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Preview | Wrexham (h)

Notts County host Wrexham in the first 1st v 2nd clash at Meadow Lane since 2010. Wrexham currently sit top of the table, but Notts come into the game in good form, with back to back 3-1 wins.

Likewise Wrexham come into the game off the back of a late, late show away at Oldham where the hosts managed to hold Wrexham off until 85 minutes when Ben Tozer managed to bury a loose ball in the box. A Paul Mullin penalty finally put the game to bed 5 minutes into added time.

That was Wrexham's 7th win in a current unbeaten run of 8 games and sees them not only at the top of the league but top of the current form table as well.

Phil Parkinson plays a very similar shape to Luke Williams, yet the style is slightly different, being a little more rigid in his 3-5-2 formation. Whilst Notts are a side who look to dominate possession, in the 5 games prior to the win at Oldham Wrexham have averaged just 49.88% possession.

This indicates that the Denbighshire side won’t necessarily come to Meadow Lane in search of the ball, and may, instead look to frustrate the Magpies whilst also letting their quality tell.

Wrexham have arguably the most potent front line in the division, and they match Notts well in this department.

Wrexham’s front two, Palmer and Mullin, have a combined xG per shot of 0.34, but this is far lower than Notts duo Scott and Langstaff, who have a combined xG per shot of 0.45 suggesting that Notts are creating the higher value shooting opportunities for their front men.

Nevertheless, Wrexham are bound to be a handful for the Notts back 3, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Parkinson employ a similar tactic to Molesley when Aldershot visited Meadow Lane a couple of weeks ago.

Aldershot pinned big forward Effiong on Brindley, and Palmer, a 6' 5" forward, already deployed to the left of the front 2 seems a natural choice to pin against Brindley in order to win aerial duels against a defender who is just 5' 10".

How the teams compare for key match actions so far this season.

Another fascinating battle will be in midfield, and both sides have options when it comes to selection.

Luke Williams’ rested Jim O’Brien against Altrincham at the weekend, presumably because he is one yellow away from suspension, suggesting he will start tomorrow. Matty Palmer’s place in the side is not in doubt, but whether Notts go with a 3rd central midfielder, or whether they choose to stick with 2 up top remains the biggest question.

The main choice to be made is between Quevin Castro, in midfield, or sticking with Cedwyn Scott up front. This choice is very much dependent on how Notts intend to approach the game, but also how they believe Wrexham will set up away from home.

So far this season, when away from home they have set up with a midfield 3, with Young at the base and Jones to the right, Davies to the left. However, the performance of Elliot Lee off the bench will give Parkinson a difficult decision.

One threat that will be missing for Wrexham is Jacob Mendy down the left who misses out through injury. With this in mind Parkinson may go for a slightly more defensive 5-3-2 with Callum McFadzean filling in.

Possible starting line-up for Wrexham.

The main selection dilemma Parkinson does face is whether to start Jordan Davies, who has been an ever present over the last few seasons, or the in-form Elliot Lee.

Davies got the nod last time out at Oldham an if he were to start it may open up space for Jim O’Brien, whose energy and drive would be crucial if he was deployed to the right of Palmer.

Davies tends to drift out to the left during games, which is why this may open space up in the midfield for O’Brien to drive into. Once again, this choice is highly dependent on how Parkinson approaches the game. If he is coming to Meadow Lane to get 3 points and attack he may favour Lee as he is a far better progressive passer, completing 90% of his progressive passes compared to Davies’ 74%.

The biggest surprise is in the duel %, where Davies actually wins a lower % of both his defensive and offensive duels when compared to Lee. Lee has won 85% of his defensive duels, to Davies’ 77%, and 50% of his offensive duels to Davies’ 22%. Therefore, Parkinson will have to decide whether he wants Lee to be a weapon from the bench or whether he takes the plunge and starts him in this one.

Whilst we have discussed the left of the midfield 3, who the closest comparison that could be drawn in the Notts side is Ruben Rodrigues, we haven’t highlighted the work of both Jones and Young.

Once again, they can be quite accurately compared to Notts’ midfield, with Young playing a role similar to Matty Palmer, albeit slightly more withdrawn, and Jones doing the dirty work across the right hand side, like we have seen O’Brien do this season. Therefore if Notts do line up with Rodrigues, Palmer and O’Brien it could make for a very even and balanced midfield battle.

Notts have looked vulnerable at times down the right hand side, and the defensive capabilities of both Nemane and Adebayo-Rowling both remain in question. This would have potentially been bad news for the Magpies, as LWB Jacob Mendy is one of the finest attacking full backs in the league, but as already mentioned he is sidelined for Tuesday night’s clash due to injury.

His likely deputy, McFadzean played 10 games in League One for Crewe before making the move to Wales mid way through last season, and he will look to exploit Nemane’s high positioning by getting in behind the Frenchman (this is assuming Nemane gets the nod over Adebayo-Rowling).

McFadzean might not be as swashbuckling as Mendy, but he is still a threat down the left, and actually has a higher accuracy when it comes to crosses, 50% to Mendy’s 31%. Therefore it is crucial that Notts shift across to that side to prevent balls into the box, and support Nemane as much as we can. This could come in the form of Brindley or O’Brien, who will have to shift across in order to close down the 28 year old wing back. If it is O’Brien it is likely to be a tiring nights work, as he will have attacking responsibilities too, so expect to see the customary 60th minute change to allow Austin’s energy and running to take over.

In the video below we see how McFadzean is quick to take a throw-in and catch Oldham napping, before receiving the return pass and executing an inch perfect cross into the danger area at the far post.

The slight majority of Wrexham’s attacking does come down the left hand side, as both Mendy and Lee/Davies are attacking players, and this is evidenced by the fact that Wrexham have had 5 free kicks down the left in the past 5 games compared to just 2 coming from the right. It will be interesting to see if Wrexham become more balanced due to Mendy’s absence, but just as Notts play with a tilt to the right Wrexham tend to play with a tilt to the left. This therefore makes for a fascinating battle; one flank will be overly exposed whereas the other won’t see as much action.

One area where Notts can get at Wrexham is by pressing central centre back Ben Tozer, who is absolutely vital to their build up. Both Langstaff and Ruben are superb pressers, as we’ve seen this season, and if we are able to put Tozer under pressure we might unsettle the entire way they play.

Wrexham's Ben Tozer
Tozer - Key to Wrexham's build-up play

This is actually the biggest area of differentiation between the two sides, as Notts rank very highly in terms of pressing whereas Wrexham don’t tend to press much as much. Therefore it seems inevitable that they will sit off of Notts, and rely on their quality to hit Notts on the break and take their chances when they do come.

The expectation is that Notts will have more of the ball, but in the key areas it will be a test of which side has more quality, an answer we are yet to find out.

Ultimately both teams will have to be at their absolute best if they are to ensure any kind of result in this game.

From a Notts perspective the pressing of Langstaff and Rodrigues will be a key part of any success they might have against what will be a resolute Wrexham side.

There is a reliance from Wrexham to build through Tozer at the back but the wingbacks will also look to benefit from any space left in behind their Notts opposite numbers.

This is where the Magpies back three will also have to guard against playing too high a line, as like with Dinanga for Altrincham at the weekend, Palmer and Mullin will be all too happy to make the most of any ball in behind the Notts back line.

Finally, Notts will have to guard from any complacency right from the off, and as Wrexham displayed against Oldham, they will be a threat right up to the final whistle.