Aldershot Town 0 - 3 Notts County | Vanarama National League | 07 January 2023
The rainy conditions couldn’t stop Notts extending their lead at the top of the table to 5 points, with a commanding performance securing all 3 points. Notts started the slower of the 2 sides, but in truth never really had to get out of 1st gear, taking a 1-0 1st half lead and eventually running out 3-0 winners. The Magpies gave the 450 travelling fans a lot to shout about as they made it 17 games unbeaten.
As mentioned, the Shots started the brighter of the 2 sides. An intense press kept Notts on the back foot, and the visitors struggled to settle. A few cheap free kicks went the home side’s way, resulting in the best chance of the opening 10 minutes. Just outside the area, captain Partington whipped a delightful effort over the wall, but also just passed Sam Slocombe’s goal.
Just minutes later Notts responded, and should have taken the lead with arguably the best chance of the half. A good ball into the box from Palmer found Langstaff completely free. He rose well, but could only direct his header straight at the keepers feet, with Ashby-Hammond adjusting well to keep hold of the ball. Still, it was better from Notts who finally looked to be kicking into life.
It was Notts who went closest next, this time Langstaff’s strike partner Scott causing all the issues. He rose highest at the back post to meet the ball, but his looping header landed on the roof of the net, much to the Shots’ relief. Aldershot then enjoyed a period of success, where a couple of set pieces wreaked havoc in the Notts’ area. On 2 separate occasions balls were bouncing around the box, with anybody in a lilac shirt failing to take charge of the situation, but fortunately for the Magpies they escaped unscathed.
It wouldn’t take long for Notts to finally get the all important breakthrough, this time through an unlikely scorer in Jim O’Brien, with just his 2nd goal of the season. Nemane had got down the right, not for the first time that afternoon, but this time he had managed to put a threatening ball into the box. He found Langstaff, but to Aldershot’s credit they reacted well, with 2 defenders crowding the talisman out. However, his blocked shot bobbled into the path of O’Brien, who it seemed took an age to compose himself. But once he had the measure of the bounce he made no mistake, lashing home from point blank range to celebrate in front of the travelling Notts fans.
With half an hour gone the visitors were in the ascendancy, and almost doubled their lead through Scott. A defensive mishap allowed the 24 year old a chance, but credit must go to Aldershot defender Davies who made a brilliant block to deny the in-form forward. Cameron then saw the ball work it’s way to him, as cries of ‘shoot’ from the away support encouraged the skipper to have a go. His powerful strike was deflected, totally wrong footing Ashby-Hammond, but fortunately for the young keeper it also sailed past the post for a corner.
Another corner was won a few moments later, as Tyler Cordner cut out another Nemane cross. This led to fairly strong handball claims from the visitors, but the Aldershot centre half had in fact used his head to turn the ball behind. The final chance of the half would fall to the Shots, as former Magpie Effiong failed to make the most of a pass from teammate Amaluzor. Notts took a slender, albeit well deserved 1-0 lead into the break.
The 2nd period of action commenced, and it was the hosts who went closest to scoring the 2nd goal of the game. Lively winger Alfa found his way inside the box, cutting in from the left, but his strike struck the side netting. Notts then began to establish control, passing the ball so frequently that the hosts scarcely saw possession. Very few chances fell either sides’ way in the opening 10 minutes, but it was Notts who looked most likely to threaten.
They soon came true on that threat, with Ruben Rodrigues steering a beautifully controlled strike past Ashby-Hammond. Notts had worked the ball well into the opposition half, with Langstaff dropping just off his man to receive the ball. He squared it to Rodrigues just outside the area, and with time and space to shoot he delivered. By his own admission, the defender directly in front of Rodrigues actually aided his effort, as Rodrigues used the Aldershot man as a guide to steer the ball around. It rippled the back of the net to double Notts’ lead and all but put the game to bed.
Winger Alfa remained the danger man for the Shots, as he saw a shot go wide just inside the hour mark. Notts then threatened to extend the lead themselves, as Scott wriggled free, only to see his strike denied by Ashby-Hammond, definitely the busier of the 2 keepers. Alfa once again troubled the Notts backline, twisting and turning on the left before releasing a strike. A nasty deflection completely changed the flight of the ball, but huge sighs of relief could be heard in the away end as it went behind for a corner. Notts then failed to deal with the resultant set piece, but were once again fortunate that Aldershot were unable to take their chances, as a header sailed over.
Both sides then began to make changes. Rodrigues and Cameron made way for the visitors, with Bostock and Bajrami coming on in their place. The County skipper had felt some muscle tightness, and opted to remove himself from the field of play, something which in Luke Williams’ words was a ‘mature’ decision. For the hosts it was also a double change, danger man Alfa and forward Effiong being replaced by debutant Jake Hutchinson and exciting youngster Tommy Willard.
Willard had been effective off of the bench for Aldershot this season, scoring a 93rd minute goal against Barnet, and he almost repeated the trick as the ball seemed to have reached him in the box. However Slocombe was quickest to react, getting down well to smother the chance. Brindley then received what can only be described as a ludicrous yellow card for time wasting, an undeserved booking. Both sides completed their changes for the afternoon, the hosts bringing on another debutant in Oliver Pendley, in place of captain Partington. Notts’ change saw Cedwyn Scott make way for Quevin Castro, and with the Portuguese midfielder’s loan expiring on the 8th January it may have been the last time we saw Castro in a Notts shirt.
