A 200+ mile round trip on a Tuesday night might usually dampen the spirits of the travelling side, but 5 wins in 5 in the league and a 3 point lead at the top of the table should put Notts in a buoyant mood ahead of their trip south to Wealdstone.
The form of the two sides couldn’t be more contrasting going into this one; Notts top the form table with 5 wins from 5, whilst Wealdstone sit 22nd, with 1 win and 4 defeats. In fact the 2 sides below Wealdstone are Torquay, who Notts play next week, and Maidstone, who Notts beat handily on Friday night. Wealdstone also recently lost their top scorer, Rhys Browne, who joined Woking for an undisclosed fee. Browne had scored 7 of Wealdstone’s 14 goals before he left, so his absence is sure to be felt.
However, if Notts fans think this is an easy tie they would be mistaken. Other than their last game, a 3-1 defeat away to Dorking (a familiar score line for Notts fans), every game Wealdstone have been involved in has either been decided by one goal or been a draw. This shows how close every game they’ve played has been, highlighting what a competitive side they are.
This is particularly impressive considering Wealdstone are a part time outfit, one who get limited training hours a few times a week. This is a stark contrast to the way in which Notts operate, so it won’t take much to get the Stones players motivated to pull off an upset.
The part time model is a big reason we decided to choose Stuart Maynard as our ‘Manager of the Season So Far’ in our Q1 Report. Maynard is an extremely highly rated coach, one who is both an astute tactician but also a coach who improves individuals too. Maynard has his side playing an attractive brand of football whilst also not compromising on defensive solidity; Wealdstone have conceded just 3 more than Notts so far this season.
Wealdstone have also kept the 7th most possession in the league, 53.5% on average, although this is likely to be lower when they face Notts, who average 65%. Nevertheless, Wealdstone are an impressive side both on and off the pitch, and the results Maynard is getting whilst operating within the part time model is testament to his ability as a coach.
Maynard has been very flexible in terms of shape this season, and up until their last game he had been utilising a 3-4-1-2 system, one very reminiscent of Notts’. Last time out they reverted to a 4-4-2, but they lost 3-1, so it will be interesting to see if Maynard returns to his 3 at the back shape.
If they do so they will be looking to match Notts man for man, and this may be an important consideration for Maynard; he may feel that matching the Magpies’ system will help nullify the threats the league leaders pose, so already it is shaping up to be a fascinating tactical battle.
As already alluded to Wealdstone's good start to the season has hit a bit of a brick wall with just one win in the last 9 league games. In fact since the win at Gateshead on 27th August they have taken just 7 points from a possible 27.
Notts returned to winning ways in the league on Friday night ensuring they retained top spot with a comfortable if not dominant display against league strugglers Maidstone United.
Notts are yet to concede at Grosvenor Vale drawing 0-0 last season and coming away 1-0 victors the season before.
Comparing the playing style rankings Wealdstone rank highly in deep circulation and ball possession which is an indication of how Maynard is trying to get his team to play. Unfortunately they are lacking in the actions that would improve their overall game with very little territory, and displaying little in the way of any kind of press or challenge intensity.
A keeper who very nearly made it into our Q1 Report ‘Team of the Season So Far’, 24 year old Sam Howes has been exceptional between the sticks, and is without a doubt one of the top keepers in the division.
The ex West Ham youngster leads the league in terms of goals prevented, stopping a massive 6.41 goals, showing how vital he is to Wealdstone’s strong start. He also has a save percentage of 79.03%, 3rd highest in the league, some 12.36% higher than that of Notts keeper Sam Slocombe.
Notts’ potent forward line are going to have to have their shooting boots on, as Howes has shown time and time again he is a superb shot stopper. You wouldn’t expect him to spill much either, so the Notts forwards must get it right first time, and take their chances.
There’s a reason Wealdstone have had most games decided by a single goal, and having a keeper of Howes’ ability keeps them in the game for the full 90, making them a very dangerous proposition.
A man who made it into our Q1 Report ‘Team of the Season So Far’, Jack Cook has been one of the best central defenders in the division, and it will be a tough ask to get past the 29 year old.
A defender who is equally comfortable playing to the right of a back 3 or in the middle of a flat back 4, Cook is as solid as they come, reading the game well and anticipating danger. It will be interesting to see how Maynard deploys Cook, and whether his attention will be drawn to Langstaff or Rodrigues, but nevertheless he will be crucial.
Cook has won a massive 81.33% of his defensive duels, 6th most in the National League and more than any Notts player too. Clearly Cook is a supreme defender, one who will not allow our attack an easy game. He is also fantastic in the air, and will be more than capable of dealing with Adam Chicksen running in at the back post.
Cook wins 74.7% of aerial duels in his own box, 11th best in the league and higher than any Notts player, meaning more often than not he gets the ball away when challenged in the air. The quality of delivery therefore will be crucial tomorrow night.
Cook’s central defensive partner will be very much dependant on the system which Maynard employs, and both of the options have had very interesting career trajectories to this point.
Last time out Wealdstone fielded a flat back 4, and if they do so again you would expect Cook’s partner from that game Sam Habergham to get the nod. Habergham is a natural left footer, so compliments Cook very well on the opposite side, and despite being just 6ft he is a very capable defender in his own right. He has a wealth of EFL experience with Lincoln City and Grimsby Town, so he’s a very shrewd operator, and last season he turned out in the Queensland National Premier League for Peninsula Power, the second tier of Australian football.
Clearly the experience abroad has led to the defender being even more cultured, as he plays the 3rd most passes in a Wealdstone shirt, 41.81 per 90.
The other centre back option is 19 year old Deji Elerewe. The 6' 3" defender is currently on loan from Charlton, and has already shown his class this season, playing an integral role in Wealdstone’s strong start. If Maynard opts to revert to his 3 at the back system Elerewe would play in the centre, with Habergham and Cook either side of him.
