Notts County 2 - 2 Chesterfield | Vanarama National League | 20th August 2022
On an evening where two heavyweights locked horns and traded blows even a split points decision wouldn't be enough to separate these two teams.
In fact, Notts' first televised game of the season couldn’t have been more dramatic, as the 5:20pm kick off produced yet another cracker in a game that had 4 goals, 3 of which came in a frantic 8 second half minutes in an encounter that both sides felt they could have, and should have won.
On the face of it this was definitely a game of two halves, or perhaps more aptly a tale of two substitutions, as County boss Luke Williams proved he has the ability to change game plans, and make the important decisions at the right time.
It was Chesterfield who drew first blood on 16 minutes when Liam Mandeville picked up a loose ball after great work by the impressive Joe Quigley who did well to turn and cross from the inside right channel, the loose ball eventually finding Mandeville who calmly swept the ball inside Sam Slocombe's far post.
And it was Chesterfield who continued to look the most threatening, especially on 38 minutes where Quigley saw a clever near post effort nestle safely in midriff of Notts Keeper Sam Slocombe.
Chesterfield went in at half time one goal to the good and you would assume the happier of the two teams. A response was expected, no needed by the home team as the second half kicked off. However, we never saw it and Chesterfield continued to control the game, making it 2 - 0 on 54 minutes when Akwasi Asante was allowed to drive into the Notts box and side-step a stumbling Kyle Cameron before firing a ferocious right foot effort beyond a flailing Sam Slocombe.
Chesterfield were on the hunt for more and things were looking bleak for Notts, but an inspired double substitution shortly after the Asante goal saw Sam Austin and Cedwin Scott enter the fray, and payback was almost instantaneous when pressure from Scott saw Horton accidently lay a ball into the path of Langstaff who's clinical first touch finish saw the Magpies claw their way back into the game.
And it was the substitutes that combined again just a few minutes later with Austin latching onto a Scott through ball out wide right before clipping a pinpoint cross for Langstaff who nodded past Fitzsimons in the Chesterfield goal to bring Notts level.
On the face of it you would have to ask if there has ever been a game more deserving of a draw than this one?
The sides were separated by just 0.04 xG, about as close as you can get, and the match actions radar graph (pictured below) is almost identical, showing how evenly fought the contest was.
You could argue that the two sides each had 45 minutes where they were on top, with Notts commanding the first 10 and final 35, and Chesterfield dominating the intervening period.
Both sets of fans will undoubtedly have some disappointment, with Spireites fans upset with losing a 2 goal lead and Notts fans feeling they could have won the game late on. On the balance of play, a draw was probably the fair result.
Onto the stats and it's clear to see that this was a closely fought encounter.
Macaulay Langstaff had 4 good chances, converting 2 of them with his best opportunity coming a couple of minutes before Chesterfields second goal where Fitzsimons did well to deny the Notts forward.
Based on the xG numbers, xPTS came out at 1.35 for Notts and 1.39 for Chesterfield. Win % 36.15 for Notts and 37.70 for Chesterfield, again suggesting just how tight this game was.
Another new feature here where we look at a player from each team and compare their key game actions.
On this occasion we cast an analytical eye over Chesterfield's Akwasi Asante and Macaulay Langstaff for Notts.
Before the game we posed the question: will Paul Cook stick or twist by sticking with Asante or risking starting Tshimanga? The answer was the former, and Cook was certainly justified in his decision, with the Dutch forward putting in a brilliant performance, and scoring what, at the time, seemed to be a match winning goal.
Asante was physical throughout, making himself a real handful, exposing some of the weaknesses of the Notts back 3. Asante’s presence was definitely felt, holding the ball up and bringing others into play, and the 29 year old capped a fine display with a goal on 55 minutes. The goal itself was reflective of Asante’s overall game; a clever turn, but also brute strength in both bullying Cameron to the floor, but also the ferocious strike. Critics will say that both Cameron and Slocombe should have done more to prevent the goal, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Asante or his performance; he looked a real threat, and his resurgence this season has been one of the early stories of the National League.
Asante only had an xG of 0.26, but this was still the 2nd highest of any player in blue, and 3rd highest of any player on the pitch. Asante also provided the assist (inadvertently) for the first goal, and once again his strength and ability to hold up the ball proved crucial. He manhandles Baldwin, also creating the angle for Mandeville to get his shot away and sweep home.
Asante was strong in the air, winning 3 of his 5 aerial duels, and despite only hitting the target with one of his five shots, it was this shot that counted as it flew past Slocombe.
Asante is a player who will be fascinating to follow this season; he was transfer listed in the summer, but now he has forced his way into a side with a serious chance of promotion.
Langstaff had an xG of almost 4 times that of Akwasi Asante (1.03 compared to 0.26), and once again Langstaff handily outperformed his xG at home. Against Maidenhead he scored 2 despite only having an xG of 0.71, and once again he got a brace in front of the Meadow Lane faithful. That makes it 4 goals in 2 games at home, and Langstaff has already established himself as a fan favourite as a result.
It’s also a good response from a lacklustre display away at Gateshead in the week, and Notts fans can take great pleasure from the fact they finally have a poaching match winner, the likes we haven’t seen since Lee Hughes. The two finishes speak volumes of his predatory instincts; the first a reactive finish, poking a leg out to catch Fitzsimons off guard. The second, equally opportunistic, Langstaff found himself in between the two centre halves, as all good strikers do, and his positioning gave him a free header, which he was able to steer home. In the space of 3 minutes the former Gateshead forward had turned the game on its head.
