This Saturday sees the Magpies make the relatively short trip up to Halifax, a side who have yet to score under new boss Chris Millington. The Shaymen are rock bottom of the table, but Notts haven’t won on the road this season, so it’s bound to be an intriguing affair.
Having fought back from 2-0 down to salvage a point against Chesterfield, Magpies fans will be hoping that the subs that made the impact, Sam Austin and Cedwyn Scott, will be handed starts at the Shay.
Halifax are a side who only conceded 33 goals last season, a divisional best, but this side is a far cry from the one that finished 4th in 21/22. Not only have they lost their manager Pete Wild, who joined high flying Barrow this summer, but they have also lost key personnel in defence, most notably Niall Maher, Tyrell Warren and Kieran Green. They are also without 20 goal striker Billy Waters, who followed Wild to Barrow, so the Halifax Notts will face on Saturday afternoon is very much a new look side.
New coach Chris Millington was Wild’s assistant, and he is looking to continue the principles Wild put in place; playing an attractive brand of football whilst not compromising on defensive solidity. Despite the fact his side are yet to score, the early signs are there; for example under Millington’s stewardship the Shaymen have seen their average possession rise from 52.9% in 21/22 to 55.2% in 22/23. Whilst it’s not a huge increase, it shows the Yorkshire side are still trying to play the right way, and are committed to this style despite not reaping the rewards so far this season.
Halifax’s Love Island saga also came to an end this week, as forward Jamie Allen agreed to mutually terminate his contract. Heading into pre season he was seen as a key man in attack for Halifax, especially as they lost Billy Waters, but he abandoned his side for the Majorcan sun, as well as quick fame as a result of being on the ITV2 show. Whether Allen will continue to pursue a football career remains to be seen, he would in fairness be a good pick up for most sides at this level, but what is certain is that his Halifax Town career is over.
It's clear to see that Halifax have not had the best of starts to the season having lost three and drawn one. In fact their last win in the league was away to Eastleigh a few games before their play-off eliminator defeat at home to Chesterfield.
But as we've already alluded to they haven't been well beaten and have conceded one less goal than Notts despite finding themselves holding up the foot of the National League table.
What is really interesting is seeing how the two teams compare for match actions for the season so far and the playing styles are pretty much identical other than the fact Notts have ranked higher in each of the actions with the exceptions of the long balls, but even that is marginal.
The radar charts below visualise these match actions. You can use the combine/separate button to merge the two charts for easier comparison.
Title winner Sam Minihan joined Halifax from Stockport in the summer, having spent 6 years at his previous club. The 28 year old found opportunities hard to come by, but he was a capable deputy for Southam-Hales who was the best in the division last season.
Minihan is a solid full back, one who has won 85% of his defensive duels so far, a huge number. He also records 6.36 defensive duels per 90, so the Loughborough University graduate has been very active in defence, a task he has taken to well.
He has had to adapt to a new system, adding to the fact he no longer plays for a side who are favourites for every game; this season he has only made 2.86 crosses per 90 compared to 5.33 last term.
Minihan is still finding his feet at the Shay, but once he has fully settled Halifax have themselves one of the most dependable players in the league.
A hulking centre forward, Mani Dieseruvwe had the best goals to game ratio last season, as he helped fire Grimsby to promotion through the play offs. He scored 1.11 goals per 90, and looked unplayable as he filled the role of super sub perfectly.
This season Dieseruvwe has a completely different task on his hands as he looks to take the role of main striker, and he also has the weight on his shoulders to fill the void left by Billy Waters. If the 27 year old forward was aiming to hit the 20 goal mark that his predecessor did, then he would have hoped for a better start than 0 goals in his first 4 games, but in all fairness he is playing for a side who have failed to register a single goal at all.
Dieseruvwe has an xG of 1.38, 21st highest in the league and highest of any Halifax player, so if anyone is likely to cause Notts issues defensively, it’s this man. Chris Millington will have seen how Akwasi Asante and Joe Quigley bullied the Notts defenders, and he will surely use this as a blueprint to deploy the 6'5" forward in a similar fashion.
