Notts County 1 - 1 Boreham Wood | Vanarama National League | 10 January 2023
A horrible night, in more ways than, one saw Boreham Wood earn a well deserved point under the Meadow Lane lights.
The tone was set from the offset with the visitors winning the toss and turning Notts around, knowing that defending their goal in front of a boisterous Kop in the second half would provide the hosts with an advantage.
Luke Garrard had earlier been singing the praises of Luke Williams and his Notts County players, and whilst the sentiment in his words was appreciated, you couldn't help but feel there was an element of gamesmanship in it, as well as indirectly providing his players with further motivation in an attempt to upset the applecart.
The Wood were organised from the start, setting up with a compact but high sitting 5-4-1 formation, one that they stuck to throughout the game. Added to that every Wood player was assigned an opponent to mark, making it very difficult for the likes of Langstaff, Scott and Rodrigues to create the space for themselves needed to make the difference.
Finally the Wood press was persistent throughout, and no more obvious than when defending throw-ins, massively reducing Notts' options despite some frantic attempts to create space to receive the throw.
That said Notts did have their chances, the biggest of which fell to Langstaff after just 4 minutes where he found himself one on one with Wood keeper Nathan Ashmore, and it was the latter who stood up well to keep the leagues leading goal scorer at bay.
However, it was the visitors who were to draw first blood. The press finally got the result they were after forcing an error out of Aiden Baldwin who despite trying to twist and turn away with the ball in the corner could only clear it short to Wood midfielder Jack Payne who, in turn, had time to find Tyrone Marsh in the box.
Marsh's low cross was met by Lee Ndlovu who drew a great stop at close range from Sam Slocombe, unfortunately the ball found it's way out to George Broadbent who gratefully stroked the ball into an empty net.
Notts rallied but went into the break a goal down and with some questions to be answered.
The second half started brightly for the hosts suggesting a Luke Williams team talk during the break may have paid dividends with the Notts players attacking the game with an increased intensity.
The breakthrough came on 56 minutes when a John Bostock cross found Cedwin Scott at the far post who somehow managed to lob the ball over Ashmore's head and into the far corner with the most audacious of neck bending headers.
That brought an end to the goal action with both teams only able to muster a few more scoring opportunities each. Baldwin had the best of them, meeting a Matty Palmer corner unmarked in the box only to see his header go high and wide.
That was pretty much the last of the action and great credit has to go to Luke Garrard and his players who managed their game plan almost to perfection raising questions of the league leaders credentials and leaving the majority of the 6,000+ crowd going home more than a little frustrated.
Despite dominating the construction stats once again Boreham Wood are one of just 3 teams to record a higher xG than Notts this season, the other two being Chesterfield and Wrexham.
The PPDA numbers are quite close for pressing but some of this will be a by product of The Magpies possession based style.
Based on the match xG the xPTS for Notts comes out at 1.24 compared to 1.47 for The Wood.
Wood just pipped Notts on expected win% as well at 39.05% compared to 31.49% for the Magpies.
It's worth Noting that Broadbent's goal recorded a very high 0.76 xG so it boosts The Wood's calculations somewhat, but generally when the numbers are this close a draw would be a fair outcome.
Macaulay Langstaff's early effort was Notts' best chance recording an xG value of 0.47.
A further indication of the job Boreham Wood did on the Notts offence is further confirmed when you realise that more than half of the attempts on goal came from the Notts rear guard.
Season stats updated below.
As frustrating an evening as it was it's important to consider the result and performance in context alongside the season stats to date.
Luke Williams and his players have recorded a 66.67% win percentage, 29.63% draw percentage and a very low 3.70% loss percentage. This is only bettered by Steve Cotterill whose 18 game title winning run saw a 78% win percentage, 17% draw percentage and 6% loss percentage. In any other National League season this current group would be very much holding the key to their own destiny.
Unfortunately this isn't any other season, and 2 draws in the last 3 games means the pendulum swings back in favour of Wrexham who with 2 games in hand means their title aspirations are back in their own hands.
Player Stats - National League:
A break from the league this weekend with a 4th Round FA Trophy tie at home to Maidstone on Sunday before a promotion battle away at Chesterfield the following week.
Hopefully Luke Williams will be able to rest those that need it against Maidstone and use the time before the Chesterfield game to regroup and if possible recruit in the areas needed to ensure the title challenge doesn't fall off the rails.
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson