up play to bring others into the attack, but he also carries threat himself. Likely to give the Notts defenders a tough time, and if the ball does fall to Ndlovu he is likely to test Slocombe; whilst he only takes 2.11 shots per 90, 50th most in the league, he hits the target with 42.42% of those shots, making him the league’s 21st most accurate shooter.
Boreham Wood also boast a couple of former Magpies in their ranks. Wing back Dion Kelly-Evans has only made 8 appearances for the Wood so far this season, the last of which was in October, so it’s unlikely he will make a return to Meadow Lane.
Former loanee Zak Brunt has had a much more successful season, playing in all 23 of their league games and also playing a prominent part in their FA Cup run. There’s also no question that Brunt is the Wood’s most creative player. Other than wing back Dennon Lewis, Brunt has the most assists in their side, and he’s also played the most smart passes too. In fact, in this regard he ranks 9th in the whole league, just highlighting how important his penetrative passing is.
Brunt managed just 60 minutes in the cup at the weekend, so whether Garrard backs him to start again remains to be seen, but he is likely to make an impact regardless, and will be extra motivated to perform at his former stomping ground.
The Wood currently sit 13th in the league with 32 points from 23 games meaning they are currently averaging 1.39 points per game.
Their away form is actually better than their home form and sees them currently 5th in the away form table with 18 points from 12 games.
With just 27 goals in the league from 23 games they are averaging just 1.17 goals per game with an xG per game of 1.39 suggesting they are under performing slightly in front of goal.
With just 24 goals conceded from 23 games The Wood are actually have one of the better defences in the league conceding 1.04 goals per game from an xCG of 1.25 per game which clearly indicates they are over performing defensively.
These numbers are improved when you look at away form scoring 14 goals from 12 games, an average of 1.17 goals per game and just 11 goals conceded on the road with an average of just 0.92 per game.
Boreham Wood Form:
P 12 | W 5 | D 3 | L 4 | F 14 | A 11 | GD +3 | PTS 18
Macaulay Langstaff - 22 (xG 19.98)
Lee Ndlovu - 7 (xG 5.39)
Very short odds on Notts as expected for the home win with 7/20 the best on offer at the time of writing with VBet Sport.
Bet365 are currently offering 9/1 for the away win and you can get 4/1 for the draw with Stake.com.
During Notts' time in the National League Boreham Wood are one of those teams you just know will make life very difficult for you. Historically Notts have not done well against teams that play a physical, high pressing and direct game but this season under Luke Williams a new possession based pressing style of their own has helped The Magpies to manage these games better than they have in previous seasons.
With some very tricky league fixtures coming up Notts really need to bag another 3 points to maintain their charge at the top of the league and continue to put pressure on Wrexham and Chesterfield who will both have cup runs and a congested fixture list to distract them.
As always thanks for reading.
Full stats report for both this game and the Aldershot win to follow.
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