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Preview | Stockport County (h)

The Magpies host The Hatters on Saturday at Meadow Lane in what promises to be a tight and nervy National League encounter.


Notts will be looking to build on three clean sheets, and the four goals netted in the FA Cup replay with Tamworth on Tuesday night will do much to improve confidence in the Magpies ranks.


Likewise Stockport find themselves in a rich vein of form and will be going into this game on the back of four straight wins.


I'm sure the irony won't be lost on many that the last defeats suffered by both clubs came at the hands of FC Halifax Town at The Shay.


Current Form:

Key match actions compared for the season so far. Despite there being just one point and one place separating the two teams in the National League table Notts have the edge on Stockport in attacking and construction actions.


Stockport however currently have the edge in defence, shipping just 0.82 goals per 90 minutes. There's a lot of detail here so click on the image to expand.

A couple of things to note from the above data. Firstly, Notts are scoring 0.36 goals per 90 minutes more than expected whereas Stockport's xG per 90 is 0.38 more than their actual goals scored.


This would suggest that Notts are overachieving slightly on performances. This could be due to efficient finishing or maybe a bit of luck. As for Stockport they are underperforming in front of goal, again there could be a number of reasons for this.


Secondly looking at xGA the pendulum swings the other way with Notts conceding more goals than expected and Stockport conceding less goals than expected.


From a Notts perspective the 4-1 defeat at home to Woking is probably the reason for the difference on their part.


Players:

Despite a slow start you don't have to look too long at the Hatters squad to realise they have quality all over the pitch.


It goes without saying that Paddy Madden and John Rooney are the two high profile players Notts will have to keep a very close eye on, however an added threat comes from central midfielder Ryan Croasdale who is one of the leagues best passers of the ball and Macauly Southam-Hales who is a constant threat at RWB and can also be called upon for a long throw-in if needed.

Macauly Southam-Hales

Other players that will have interest from a Notts perspective include Ben Barclay who had a short spell with the Magpies during the relegation season and more recently Tom Walker, although the latter has been a bit part player at best for the Hatters so far this season.


Notts fans will also know all about Ben Whitfield. The ex Torquay United attacking midfielder was one of the fancied transfer targets by the Meadow Lane faithful during the summer.


Tactics:

Stockport Manager Simon Rusk has favoured a back three for the majority of this season with 3-4-3 being his most played. The formation visual below shows the 11 players most used in the last 5 National League games where 3-4-3 was deployed. (Wyscout).

Stockport, like Notts have a tendency to play out from the back, however, when facing a high press they will usually look to get the football forward at the earliest opportunity, however this does result in a high percentage of losses averaging just over 118 per 90 minutes. This is something Notts might look to benefit from.


A 3-4-3 can be really effective during attacking transitions and Stockport try to take advantage of this by utilising wing backs with the wide midfielders inverting into the half spaces. This can create an overload in the final third.


Defensively a 3-4-3 will look to defend in a mid/low block, becoming more of a 5-4-1 formation. This makes it difficult for the opposition to penetrate the defensive lines, however it also means the loss of a natural no.10 which in turn will leave the centre forward isolated.


Stockport are much more effective in attacking transitions when playing through the middle where Rooney and Croasdale can have an impact, however it is down the right channel where they have their most success and it's no surprise this is where you will usually find Southam-Hales.

Wyscout.com

You can see from the above visualisation how The Hatters are more effective down the middle and right with the left channel being far less threatening. This is something Ian Burchnall will no doubt be considering when deciding how to set up his starting 11 on Saturday.


For me, I would like to see Joel Taylor at LWB and Kyle Cameron at LCB. Both have the physicality to deal with these pressures in defence but also have the ability to punish Stockport on the break when any possession is overturned.


Below you can see the areas where Stockport threatened the final third from crosses during their last National League match at home to Aldershot which they won 1-0. It is quite clear that they are slightly busier attacking down the right compared to the left.

Wyscout.com

Ian Burchnall has favoured a back three but has changed to a back four when necessary. With Connell Rawlinson back from fitness he might be tempted to revert to a back four with Chicksen and Brindley filling the full back positions.


The challenge with doing this is getting the balance right with the players available. A 4-3-3 formation provides a solid foundation for both defensive and attacking transitions, however it is reliant on the no.6, which more recently has been Ed Francis, to be disciplined in protecting the back four otherwise they can become easily exposed.


Additionally a 4-3-3 means there is no natural no.10 making it difficult to link play between the defence and attack.


This is usually overcome by switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation which is something we have seen work well for Notts over the last couple of seasons.


A back three would most likely see a 3-5-2 formation which when considering Stockport's likely set up might be the most advantageous option for Notts. This would provide an overload in midfield for Notts but relies heavily on the wingbacks being disciplined in their positional play in both attacking and defending transitions.


This also allows the two outside centre backs to advance through the lines with the added protection provided by the wing backs.


Odds:

With very little to separate the two teams the bookies have Notts as slight favourites, probably due to home advantage.


You are currently looking at 5/4 for the home win, 7/4 for the away win and 5/2 for the draw.


Based on these odds Notts have an expected 44% chance of winning but historically win 40% of matches with these odds.


Stockport's expected win percentage is 36% but historically win 33% of matches with these odds.


In conclusion based on the stats for the season so far Notts look to carry a bigger attacking threat whereas Stockport's strength is in there defensive actions.


It really is a difficult game to predict and a draw looks to be the most likely outcome. Whatever happens, with circa 2,000 Hatters fans allegedly set to descend on Meadow Lane it should be an intense game and a fantastic atmosphere.


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.


COYP!

Richard


Notes:

  1. Data and tactical visuals courtesy of Wyscout.com

  2. Formation information compiled with assistance from Football Formation Strategies by Russell Pope.

  3. 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.

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