As the heavy fog clouding the start of the National League season finally starts to clear I can't tell you how good it feels to be finally posting a pre match preview for a league game again.
Obviously the sooner fans can get back in the stands the better but for now we can be grateful the season is going ahead as planned and although live streaming will never replace attending a game in the flesh it will provide fans with an opportunity to continue to watch their teams in the short term whilst providing clubs with some much needed revenue.
On to the football and as it's the first game of the season there's not much in the way of recent form to analyse so there will be some reference to last season and how the clubs have performed during pre-season.
It was spoils shared for the two clubs last season with Kristian Dennis, who might be sorely missed this season scoring late into the final minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw at The Crabble, almost exactly one year ago, with a goalless draw in the return at Meadow Lane in January.
Dover made a promising start to last season and went on to finish in 12th place on 54 points with a win% of 39.47 and 1.421 PPG.
By contrast Notts took a while to get going whilst several last minute signings were finding their feet but a late unbeaten run resulted in a 3rd place finish with 63 points, 1.658 PPG and a win% of 44.74.
The following chart shows how the two clubs ranked by the end of last season.
Pre-season has been very different for both clubs. Notts have been able to bring in a number of new signings and have had the luxury of being able to experiment with players and formations as well as have a competitive fixture in the FA Trophy semi final versus Harrogate Town.
Meanwhile the pandemic hit Dover hard with the club close to collapse in August after the players refused to follow First Team Manager Andy Hessenthaler (pictured) and his coaching staff by accepting a 20% pay cut resulting in the whole squad of just 14 players being put up for free transfer.
Dover's current published list of first team players is just 15 and with games coming thick and fast for the first couple of months you do wonder how they will cope with such a small squad.
On a positive note they have managed to sign left winger Ahkeem Rose (pictured) from Grimsby Town on a free transfer as well as snapping up promising young defensive midfielder TJ Bramble who joins from Gillingham's U18's.
Notts will be desperate to hit the ground running and make a good start to the season and new signings Jake Reeves, Adam Chicksen, Ruben Rodrigues (pictured), Jimmy Knowles, Elisha Sam, Luke Pilling and Casper Sloth will all be hoping to feature and have a positive impact although the latter is struggling for match fitness after picking up a knock in a recent friendly.
Notts have had an indifferent pre-season with Neal Ardley experimenting with a midfield diamond formation which hasn't quite clicked and Magpies fans will be hoping he returns to a more traditional system when the team is announced at 2pm on Saturday.
Depending on where you look the Magpies are currently joint or second favourite at the bookies to win the league title this season and that is reflected in the match odds with Notts currently 10/11 for the win with William Hill, Dover 14/5 and 13/5 for the draw.
I have a new algorithm for predicting results but it does rely heavily on recent form so will be interesting to see how that works out after a few games but for a bit of fun I ran the figures based on last seasons goal expectancy at home for Dover and away from home for Notts and according to the numbers the most likely score was Dover 1 - 0 Notts.
Like I said, just a bit of fun, but then many a true word said in jest!
In conclusion Notts really should come away with the 3 points. Dover's squad is threadbare and they don't currently have a proven goal scorer on the books. That said their current plight could well have a galvanising effect and with Notts failing to find the back of the net themselves in the last couple of outings it could be a very close contest.
Thanks for reading and I'll be back as usual with a full stats report in due course.
Betting odds 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 or betting industry associated businesses.