Tomorrow night sees 1st v 2nd in the form table, as both sides have remained unbeaten for 8 games, with Notts picking up 22 points in that time and Southend earning 20. Clearly the two sides have momentum, and both are full of confidence, with the Magpies trip south to Roots Hall their toughest test to date. A lot will be learned about both this Notts side but also Luke Williams’ ability as a manager, as he approaches a real 50/50 game, for only the 3rd time this season. So far Notts have drawn 1 (Chesterfield 2-2) and won 1 (Wrexham 1-0), so this is a game that hangs finely in the balance.
It’s also a game between the side with the 2nd most goals scored and the team with the fewest goals conceded, so it is a question of whether the unstoppable force or immovable object will give way first. Southend’s defensive record of late has been rather remarkable; in their last 9 games they have kept 7 clean sheets, conceding just twice in that period, by far the best in the league and certainly a daunting prospect for any side visiting Roots Hall. Notts have to take strength from the fact that in that 9 game period 4 of the 6 points they have dropped have come at home, and they have also lost at home to Torquay this season.
Whilst Notts certainly face a tough test in breaking Southend down, they won’t have to fear Southend’s attacking prowess. The Shrimpers have scored just 23 goals this season, 22 less than Notts, and the 4th fewest in the top half. It wasn’t so long ago that Southend fans worried about their lack of goals, and they have failed to score more than 3 in any game this season, and 2 of those games were against sides in the relegation zone. When you look at fixtures that Notts and Southend have both played there is no doubt that the Magpies have had the better results; Notts beat Halifax away where Southend drew, Notts scored 1 more than Southend at home to Maidenhead, Notts beat Wrexham at home where Southend also drew, Notts put 6 past Wealdstone away and 5 past Dagenham away where Southend only managed 1 and the Magpies beat Woking away where the Shrimpers lost. So whilst Southend’s form may concern some, Notts fans have every reason to be optimistic of a result on Tuesday night.
Southend play a similar system to Notts, a 5-2-1-2, but they play a very different style. Kevin Maher's men prioritise defensive solidity, but they still look to get on the ball and dominate possession, averaging 52.5%, the 8th highest in the league. That is still 13.1% lower than Notts’ average though, so the expectation is that Notts will dominate the ball, and Southend will look to soak up the pressure. Southend are as solid as they come, so Notts will have to manoeuvre the ball in order to try and craft an opening, meaning Ruben Rodrigues is likely to be the key man tomorrow night.
Like Notts, Southend like to use their wing backs in attack, and get the ball wide, so some of the key battles will be on the flanks, and due to the 2 sides playing the same system it will be a fascinating tactical battle. Notts look to defend man to man, so the system matching should suit the visitors game plan. One thing that Southend are particularly good at is not allowing the opposition to get into good shooting positions; this is evidenced by them having the lowest xG against in the league, showing they simply don’t concede many high probability chances. Notts however are the best side in the league at creating these chances, with the highest xG in the league, so it will be fascinating to see which side comes out on top in that battle.
Southend are also now without young striker Marcus Dackers who was forced to return to parent club Salford City due to Southend’s transfer embargo. The rangy forward had netted 3 goals in 6 games, playing a large part in Southend’s up turn in form. His 3 goals make him Southend’s 2nd top scorer, indicative of their issues in front of goal.
Southend sit just below Notts in the current form table with 14 points from their last 6 league games. Notts have 16 points from a possible 18.
The Shrimpers have won their last 4 league games without conceding further confirming the good defensive form they are currently experiencing.
Notts are on a run of 8 league games unbeaten, However, Southend go one better and remain unbeaten in the league for 9 games.
Southend's playing style rankings are not too far removed from that of Notts who come out higher in most areas but not quite as big a gap as some of the previous opponents. Pressing and challenge intensity is likely to be the key to any success Notts might have in this fixture.
Southend have been praised of late for their defence, and of course they have the best record in the league, and the biggest factor in this was certainly the arrival of Polish youth international Kacper Lopata.
Since Lopata arrived from Bramall Lane Southend have lost just 1 game, his first, and in the 9 games since that defeat they have only conceded 2 goals, an unbelievable record. Lopata is key to this, playing at the heart of the back 3, sweeping up balls and preventing attacks before they’ve really started.
The 21 year old wins a very impressive 73.08% of his defensive duels, showing how solid he is at the back, and the Polish defender uses his superb physical attributes in order to prevent attacks. One of these attributes is his height, and at 6ft5 Lopata is an imposing figure.
Despite his height he only wins 59.09% of headers in his own box, so the potential for Langstaff to steal one in the air is there, although Notts look to play crosses on the ground for the most part. Either way, Lopata is considered by many as the best defender in the league, so getting past the 21 year old is bound to be a tough task.
Adam Chicksen is bound to have a busy night as Southend’s high flying full back Gus Scott-Morriss will drive forward down the right flank, a large part of the Shrimper’s attacking threat. Scott-Morriss gets high and wide, playing 4.35 crosses per 90, 16th most in the league.
On the other flank Jack Bridge plays an even more impressive 5.47 crosses per 90, 4th most in the league, but the man at Roots Hall on Tuesday who plays the most crosses per 90 is Aaron Nemane, who plays 5.98 per 90. Scott-Morriss is also extremely impressive defensively, getting up and down the flank similarly to Chicksen, who he will be competing with on that side. Scott-Morriss wins 66.27% of his defensive duels, meaning Chicksen will have a hard time getting down that flank, but all is not lost, as Bridge wins just 47.06% of his; therefore Nemane should look to drive at Bridge, with the likelihood that he will have some joy down the right hand side. Notts often attack down that side, and as Southend may be slightly vulnerable down that side Notts may use this to good effect.
Former Magpie Noor Husin has been an influential player for Southend this season, and has been ever since his move from Dartford this year. Still just 25, Husin is a far cry from the player we saw at Meadow Lane in 2018, a more complete midfielder, one who will provide a stiff battle for Palmer tomorrow night.
Husin wins 66.22% of his defensive duels, showing how combative and useful he is in the middle of the park, breaking up play, something which will make him a nuisance against his former side. Husin is also useful with the ball, playing 0.56 smart passes per 90, 6.69 progressive passes per 90 and 44.21 passes per 90 in general, 25th in the league.
This is the second most of any Southend player (the most being Louis Lomas who is unlikely to feature on Tuesday night) so clearly much of the game goes through the Afghan midfielder. If Husin does get the nod and start against his former side, Notts must close him down and stop him from playing, as he’s crucial for them retaining possession.
As mentioned previously Southend will play a similar formation to Notts but where Notts play with more of a 3-4-2-1 with the wing backs high up the pitch Southend are likely to play with their flankers sitting a little bit deeper.
We've already identified the players that have the ability to cause Notts problems so the key to success for the Magpies in this fixture will be how hard the front line press the Southend back line. If they do this with a good level of intensity it will force The Shrimpers to drop a bit deeper and help to neutralise their own press.
It's likely we will see a return to the starting line up for Richard Brindley at the expense of Connell Rawlinson who suffered an injury in the Bromley game. This is where Notts will be better, and this isn't a slight at Rawlo who has been immense since returning to the side but he just doesn't provide the same level of cover behind Nemane that Brindley does and this will be key to keeping the Southend advances at bay if the game starts to get stretched.
Southend have scored 23 goals in the league so far this season averaging 1.35 goals per game compared to an average xG of 1.54 suggesting there is more to see from them in front of goal.
At the other end of the pitch they are conceding 0.65 goals per game, the best defensively in the league, and an average xCG of 0.76 per game, again outlining how well they have been performing defensively.
Southend are averaging 1.75ppg at Roots Hall securing 14 points from a possible 24.
Southend Home Form:
P 8 | W 4 | D 2 | L 2 | F 9 | A 4 | GD +5 | PTS 14
Notts have secured 17 points from a possible 24 on the road this season, a definite improvement on previous seasons. Probably the biggest stat from these 8 away games is the 'goals for' column where the Magpies have netted 25 times averaging 3.125 goals per away game.
Macaulay Langstaff - 17 (xG 14.67)
Callum Powell - 6 (xG 6.32)
The odds for this game again emphasise just how tight a game it is going to be with Notts very slight favourites with the best odds for an away win currently 22/23 with SBK.
You can still get 3/1 for the home win with several bookies and VBet currently offering the best odds of 45/16 for the draw. All of these bets are likely to be based on £20-£30 stakes.
Based on these odds Notts' expected chance of winning is 55% and Southend 25%.
There's not a great deal more to discuss regarding a game that sees the league's top two form clubs going head to head in what should be a fascinating contest. Notts have been very good on the road so playing away probably suits them better as the pressure of expectation probably doesn't lie as deep as it does when playing at home.
In fact, the pressure on an expectant home crowd might just swing the game in Notts' favour, but whatever happens it will be a very good indicator of how far Southend have developed this season and how well Notts can go about defending their table topping position in the league.
Full stats report to follow after the game.
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