Elerewe plays 46.12 passes per 90, 20th most in the league and most of any Wealdstone player, and for a teenager he’s been a very solid player this season. He also wins 70.27% of his defensive duels, a very impressive figure, and for such a young defender he’s shown great maturity this season.
Tough tackling midfielder Ashley Charles has had yet another strong start to the season, and is a vital member of Wealdstone’s midfield. He breaks up play and is extremely combative, but he also has quality on the ball too, allowing him to play the brand of football Wealdstone try and employ.
Charles is a man Kairo Mitchell will know well, as both are Grenada internationals, but it’s unlikely Charles will be friendly on Tuesday night, as his playing style is aggressive and combative, making him a key man in the midfield battle. Charles wins a very impressive 70.79% of his defensive duels, more than Bajrami (69.35%), showing how good Charles is at breaking up play in the middle of the park.
He will look to close our midfielders down to win the ball back in order to start counters for Wealdstone, and he possesses the skill set to do so. Charles also makes more interceptions than Bajrami, 5.32 per 90 to the Albanian’s 4.35, so again, Charles will look to cut out our passing lanes in order to turn the ball over. Charles isn’t simply a midfield enforcer though; he makes 41.27 passes per 90, 43rd most in the league, and 4th most of any Wealdstone player. Clearly he’s crucial to their build up too, and will be a vital player for the Stones on Tuesday night.
5' 5" Forward Olufela Olomola has 4 goals in all competitions (2 in the league and 2 in the FA Cup), and following the departure of star forward Rhys Browne to Woking the onus to score goals now falls on Olomola’s shoulders.
Olomola has never been a particularly prolific forward; his best league tally is 7 in League 2, but that was back in 17/18, quite a while ago now. Still, the Southampton academy graduate is an explosive striker, one who will look to get in between Notts’ centre backs and cause problems.
Wealdstone's boss has a track record of turning misfiring forwards into prolific strikers, and the early signs are already there for Olomola. The 25 year old is much similar in playing style to Josh Umerah, the forward Wealdstone sold in the summer to Hartlepool, another player Maynard had taken from never hitting double figures to smashing 17 in for a lower mid table side. Now that Olomola is the main man he will be even more dangerous than ever, and as a powerful forward with an eye for a finish he could be a real danger man for the Stones.
Finally, attacking midfielder Tarryn Allarakhia has been dangerous going forward this season, with 2 goals to his name, and he has also shown great versatility, operating in a variety of roles, whether that be out wide or through the middle.
Regardless of where he plays his intention is to play forward, and this attacking intent could really hurt Notts on Tuesday night.
Allarakhia loves having the ball at his feet, attempting 76 1v1 dribbles this season, 7th most in the league. Ruben Rodrigues is the only player involved tomorrow night who has attempted more, so clearly Notts cannot afford to give the 25 year old time and space to run into.
As mentioned earlier the big question will be whether or not Maynard reverts back to a 3-4-1-2 formation or decides to stick with the 4-4-2 that saw defeat at Dorking last time out.
Being at home it's our guess that a return to a back 3 is most likely as Maynard will look to pack the midfield and reduce space for Notts to play in. Also, when analysing Wealdstone's passing links they very much try to play through the middle rather than down the channels which would suit them better if looking to stifle Notts' central midfielders.
Wealdstone are not overly physical in their approach and will try to play out from the back but this is where they might come unstuck, when faced with the pressing of Langstaff and Rodrigues.
All this points to a game where possession might be more evenly shared but Notts are much quicker in the attacking transitions which together with the press could see Wealdstone dropping into a low block when out of possession.
At Meadow Lane we are used to seeing the Notts wing backs playing a very high line, but if Maynard tries to match Notts in the middle of the park it may result in the Notts flankers starting the game a little more withdrawn, especially if Wealdstone enjoy any periods of sustained possession. This could result in Notts looking a little disjointed and lacking in fluidity so patience will definitely be the name of the game.
Wealdstone have scored 15 and conceded 16 goals so far this season. This means they are averaging 1.07 goals per game with an xG of 1.21 per game suggesting that they should have done slightly better in front of goal than they have.
At the other end of the pitch they are shipping just 1.14 goals per game with an expected conceded goals average of 1.56 meaning they have been quite resilient in defence.
Wealdstone's home record so far this season isn't much to shout about winning 2 and drawing 3 from 7 games meaning just 9 of their 19 points this season have come at Grosvenor Vale.
Wealdstone Home Form:
P 7 | W 2 | D 3 | L 2 | F 11 | A 8 | GD +3 | PTS 9
Notts are second only to Boreham Wood on the road winning 4, drawing 1 and losing 1 from 6 games which means the Magpies have collected 13 points from a possible 18 points away from Meadow Lane.
Macaulay Langstaff - 16 (xG 12.05)
Olufela Olomola - 2 (xG 3.29)
Tarryn Allarakhia - 2 (xG 5.82)
Jack Cook - 2 (xG 1.32)
No surprises that Notts are favourites for this fixture with several bookies including Bet365, Stake, Unibet and BetUK all currently offering 1/2 for the away win.
Bet365 and FansBet are offering 9/2 for a Wealdstone win and you can get 7/2 for the draw with STS.
Based on this Notts are seen to have a 67% chance of winning but normally win 74% of games when at these odds.
Wealdstone are seen to have an 18% chance of winning but normally only win 14% of their games when placed at 9/2.
Wealdstone away on a wet Tuesday night in late October really doesn't sound the most attractive proposition, but these are the type of games Notts really need to be winning, even at this early stage, if they have any real aspirations of maintaining a challenge for the title.
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