Up until his first goal however, Langstaff appeared largely absent, and whilst he wasn’t having a bad game, he wasn’t anywhere near his best. This was partly due to feeding off the scraps provided for him, but blame can also be attributed to the lack of familiarity between himself and starting strike partner Kairo Mitchell. The pair had yet to start together at that point, and whilst neither put in a bad performance, with both working extremely hard off the ball, there was a clear disconnect between the two.
This was remedied almost instantly when Luke Williams brought on Cedwyn Scott to replace Mitchell, finally giving the fans their first taste of the duo. Their partnership has been well documented, with the pair firing in 52 goals for Gateshead last year, and Langstaff acquitted himself well once his partner came on. Langstaff had seven shots, four of which were on target; of these four, two were obviously goals, but one was a late chance which could have won the game for Notts, had Grimes not made a crucial block.
Goals + Assists:
Langstaff averaging a goal a game.
Tom's player ratings below.
Slocombe - 6
Couldn’t have done much about the first goal, and his distribution actually improved massively; nobody can moan about that this time. Looked good on the ball and confident, but spilled a few crosses, and whilst the second goal was smashed at him, he probably should’ve done better.
Chicksen - 5
Bar the final 10 or 15 where he showed passion and put a few tackles in, Chicksen was infuriating to watch. Lacked any real quality going forward, poor defending for the first goal, and looked lost out there at times. Very rarely closed his opposite number down, and needed to check his shoulders more. Would like to see Taylor next time.
Brindley - 7
Would’ve been an 8 if he wasn’t beaten in the air in the build up for the second goal. Blocked just about everything, looked athletic and pacey in recovery, and largely dealt with their attack. Did well to adjust to changing personnel in the centre, and also compensated for Nemane’s lack of tracking. Got mixed reviews from Notts fans but I thought he our best defender
Baldwin - 5
Take away his flashy passes and he had an average to poor game. Went off injured, which could be a consistent theme this season, and he did make some good blocks throughout the game. Poor for the first goal as failed to block the cross.
Cameron - 5
Thankfully we got the draw, otherwise there would’ve been memes galore of his slip for the Asante goal. His clipped crosses were dealt with nearly every time by Grimes. Did make one charging run forward which looked good, but defensively again suspect, and both goals he could’ve and should’ve done better
Nemane - 6
Actually got the ball moving with pace for the second goal, something we lacked in transitions. First half he looked the only live wire, and was a good outlet ball on the right. Didn’t stay wide enough on the right in the second, and his final ball lacked at times
O’Brien - 4
Absolutely no surprise to see a first half booking for JOB. Lacked the usual energy he provides and the tactical presence he usually brings, filling in the pockets on the left, he also didn’t add today. Was lethargic, passing was off and overall it was good for all parties that he made way when he did. A shame because he’s had a decent start to the season so far
Palmer - 7
Had a decent game, but maybe below his high standards. Looked tidy at times, and broke up play well, but he mis hit a few passes which was unlike him. Was full of energy, and looked improved when Austin came on, but made a few uncharacteristic mistakes today too.
Rodrigues - 6
Largely absent, especially in the first half, there were flashes of brilliance, and the Portuguese attacker worked extremely hard, shown by how exhausted he was by the end of the game. Needs to be more involved, and the introduction of Scott and Austin definitely helped him, as it actually gave him options
Mitchell - 6
Thought he worked extremely hard off the ball, and pressed well, looking like one of the few who were actually up for it first half. He steered a header low, forcing a good save from Fitzsimons, but there was a general disconnect between Langstaff and himself. Glad he got his start, but feel he may be a better option from the bench. Worked hard, but didn’t pose too much danger.
Langstaff - 8
Some might think this should be higher, but he was fairly absent in the first 45. Second half he came to life, especially when paired with old teammate Cedwyn Scott; there’s something special about their partnership, and you can see that already. Two fantastic finishes, one taken quickly and the other with his head, and Langstaff already looks the finisher we have cried out for for years. Could have had his hattrick late on, but wasn’t to be, but if he can keep firing them in he will be one of the best signings we’ve seen for a long long time.
Austin - 9
Wouldn’t normally go so high for a substitute, but you can’t underestimate the impact this man had off the bench. We looked dead and buried after the second, and totally devoid of ideas, and Austin changed all of that. He stretched the defence with his runs, keeping them guessing and making it instantly tougher for them. He also took the game by the scruff of the neck, and provided a lovely cross for the second goal. A game changer, he deserves to start next week, and was perhaps unlucky to be dropped in the first place.
Scott - 7
We need to get this man fit. His connection with Langstaff is there for all to see, and his movement caused Chesterfield all kinds of problems. Really changed the game when he came on, and gave a different feel to our attack. Needed to get more involved, and didn’t really get any chances to get a goal, but if his fitness improves he will get the starts he deserves.
Bajrami - 7
Possibly quite high as he only had a 20 minute cameo, but he didn’t put a foot wrong. Dealt with their mate pressure, and whilst he was on the pitch we didn’t concede. Also adapted to a new role really well, and I think playing him there in Baldwin’s absence seems the more natural choice than forcing Cameron across. I want to see him start more.
Two games in quick succession for Notts coming up. An away fixture at bottom of the table FC Halifax Town, a game that should offer Notts a good opportunity to extend the unbeaten run an bag their first 3 points on the road.
Quickly followed by Solihull at home on Bank Holiday Monday. A game, much like the Chesterfield encounter that will require Luke Williams and his players to be on form both tactically and on the pitch.
As always, thanks for reading.
Your Notts County Stats Team:
Richard - @notts_stats
Colin - @Colin_Sisson
Tom - @tomhwilliams23