So game number three of this "difficult" run of games we are supposed to have embarked upon. Having spent the last two and a bit seasons in this league I think it's safe to say that very few of the games we have are "easy" therefore it's likely we will be scrambling our way through a fair few "difficult" runs before this season reaches its conclusion.
Saturdays away trip to Grimsby will provide us with a real indication of exactly where Notts are at in terms of challenging for promotion.
Grimsby are unbeaten at home this season, in fact they are yet to drop a point at home with 6 wins out of 6 and a +14 goal difference. That said they did have a wobble on Tuesday night losing by a single goal away to Wealdstone and that home run has to be broken at some point so why not this Saturday?
Key match actions compared for the season so far. As always there's a lot of detail here so click on the image to expand.
If you didn't know it by now I'm a bit of an xG fanboy so it would be remiss of me not to point out a few observations.
Grimsby are currently joint top of the goals table with Dagenham scoring at a rate of 2.08 goals per game. However their expected goals is considerably lower at 1.55 goals per game. Additionally they're achieving that scoring rate on an average of 12 attempts at goal per game. Those two stats together would suggest they have either been very efficient in front of goal or benefited from a fair bit of luck.
If we then consider points Grimsby are averaging 2.23 PPG compared to an expected points (xPTS) average of just 1.65 PPG. Again this would indicate that they are currently overachieving and have essentially recorded nearly 8 points more than expected. We all saw how Torquay had a similar start last season and how difficult it was for them to sustain that level of goal scoring and points accumulation so will be interesting to see if the same thing happens with Grimsby.
The Mariners have a good mix of experience and youth in their squad which is epitomised by their current top scorer's 22 year old attacking midfielder John McAtee and experienced 33 year old striker Ryan Taylor. Both have league experience, especially Taylor who can boast the likes of Bristol City, Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle amongst others on his list of previous clubs.
However, Taylor missed the defeat at Wealdstone along with influential full back Michee Efete following a Covid 19 outbreak at the club and despite not being named as being directly affected, Manager Paul Hurst has said both look set to miss out when the Mariners line up to face the Magpies on Saturday.
One other Grimsby player I'd like to mention is 23 year old midfielder Ben Fox. Those of you that have followed both myself and Colin Sisson on the Analysts Bar Podcast might remember us discussing Ben Fox as a potential target for Notts. As it happens he ended up at Grimsby and has played in every game for the Mariners so far this campaign.
It will be interesting to see how he performs on Saturday and you can see how he shaped up when we compared him to the likes of Jim O'Brien and Jake Reeves in episode #2 of the podcast below.
Mariners Manager Paul Hurst tends to play with a back four and had Taylor been available would most likely of lined up with a 4-4-1-1 with McAtee sat just behind him. With Taylor missing and considering Notts' tendency to play with wing backs it wouldn't be a surprise to see Grimsby set up with a five man midfield or a variation of 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 with experienced striker Lanell John-Lewis filling in for Taylor.
Grimsby will look to build up attacks quickly with an emphasis on forward/progressive passes in quite a direct way. They are a physical side and will press high when out of possession. That said they are also comfortable on the ball and despite looking a little impatient to get the ball up the park they will also look for the lateral pass if the opportunity for a forward pass doesn't present itself.
You would expect Ian Burchnall to stick with the 3-5-2 that has served him well over recent games but may consider bringing Ed Francis back into the fray to help support the back line. That would probably mean replacing Frank Vincent in the starting line up but his dynamism in midfield might be better utilised off the bench on this occasion.
Bookies appear to have Grimsby as favourites with 5/4 currently the best you can get on a home win.
If you fancy the away win the you're looking at 2/1 on Notts and a draw is coming in at around 12/5.
Based on these odds Notts have an expected 33% chance of winning but historically win 43% of matches with these odds.
Grimsby's expected win percentage is 48% but historically win 43% of matches with these odds.
Another difficult game to predict but if Notts are going to start to make any gains on the leaders then this is one occasion where they will really need to raise their game.
There are some very big games at the top end of the National league this weekend. Wrexham have a chance to recover some points at home to Torquay, whilst Solihull and Boreham Wood look to have the easier games with both clubs at home to Yeovil and Southend accordingly.
Bromley are at home to Halifax, Altrincham are away to Woking and Dagenham will be looking to get back to winning ways at home to second placed Chesterfield.
A win for Notts could potentially mean a climb up to 5th in the table and 25 points depending on what happens at Solihull and Dagenham. Defeat could see a drop of one place to 9th but would mean there is a 10 point gap between themselves and top spot. This league really isn't for the faint hearted!
On a separate note Colin Sisson has written an excellent piece on the everchanging landscape of football in the US and how it might open up an opportunity to discover talent from overseas that is currently a challenge due to Brexit.
Check it out here: Altered States
As always thanks for reading and if you have any questions about the stats please feel free to give me a shout either in the comments section below, via the contact page on the website or through the usual social media channels.
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.