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Report | Gateshead FC (h)

Notts County 2 : 0 Gateshead FC | Vanarama National League | 13 December 2022

Notts grabbed a deserved 2-0 win over struggling Gateshead on Tuesday night, but it was an evening marred by injuries and poor quality officiating. Fortunately, Notts’ social media have subsequently announced that neither of the injuries sustained by Macaulay Langstaff and Adam Chicksen are serious, but had the referee gained some control of the action it's likely neither would have occurred.

Whilst the playing conditions, well below freezing, actually helped Notts and the style in which they play, it isn’t unfair to say this wasn’t the Magpies finest performance. Nevertheless, a strong 3 points which cements their place at the top of the table, and ensures they will remain there on Christmas Day.

Only 2 games went ahead on Tuesday night, one of which was at Meadow Lane, and the action was frantic from the off. Surprise inclusion Ed Francis went into the book after just 10 minutes, setting the tone for what ended up being a feisty affair. Notts started the brighter of the 2 sides, with Newcastle loanee keeper Langley called into action. He made a fine stop from Langstaff before the dangerman almost had another chance, this time snuffed out by the defence.

As we highlighted in our preview, Gateshead’s main goal threat came from new signing Elliott, who saw two strikes go wide either side of a yellow card for Gateshead’s Bailey. Still, he was showing his attacking intent on a night that they otherwise struggled to threaten on. It would be in vain though, as with just 3 minutes remaining in the half Francis calmly finished from the edge of the area to give the Magpies the lead.

A good team move saw Austin get in down the left, before sending a high ball towards the back post. Rodrigues’ knockdown was met by Nemane, but his shot was blocked. The rebound fell to Francis though, who on his favoured left found the bottom corner to give the Magpies a deserved lead.

This gave Notts a 1-0 lead at the break, and also extended their lead to 4 points at the top of the table, a lead they didn’t relinquish for the rest of the night. At the break both sides made changes, with Bajrami replacing Chicksen for Notts and Olley making his return from injury for Gateshead, coming on in place of Norris. Chicksen had pulled up earlier in the first half after being forced off of the pitch, and the change, it was later confirmed, was a precaution.

Early in the second half things seemed to be boiling over, as an off the ball incident, where it appeared Robbie Tinkler intentionally blocked off Cameron, resulted in a booking for both sides. Baldwin had intervened in the aftermath, earning him a yellow, and the perpetrator, Tinkler, also went into the book, although in truth a red wouldn’t have been harsh. 5 minutes later former Magpie Adam Campbell also went into the book , with the referee seemingly beginning to lose control of proceedings.

Elliott once again showed what a threat he is, this time linking up with substitute Olley, with the latter sending a shot into the side netting, a reminder that the visitors were still in the game. However, that didn’t last long as just after the hour mark Ruben reacted quickest to turn in a Kyle Cameron knock down. The skipper had been moved forward to LWB at half time, and used his aerial prowess at the back post, nodding on a Matty Palmer cross. It may have even creeped in at the back post, but Rodrigues had to make sure, following it in on the slide to double Notts’ lead.

John Bostock then made his Meadow Lane debut, coming on in place of goalscorer Langstaff, providing extra control in order to see the game out. Nemane got down the right and fizzed in a cross, but nobody was there to turn it home. The good feeling around the ground would quickly change though, as Langstaff, who had shrugged off a knock from an earlier challenge, was unable to continue. Visibly distressed, Langstaff made way for Scott.

Nemane once again showed clever footwork on the right flank, and once again put in a ball, but the ball managed to evade everyone for what felt like the 100th time. Frustration was beginning to build, both with the referee and the quality of the final ball. With 10 minutes left on the clock Gateshead once again threatened Slocombe’s clean sheet, with dangerman Elliott getting yet another chance. This time Baldwin did well, forcing the Gateshead man wide, resulting in him firing over.

With the minutes ticking away Nemane again proved what a threat he is, this time seeing his cut back cut out before it could reach its intended target, Sam Austin. Nemane would also be the final player to receive a card on a night where 7 were dished out. That brought to a close a competitive and feisty affair, one that Notts will be happy to have seen out. A 2-0 victory and yet another clean sheet at home ensuring Notts’ stay at the top will last a little longer yet.

Tactically the game had an interesting start with Mike Williamson, for the first time this season starting with a back 3. The intention was obviously to make the midfield more compact and use the two wide defenders to try and snuff out Notts' threat down the wings.

This appeared to be doing the job but in return Notts were very clever in the way the midfielders, mainly Palmer and to some extent Rodrigues turned and dropped deeper with the ball which in turn opened up the space between the Gateshead lines affording the opportunity to progress the ball both through the middle and out wide.

It was interesting to see that Gateshead made the change and returned to their favoured back 4 for the second half in an attempt to get back on level terms but in the end it just opened up more space for Notts and the frustration from the Gateshead players was clear to see as they resorted to a fair amount of uncultured play as the quality in the Notts players started to make a difference.

Something else we expected was for Gateshead to press high, however, they struggled to deal with the press from Notts which in turn had an adverse affect on their ability to press themselves with the desired affect, resulting in them playing longer and more direct as shown in the match actions radar above.

Notts had the much better chances seeing them record a higher xG, helped massively by Rodrigues' goal which scored an xG value of 0.66. Based on the number and xG value of the chances created Notts' expected points for this game came out at 2.34 compared to just 0.44 for the visitors. Notts also recorded over 70% expected win percentage compared to a lowly 7.47 xPTS for Gateshead.

Of the 21 goal attempts shared between the teams there was a total of 13 different players with shots on goal with Gateshead's Danny Elliott having the most attempts.

Season stats updated below.

Looking at the season stats and one thing is now guaranteed, Notts will be top of the table at Christmas, for the first time since the record breaking season of 1997/98. In what was to be an historic season for the Magpies Sam Allardyce's charges had accumulated 47 points from 24 games at the same point in the season giving them an ongoing PPG of 1.958. They finished the season on 99 points from 46 games, a PPG of 2.152.

The current team under Luke Williams have accumulated 54 points from 23 games so far giving them an ongoing PPG of 2.347. It's not beyond the realms of probability that the current squad could secure a top 7 place after 30 games and accrue upwards of 108 points for the season, although, of course we must not tempt fate and acknowledge there is still an awful lot of football to play between now and the end of the season.

The inclusion of Ed Francis in the starting line up certainly raised a few eyebrows but the ball playing midfielder came up trumps with his first goal of the season.

Ruben Rodrigues netted his second goal in two games taking him to 7 goals and 9 assists for the season so far.

Luke Williams record as head coach is obviously aligned with the season record which sees him just shy of 70% win percentage in the league and the Coalville defeat in the FA Cup meaning his overall win percentage currently sits at 66.67%.

Player stats updated. Sam Slocombe and Kyle Cameron remain the only two of the squad to play every minute in the league so far this season.

A break from the league on Saturday when Chorley are the visitors to Meadow Lane in the FA Trophy. Then back to the league on Tuesday with another cold Tuesday night, this time at home to Barnet. Match reports and previews etc to follow as normal.

We are now also starting to work on our extensive Q2 mid-term National League report so keep your eyes peeled.

As always, thanks for reading.



For Notts County Stats:

Richard - @notts_stats

Tom - @tomhwilliams23

Colin - @Colin_Sisson



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