The final action of the game saw a goalkeeping error gift Notts a 3rd. Ashby-Hammond, who had acquitted himself well until this point, played the ball straight to Nemane, and around 35 yards from goal Nemane punished his mistake. A deft chip lofted the ball over the stranded keeper, and to the travelling support’s delight it nestled into the back of the net to wrap up a comfortable afternoon. A deserved goal for Nemane, who had worked incredibly hard down the right side all afternoon.
Starting to feel like a stuck record with Notts again dominating the match stats. However, we really shouldn't take for granted what has been an unbelievable season so far and the levels this Notts team are achieving.
Credit to Aldershot for causing us a few issues early doors but a few tactical tweaks during the first 20 minutes saw Notts finally get to grips with the game and from that point on The Magpies were very much in charge.
It was interesting to hear Jim O'Brien's interview yesterday where he spoke about the players coming off the field frustrated, feeling that they hadn't managed to get into their usual groove. In fact this was a game where Notts again saw a high percentage of ball possession that included 650 passes with 89% of those finding their target.
12 shots on goal for Notts is by this seasons standards a bit below average but they managed to reduce Aldershot to just 8 attempts with generally low xG value which would have contributed to the Shots not getting a single goal on target.
Based on the match xG Notts clearly did enough to take the points with an expected win percentage of 68.86% and xPTS of 2.24.
In comparison you were looking at xPTS of just 0.52 for Aldershot and 9.28 xPTS.
Jim O'Brien's clinical close range finish recorded the highest xG of the game at 0.63. Aaron Nemane's long range lob recorded just 0.08 xG, however this was a higher value than Ruben Rodrigues' goal which recorded just .0.5 xG underlying just how clinical both those goals were.
Player Ratings: (Tom)
Slocombe - 7
A really quiet afternoon, but Slocombe dealt with everything he had to really well. Commanded his area and was comfortable in possession, other than one little scare which actually ended up being a goal kick.
Nemane - 7.5
Scored an absolute peach of a goal, and the opener came from his attacking run down the right. You might therefore question why his rating isn’t higher. It’s mainly due to the frustration of watching his opening 30 minutes, where he was extremely reluctant to go at Harfield. Still a strong performance.
Brindley - 7
A quiet performance from Brinds, he played his part in a comfortable clean sheet. Unfortunate to be booked, but once again showed his quality on the ball and his athleticism off of it.
Baldwin - 8
Quickly developing into a fan favourite, Baldwin combined class on the ball and solidity off it. He cut out Effiong’s counter attacking run with ease, and he looked so comfortable on the ball. Made a few mazy runs into midfield, and overall just made it look easy out there.
Cameron - 7
A strong 65 minutes, and made the wise decision to come off rather than play on and risk injury. Back in his more effective LCB role, he didn’t carry as much threat as usual, but still had a good afternoon.
Chicksen - 6.5
Defensively worked hard, but in attack he didn’t look his usual self. Was slow to release crosses, and didn’t attack the box anywhere near as much as he usually does. A quieter game, and perhaps a harsh mark here, but it’s only because we know the levels he is capable of.
O’Brien - 8.5
Always running, Jim looked shattered after 60 minutes but somehow finished the full 90. Worked really hard on and off the ball, and was crucial in cutting out their counter attacks. Capped his performance with a really well taken goal, as cool a finish you will see this season.
Palmer - 9 (MOTM)
Didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. Measured performance, and so calm in midfield, Palmer reminded us just how lucky we are that he’s just signed a new contract. A real class act, his passing inspired us to victory. Best player on the pitch.
Rodrigues - 8
Would’ve been higher if he stayed on the pitch longer. Creative as ever, Rodrigues looked most likely to make something happen. He rounded out his fine display with a brilliantly taken goal. His curling effort beat their keeper and doubled our lead at a crucial time.
Scott - 7
Worked hard and his overall play is really impressive. Had some really nice first touches bringing the ball down, and held the ball up well. Didn’t get a goal but looked threatening.
Langstaff - 7
Super decision to square the ball for Rodrigues’ goal rather than shoot himself. As always he occupied the space well and tied up their defenders. Missed a sitter of a header though, so takes a slight bump down in grade because of that.
Bajrami - 7
Came on and did really well. Adjusted quickly and his passing was really good. A calming influence and fit in seamlessly.
Bostock - 6.5
Came on to calm the game down, and that he did. Looked comfortable out there but at times tends to be slightly negative. Still an accomplished performance.
Castro - 6.5
Could be the last time we see him in a Notts shirt. Decent sub cameo, didn’t go a great deal other than get into an altercation and get booked.
Season stats updated below.
Player Stats - National League:
With Kyle Cameron coming off early with a slight strain it means Sam Slocombe is the only player now who has played every minute in the league for Notts this season.
Back at Meadow Lane on Tuesday night where Boreham Wood are the visitors whose season once again appears to be all about their FA Cup exploits. You can catch up with our preview for this game here.
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson