It’s not often that the oldest professional club side in the world comes up against a new opponent, but tomorrow afternoon that is exactly what will happen as Notts take on newly promoted Dorking Wanderers. And whilst Notts are the oldest side in the division, Dorking are one of the newest, with a meteoric rise the likes of which have never really been seen before.
Last season Dorking finished 2nd in the National League South, and came good on their playoff run, beating Ebbsfleet in the final. That victory secured the Wanderers their 12th promotion in 23 years since their founding in 1999, an unprecedented achievement.
But that’s not the strangest thing about Dorking, as the man who has steered them to the National League, Marc White, is also the founder and a major stakeholder in the club, meaning Dorking’s story is truly a unique one. Those that follow the National League may have seen Marc White’s interviews on social media; he is certainly a character, and the league is better off for it.
If you haven’t already, and want to learn more about our hosts, we would highly recommend you check out the YouTube series ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’, a documentary series which gives viewers a behind the scenes look at Dorking.
The star of the show is undoubtedly manager White, who is extremely outspoken throughout, something he has been again this week. White was very vocal about the quality of Dorking’s pitch, saying on the NL Full Time podcast that the playing surface is dangerous. Dorking currently don’t have control over the pitch, and it would appear White wants the artificial surface changed in the near future. He also claimed it has been the source of 4 ACL injuries in 4 years, so Notts fans will be praying we can make it through the game unscathed.
Going into their game on Tuesday night Marc White had also been very critical of his players, suggesting that some already weren’t good enough and that changes were needed soon. This seemed to have motivated Wanderers, as they came away with a shock 1-0 win away to Barnet, one of the league’s early pace setters.
Even more shocking in this result is the fact Dorking kept a clean sheet; not only have they conceded the most in the league (20 goals, 3 more than second), but this clean sheet was actually their first since the 14th May. Dorking aren’t a side who are usually involved in games with just 1 goal, so Notts fans should expect entertainment despite their last result.
Dorking’s win was made even more impressive by the list of injuries they have. Chief amongst these was the season ending injury to start striker Alfie Rutherford, a man who actually out scored Macaulay Langstaff last season. He’d only got 2 goals so far this season, but one of those was in the game he suffered the injury, and the feeling was he had finally started to adapt to life in the National League. A huge blow to Marc White’s side, as they are now without their main source of goals for the rest of the season.
Despite experiencing some very bad luck with injuries, Dorking have equipped themselves well to life in tier 5.
You might look at the three straight heavy defeats to Wrexham, Boreham Wood and Solihull and think they are there for the taking, but don't be fooled, those games were played with a greatly under strength squad and against three of the better teams in the league.
When Notts travel to Meadowbank on Saturday they will be facing a team that benefitted from the cancellation of fixtures on Saturday, allowing them the time to have a couple of key players back from injury.
Add to this the new signing of midfield dynamo Alfie Egan and you can see how they got back to winning ways away at Barnet on Tuesday night.
Under the circumstances Dorking sit a credible 13th in the league on 10 points from 8 games.
Tuesday nights win over Aldershot means Notts are unbeaten in their first 8 games, winning the last 4 and conceding just 1 goal in that winning streak. The last time Notts managed 5 or more consecutive league wins was in 2017/18 where Kevin Nolan's side managed 6 wins on the trot in a 9 game unbeaten run after an opening day defeat at Coventry City. In fact later that season Notts managed a 10 game unbeaten run but that included 6 draws.
When comparing team action rankings for the season so far Notts currently rank highest in the league for possession, challenge intensity, territory, deep circulation and wing play.
Dorking's style is very similar but they have a lot less of the ball than Notts.
Dorking possess a variety of attacking threats, and the most prolific among these so far this season is James McShane. McShane is a support striker, and looks to play off of a fixed number 9, but in Rutherford’s absence this may change. He’s already scored 5 goals this season from this role, but these 5 goals came in the first 4 games, and the 31 year old hasn’t scored in his last 4 games either.
With Rutherford lost to injury the emphasis for goals will fall more heavily on McShane, a man who takes just 1.91 shots per 90. He does however hit the target with 50% of his shots, something which makes him the 9th most accurate shooter in the division. He will look to occupy the space behind Notts’ midfield, and look to add goals from there.
Dorking’s other main goal threat is 26 year old Ryan Seager, the man who partnered Rutherford up top and who has 2 goals to his name so far this season.
Seager had a brilliant season in 21/22 for Hungerford Town, netting 27 goals which led to him getting a well deserved step up into the National League. A diminutive forward with natural finishing instincts, Seager takes 2.7 shots per 90, a figure I expect to increase in his striker partner’s absence. Seager also hits the target with 60% of his shots, so Sam Slocombe is sure to be tested throughout Saturday afternoon.
By contrast, Macaulay Langstaff only gets 54.84% of his shots on target, although in fairness he takes significantly more shots (4.07 per 90). If Dorking are to get a goal on Saturday it’s likely to be through this man; the onus will be on him to score goals, something he’s proven he has the ability to do during his time at Hungerford.
Another man that Dorking brought with them from the National League South is midfielder Jack Jebb, who joined from Dartford in the summer.
Jebb is a strong midfield presence, one who makes 40.53 passes per 90, the 44th most in the league. 5.77 of these are progressive passes, so clearly Jebb is a man who looks to make things happen in that Dorking midfield. He’s also extremely adept in the defensive side of the game; he’s won a massive 76.32% of his defensive duels, showing how strong he is in the middle of the park.
By comparison Matty Palmer only wins 52.78% of his, showing how impressive Jebb’s defensive work is. He will be combative, and will be key in the midfield battle against Notts.
Dorking also added midfield dynamo Alfie Egan to their ranks in recent weeks, and the 25 year old is a signing made in a similar fashion to Dorking’s business as a whole this season.
Egan really impressed last season at Ebbsfleet, and he was part of a side that ultimately fell at the final hurdle, losing in the playoff final to none other than Dorking. So impressive were his performances that he earned himself a move to Boreham Wood in the summer, but after finding first team opportunities limited he made the move to Dorking.
Egan adds real dynamism in the midfield, as well as providing a goal threat from deeper positions; Egan scored 4 goals in 21 starts last season, showing he has a real eye for goal.
He’s a pacey midfielder who looks to drive into space, operating most effectively to the right of the midfield, allowing him to drift into wider areas where his pace can really tell. He will look to fluster Cameron and Chicksen, and could cause a real threat to our left hand side.
Marc White likes to play with a 3-5-2 and is pretty rigid in that. The only time this has really altered is in the defeat away at Solihull where an early red card for Isaac Philpot saw White making the change to 4-4-1 shortly afterwards.
Notts have been experiencing a lot more joy down the right with Aaron Nemane finding his groove as wingback and despite hard tackling LCB Jordan Cheadle and LWB Bobby-Joe Taylor standing in his way, his pace, along with the link up play with O'Brien, Scott, Rodrigues and co should really be too much for the Dorking left sided rear guard.
Dorking's attacking threat comes in the form of 31 year old attacking midfielder come centre forward James McShane who is clinical in his finishing and has a trick in his locker.
Additionally, much like Notts, Dorking's back three like to play a high line and are not afraid to drive forward with the ball. This is where Notts will have to be sure the press is doing it's job to ensure the opportunity to advance in this way is restricted, and if the press is breached the CM's will need to be ready to put a foot in.
As both teams play with a high press and high challenge intensity the difference is likely to come down to any difference in quality and organisation. Notts should really have the edge in this respect but the pitch may be a worry and could be a potential leveller.
Dorking have scored 12 and conceded 20 goals in 8 games with an xG of 1.18 per 90 minutes and xCG of 2.11 per 90.
Home record for Dorking so far:
P4 | W1 | D1 | L2 | GF 5 | GA 12 | GD -7
They are averaging 11.14 shots per 90 mins with 43.60% of those attempts on target.
At the other end of the pitch Dorking have faced an average of 17.29 shots per 90 mins with 45.50% of attempts faced on target.
By contrast Notts are averaging 2.50 goals per game with an average xG of 1.89 continuing the theme of being pretty clinical in front of goal.
Defensively Notts are conceding just 0.75 goals per game with an xGC average of 1.07 suggesting the back line is become even more resolute.
Dorking - James McShane 5 (xG 1.85)
Notts - Macaulay Langstaff 10 (xG 6.61)
Unsurprisingly the bookies have Notts as favourites for the away win.
At the time of writing you could get just 67/100 for the Notts win with 'Stake', 18/5 for the home win with 'Ladbrokes' and 31/10 for the draw with 'STS'.
The return from injury of key players plus additions to the Dorking squad means they will be a tougher opponent than the one that lost heavily at home to the likes of Wrexham and Boreham Wood.
Marc White and his players will be keen to take points off one of the big clubs and we know they will play with a high tempo and challenge intensity.
Returning with a point and keeping the unbeaten run going wouldn't be the worse result for Notts, however, that smacks of the mindset for the last few seasons and if the Magpies have any serious desire in competing for top spot this season this is definitely one of those games where "take a point" might not be enough.
Fingers crossed for a 5th win on the trot and another 3 points on the board.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard Ogando - @notts_stats
Tom Williams - @tomhwilliams23
Colin Sisson - @colin_sisson
Marc White - The Guardian
Alfie Egan - Martin Grieg Photography
James McShane - Surrey Live/Simon Roe
Jack Jebb - Twitter
Betting odds and score predictions are only used as another means to assess current form and sporting industry expectations of possible result. Notts County Stats do not endorse any form of gambling.