Boxing Day sees David Unsworth's Oldham Athletic visit Meadow Lane in the first of a festive double header, with the return match at Boundary Park scheduled for New Years Day.
The Latics first taste of non-league football hasn't gone well for the Lancashire club who currently find themselves in the relegation places with 20 points from 21 games.
It's no surprise they have struggled. Relegation to the National League was sealed in a final day 2-1 defeat at home to Salford, a game that will be remember more for the pitch invasion and the ensuing events of what became probably the lowest point in the clubs history.
But this was a decline Latics fans will place firmly at the feet of former owner Abdallah Lemsagam, who since taking over in 2018 has overseen a period that has seen the former Premier League club lose it's way both on and off the field.
Local business man Frank Rothwell took over the club from Lemsagam and fellow owner Simon Blitz in June this year providing fans, players and staff with some hope of future stability and a quick return to the EFL. Unfortunately for them, like so many clubs before them, it's proving to be a difficult task.
As alluded to earlier Oldham have not had the best of starts to this season. Looking at the last 6 games they have recorded just the one win, at home to Torquay and a penalty shoot-out win against Peterborough Sports in the FA Trophy last time out.
Notts are now 15 games unbeaten in the league and have won 5 of their last 6 in all competitions.
Playing style rankings continue to show Notts excelling in most areas except long passes. Despite their current lowly position Oldham are ranked above average for pressing/challenge intensity and the long ball passes suggesting they will play a little narrower and a tad more direct than Notts.
David Unsworth has more recently been sending his teams out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alex Reid the lone striker and John Rooney sat in behind, just ahead of the two wide midfielders.
The signing of Joe Nuttall from Scunthorpe means he has the option to play with a top two meaning a possible change in shape, maybe a 5-3-2/3-5-2 which Unsworth has started with on a few occasions already this season, allowing them to defend with a mid/low block in an attempt to frustrate Notts and their patient build up play.
With Notts being very effective in their wing play a back 5 will be the likely scenario for Oldham as they try to nullify the threat of the Notts wing backs. Expect the Oldham front line to try and press from the off, but also try to keep the game narrow and compact, looking to pick up on loose balls and hit on the counter.
Notts will have to be alert to the counter threat on ball losses but can also use this to their advantage as the counter attack naturally opens up the spaces in between the lines providing Notts to capitalise on any recoveries from an Oldham counter attack.
Oldham’s key man is undoubtedly 27 year old Ben Tollitt. A versatile attacker, Tollitt has played in both an attacking midfield role this season as well as a central striker. No matter where he is used, Tollitt seems to know where the goal is, and as a result he is Oldham’s top scorer with 7 goals.
This may not seem that high of a tally, especially when you consider Notts’ left back has the same total, but in an Oldham side that have scored just 22 goals it is certainly notable. Tollitt has scored 31.81% of Oldham’s goals, and when you add in his assists this increases to an astounding 40.9%. Tollitt therefore is absolutely crucial to Oldham’s attacking threat, and if they are to grab a goal it is likely that this man will be involved.
Tollitt won’t be the only man tasked with creating chances in the final third for Oldham, as attacking midfielder John Rooney will no doubt cause the Notts defence issues.
An experienced operator, Rooney played 8 games in League Two this season before dropping back down to the National League. He’s a player with pedigree, and if given time and space he is a brilliant striker of the ball. This is evidenced by his goal tally from attacking midfield. He has reached double figures for goals in each of his last 3 full National League seasons, and he already has a goal to his name this time out. Rooney still possesses plenty of quality, and it’s not unlikely to see an individual moment of magic.
Oldham have struggled in front of goal, with only 2 sides scoring less than them. Boss David Unsworth has looked to rectify this by bringing in 2 goalscoring recruits. The first is Alex Reid, who joined permanently from Stockport a few weeks ago.
Reid had been on loan at Solihull, where he fired in 7 goals in just 17 appearances, 7 of which came from the bench. The 6ft4 striker is a real handful, and possesses a sweet left foot. If the ball falls to him in the box he could really test Sam Slocombe in goal.
The other new signing is actually yet to feature for Oldham, but following his suspension former Scunthorpe man Joe Nuttall is available for selection for the first time.
A man we covered in our Scunthorpe preview, Nuttall has 9 goals to his name this season, making him the league’s joint 8th top scorer. Nuttall is a strong forward, who like Reid knows where the back of the net is. The 25 year old is in form, so could prove to be an inspired signing for the Latics, and he will be looking to impress on his debut if he gets a start.
Oldham currently occupy 21st place in the league with 20 points from 21 games meaning a current PPG of 0.95. They do have a couple of games in hand but only one team ahead of them in the league, Maidstone, have a worse PPG.
They've scored 22 goals in those 21 games meaning they are averaging 1.05 goals per game with an xG of just 0.97 so performing pretty much as expected when considering the value of the chances created in front of goal.
At the other end of the pitch they are conceding 1.57 goals per game compared to an xCG of 1.35 suggesting they are performing a little below where they should be when defending their own goal.
Oldham have the worst away record in the league recording just 4 points from 11 games on the road.
Oldham Athletic Away Form:
P 11 | W 0 | D 4 | L 7 | F 5 | A 16 | GD -11 | PTS 4
Notts remain unbeaten at home in the league this season winning 8 and drawing 3 from 11 games. Additionally they have scored 22 goals and conceded just 4 keeping 8 clean sheets in the process.
Macaulay Langstaff - 21 (xG 19.13)
Ben Tollitt - 7 (xG 4.45)
Jo Nuttall - 9 (xG 8.62 - Scunthorpe Utd)
Very short odds on Notts for the home win (again) with 11/50 the best on offer at the time of writing with Bet365, Coral and Ladbrokes.
If you fancy an upset BetUK are offering 14/1 for the away win and you can currently get 5/1 for the draw.
Another game where on paper Notts should win comfortably. However, David Unsworth is no slouch and he will have his players well drilled tactically for both of these games so Notts must, as usual, guard against complacency.
It's difficult to see anything other than a Notts win on Boxing Day and the following game might prove to be a little harder with the teams having faced each other just a week before.
Either way, 4 points from 6 should be the least to expect from Notts if they are to continue to maintain their place at the top of the league table.
As always thanks for reading.
Full stats report to follow after the game.
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