Also, let's keep this bit brief as it’s still extremely painful, it was of course Dieseruvwe who scored the winner at Meadow Lane in the play off quarter final last season, so Notts fans are familiar with the damage he can inflict.
Kian Spence is a player of extreme quality, so it’s no surprise that he was the subject of EFL interest this summer, so much so that Halifax fans had almost resigned themselves to losing yet another of their star players. However, as of yet Spence remains at the club, and the 21 year old is one of the brightest young talents in the National League.
A defensive midfielder, who can also fill in at centre back, Spence also added goals to his game last year, scoring 4 goals in 37 games. He is yet to make a start for the Shaymen this term but came on as a second half sub at the weekend so his return to the starting line up will be eagerly anticipated.
Spence was dynamite in midfield last year at the Shay, winning 63.09% of his defensive duels and making 7.51 progressive passes per 90. Spence is a well rounded midfielder, and if he does start he will be battling in an area Notts fans feel we struggle. How we line up remains to be seen, so who he will face in the middle is as of yet undecided, but whoever it is will face a tough afternoon against Spence should he play.
Millington started the season with a back four, generally switching between 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1. He has changed things up a bit in the latter stages of games by switching to a back three, however, he made this change immediately after conceding to Wealdstone on the 40th minute at the weekend.
Generally Dieseruvwe will be the lone striker but if a back three is deployed then expect Jordan Slew to push up higher to play just of him.
From a Notts perspective we can expect to see the usual three at the back with the likelihood that Bajrami will step in to cover Baldwin, who despite coming through training ok the last couple of days may still be rested considering the visit of Solihull Moors just 48 hours later.
If fit it would be an ideal opportunity to start with the front players the finished the game against Chesterfield and a chance for Austin, Scott and Langstaff, along with Rodrigues to further cement their on the field partnerships.
The Shaymen are yet to score in four games but have an xG average per 90 minutes of 1.18 having created 48 attempts on goal in total.
One outlier from the four games so far is the 1-0 defeat at home to Torquay where Halifax recorded a huge xG total of 3.31 from 26 attempts at goal. Torquay had 3 attempts at goal and scored with one of those.
In defence they have conceded 4 goals with an xGC of 0.71 and have faced just 37 attempts on goal further endorsing their defensive strength despite their lack of attacking bite.
By contrast Notts are averaging 2 goals per game with an average xG of 1.44 so performing marginally better than expected in front of goal.
Defensively Notts are conceding 1.25 goals per game with an xGC average of 1.35 so pretty much as expected.
Based on current form it's easy to see why the bookies have Notts as favourites where you can currently get around 5/4 for the Notts win.
Halifax are coming in at around 23/10 for the home win and your currently looking at circa 21/10 for the draw.
Based on these odds the expected chance of a Notts win is 47% but historically they win 37% of games when at these odds.
Halifax's expected win at 23/10 is 30%, however, historically they win 43% of games when at these odds.
Despite looking like a terrible start to the new campaign for The Shaymen they have maybe been a little unlucky not to have at least 4 points on the board, especially when considering the home Torquay defeat mentioned above.
In fact at The Shay they have had no problem creating chances where the two fixtures have seen 36 of the 48 attempts on goal recorded so far. This should act as a warning to Notts that this is not going to be as easy a game as it might look on paper.
Of course there is an argument that it has been more a case of poor quality finishing than bad luck that has them rooted to the foot of the table, but the law of averages dictates that the goals will definitely come at some point.
Notts have had a mixed bag of results at Halifax over the last few seasons and no one needs reminding of the capitulation last season that saw Notts surrender a 2-0 lead to 10 men resulting in a quite unbelievable 2-3 defeat.
Let's hope on this occasion Notts are a little more clinical and organised in their approach and keep the unbeaten run going into the Solihull encounter at Meadow Lane on Bank Holiday Monday.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard Ogando - @notts_stats
Tom Williams - @tomhwilliams23
Colin Sisson - @colin_sisson
Chris Millington - Halifax Courier
Sam Minihan - Manchester Evening News
Mani Dieseruvwe - BBC
Kian Spence - Halifax Courier
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 or betting industry associated businesses.