Preview | Solihull Moors (h)
Notts come head to head with Solihull Moors on Saturday in what promises to be yet another nail biting affair.
A big crowd is expected thanks to a matchday ticket offer with Notts having the National League attendance record of 11,085 firmly in their sights.
Forgetting the 2-2 draw during pre-season this will also be the first opportunity to see Ian Burchnall pitted against his predecessor Neal Ardley in a competitive match.
Last six outings for Notts and Solihull and it's quite clear both clubs are on decent runs at the moment. In fact Solihull currently sit joint top of the National League current form table alongside Bromley.
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.
AS you can see from above there is very little to separate Notts and Solihull when comparing the stats for the season so far. xG and xPTS etc. all really very similar and also closely aligned to actual goals and points.
Both clubs play a very similar style which is to be expected with Moors having ex Notts boss Neal Ardley in charge of team affairs. That said there are a couple of areas that stand out in favour of Ian Burchnall's men.
If there's one difference we have seen between the team currently under Ian Burchnall and the team we watched under Ardley it's an improvement in match tempo but also players being a lot braver on the ball.
This becomes apparent when considering what happens when attacking in possession. Notts now make more progressive runs than they used to but have also increased the number of smart passes made which has helped them to break down teams defending with a mid/low block resulting in a higher number of completions deep in the opposition's half.
Another thing we noticed previously under Neal Ardley was a regular struggle to create attacking phases when facing a high press. This is something we have definitely seen an improvement in under Ian Burchnall and it could be this along with the ability to play quick, smart and progressive phases through the lines that might just give Notts the edge on Saturday.
One final observation would be set pieces. This was always an achilles heel for Notts but has improved considerably this season, particularly when attacking and defending corners. Notts have converted 5 goals from set pieces this season not including penalties. Moors have scored just twice from set pieces to date. Notts also outscore Solihull in a number of successful defensive actions as well as recording fewer ball losses per 90 minutes.
Neal Ardley could be forgiven for feeling he landed on his feet with the Solihull job with a number of very good players already in place at Damson Park when he was appointed.
Goalkeeper Ryan Boot is currently in inspired form and has already kept 6 clean sheets during the current campaign.
Then you have the likes of experienced front men Danny Newton and Adam Rooney in the squad although the latter has played more of a bit part this season. But it's the youngsters that have really made an impression for Moors so far.
22 Year old Andy Dallas is a name we are all familiar with and has been a constant thorn in the side of opposition teams this season with 3 goals and 4 assists to his name.
You will also ignore Joe Sbarra at your peril. The 22 year old attacking midfielder has already netted 8 times in the league for the West Midland based club and will definitely be a livewire threat to Notts on Saturday.
One other player I'd like to mention is Bermuda international Justin Donawa. Originally a centre forward, Donawa has adapted his game to become a very proficient right back/wingback.
He has been a constant threat for Solihull down their right flank this season and is yet another National League player that possesses a long throw.
Donawa also has a bit of pace about him and isn't afraid to turn on the after burners and take on a full back, this means he is a regular outlet for Solihull when they're looking to play out from the back.
Starting with three central defenders has been the most popular choice for Neal Ardley this season with 43% of his starting line ups being either 3-5-2, 5-3-2 or 5-4-1. That said, their last two games saw them switching to a back four and this is something Ardley may stick with as it allows them to condense the space between defence and midfield when playing a low, holding block which they will hope will keep the game tight and reduce opportunities for Notts to play through the lines.
Solihull, like Notts will look to build from the back and make good use of their wide players where possible. That said they don't try to hold on to the ball at the back as much as Notts do when looking for progressive passing options. This can result in a higher number of ball losses than they might like and this is something Notts can probably benefit from.
Again you would be surprised to see Ian Burchnall move away from the 3-5-2 formation that continues to do well for him this season. When you consider the threat Solihull have out wide you would expect to see Joel Taylor and Dion Kelly-Evans start and considering the creativeness Solihull have in midfield you would think a midfield trio of Palmer, O'Brien and Vincent would provide the guile and energy required to control the middle of the park.
That of course leaves quite a conundrum as Wootton and Rodrigues are pretty much un-droppable right now so you would have to start Roberts on the bench, or start him over Frank Vincent. Personally I'd like to give Roberts as much time as possible to try and get him firing on all cylinders again, but I'm not convinced that this is the right game to do that.
Bookies have Notts as slight favourites, probably due to being at home.
Currently you are looking at 49/50 for a Notts win, so less than evens but can get 11/4 for the away win and 5/2 for the draw.
Based on these odds you can expect Notts to have a 55% chance of winning but historically they would win 47% of these games.
When Solihull have odds of 11/4 you would expect them to have a 29% chance of winning, however historically they only win 1% of games when at these odds.
You'd be a brave person to put any money on this game. Notts being at home and in front of what could be the largest crowd in the National League this season should just have the edge.
On the other hand Solihull are enjoying a very good run of form right now and although there are similarities between Moors and Notts under Neal Ardley this Solihull team do appear to be a bit more attack minded and direct than we were used to seeing at Notts under his managerial regime. Maybe he's been able to shed the shackles of expectation that probably contributed to a more guarded style of play. It will be interesting to see if he still likes to respect the point!
With Halifax not playing this weekend and Bromley away at a resurgent Stockport under Dave Challinor there's a real opportunity for Notts to jump up to 4th in the league with a win. A loss could see a drop of one place to 8th depending on how Dagenham get on away at Maidenhead.
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.
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