Notts County 3 - 0 Maidstone United | Vanarama National League | 21 October 2022
It's believed the term 'one-sided' was first penned in the early 1800's, and you would be forgiven for thinking the originator had Notts County versus Maidstone United in mind at the time of writing such was the Magpies dominance in this fixture.
Meadow Lane is always beautiful under the lights, and on a rainy Friday night it certainly didn’t disappoint, serving as the perfect backdrop for a resounding Notts victory.
The Magpies were always going to be heavy favourites heading into the game, but visitors Maidstone didn’t put up much of a fight, with the 3-0 victory arguably being Notts’ most comfortable of the season. Goals from Langstaff, Rodrigues and Scott secured the 3 points, as Langstaff moved onto 16 for the season in just 14 games.
Notts controlled the game from start to finish, with the visitors recording just 28% possession in the first half, continually being hemmed into their own box. Heyrettin had set his side up to defend in a low block, and whilst Notts were dragging players out and creating chances, it did for the most part work quite effectively.
One gap Notts did enjoy exploiting was down Maidstone’s left hand side, where Rodrigues would often find Nemane in advanced areas, ready to cross. This happened as early as the second minute, as Nemane waited for the ball in a high wide right position, before floating a delightful cross onto the head of Langstaff, only for the striker to head well over.
The wave of attacks never relented, and once again it was Nemane who was the danger man. Rodrigues threaded a perfectly weighted ball between two defenders for the Frenchman to run onto. Once Nemane reached the ball he had both the vision and technique to drill a first time ball low and hard across the goal face. Somehow it evaded both Langstaff and their defenders, before reaching Chicksen, who spurned a golden opportunity for his 4th goal of the season, hitting the side netting with a right footed effort.
Twenty minutes in, the Magpies faithful erupted into celebration, as they thought Notts had got the breakthrough. Brindley had marauded forward, as both wide centre backs did at will on Friday night, before clipping a gorgeous ball into the box. It fell at the feet of Langstaff, who made no mistake, dispatching the ball into the back of the net. However, on the way through Ruben managed to get his head on the cross, putting Langstaff into an offside position, something which the linesman left very very late to signal.
The domination continued, as this time the other wide centre back, Kyle Cameron, got forward, sending a low strike just past the post. The Skipper is certainly getting more involved going forward, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s off the mark this season. Maidstone then had their one and only shot of the game, a strike from long range from former Magpie Regan Booty, stinging the palms of Slocombe, but ultimately coming to nothing.
As the match proceeded Rodrigues grew into the game, showing the class and flair that has marked him out as one of the best in the division. The Portuguese midfielder left a Maidstone defender for dead, showing tricky feet to nutmeg him and open up the space for a shot. Unfortunately for Rodrigues he caught too much of the ball, sending it high, but keeper Mersin was still required to tip it over to be safe, however the referee blew for a goal kick.
Meadow Lane wouldn’t have to wait long for Notts to open the scoring though, as a well worked corner routine resulted in Macaulay Langstaff’s 16th goal of the season. Skipper Cameron was in a similar position to where Brindley had crossed from on the opposite side, making himself available for the short corner. His first time ball into the box was greeted by Langstaff, who rose highest to nod past Mersin. However, the crossbar denied the forward, but as has become customary Langstaff reacted quickest, firing past the Turkish stopper to make it 1-0 to the home side. A well deserved lead just before the break.
No changes were made at the break, a decision that paid off as shortly after the second interval began Notts had doubled their lead, this time through Ruben Rodrigues, who finally got his first open play goal of the season. A super team move from Notts saw Ruben pick the ball up around 30 yards from goal, turning sublimely leaving his man for dust. Once facing goal, Ruben fizzed the ball into Langstaff’s feet, but the scorer of the first was closed down, and in big numbers. This did however open space for Ruben, who hung back around the edge of the area, and once Langstaff picked him out there was only really going to be one outcome. Rodrigues coolly swept home, curling the ball into the top corner to give the Magpies a resounding 2-0 lead.
The second goal highlights where Maidstone got their defensive game plan wrong. Whilst they were correct in identifying Langstaff as a threat, their negligence in closing down Rodrigues opened the space up for the number 20. Too often they would look to close Rodrigues down in singles, rather than doubling or even tripling up on the Portuguese. This is where other sides have had their success, and is a big part of the reason he has only scored one from open play this season. Whilst it kept Langstaff quieter, it gave Rodrigues licence to play, culminating in a sponsors Man of the Match performance.
Moments later Cedwyn Scott saw his first real involvement in the game, driving in from the left before being brought down in the box by Roarie Deacon, who had been deployed in an unusual wing back role. Ruben stepped up, but unlike the other 2 occasions this season, where he has scored, Rodrigues was unable to convert the penalty, as Yusuf Mersin made the save. Whilst the keeper certainly deserves credit for making the save, the truth is Rodrigues made it very easy for the stopper with a lackluster effort from the spot.
It didn’t take long for Notts to have their 3rd though, as moments later the man who won the penalty, Scott, capped a fine second half display with a trademark near post finish. With the ball in a similar area to where he won the penalty, Maidstone defenders understandably stood off of the 23 year old forward, who opened his body up to shoot to the far post. Instead he swept it home at the near post, through the defenders legs and completely wrong footing Mersin in net. It marked Scott’s 7th goal of the season, an impressive tally for a man who didn’t really get a pre season due to illness.
As mentioned earlier, Kyle Cameron is getting closer and closer to that elusive first goal of the season, and he was just whiskers away as he forced a smart stop from Mersin in goal. He had ventured forward, occupying a position on the edge of the area, before jinking onto his weaker right foot. Despite the great run, the finish was not to match, and whilst it was turned behind for a corner Cameron will have been disappointed not to open his account for the season. Nevertheless, our skipper will not be deterred, and it feels like a goal is coming for the big defender.
Luke Williams then made his first two changes of the evening, bringing Adebayo-Rowling and Austin into the fore in place of Scott and Nemane. The two subs who came on were two of the only players who could hold their heads high after the defeat to Coalville, so seeing them introduced just after the hour mark was no great surprise. Both got involved immediately, as wing back Adebayo-Rowling got forward, and his threatening cut back picked out Langstaff, only for the goalscorer to see his effort diverted wide. That would be his last action of the game, as he was replaced by Kairo Mitchell, who was celebrating his 25th birthday on the night. Happy Birthday Kairo!
The game fell completely flat after that, with Notts keeping the ball for the vast majority of the evening. Maidstone did manage a rare foray into the Magpies’ half with 10 left to play, but Deacon’s mishit cross sailed behind for a goal kick, putting an end to their only attack of the half. Substitute Sam Austin then combined with former Kidderminster teammate Bajrami, as the number 8 showed his usual energetic movement, getting in behind and whipping a delightful ball across the 6 yard box. Chicksen was running in at the back post, but was unable to get anything on the ball. On another night Chicksen could have had a brace, but the positive signs are there when it comes to the left back consistently getting into the right areas. That was the last chance of a game which Notts dominated from start to finish. Never a scare, and the result was never in doubt, 3 of the most comfortable points the Magpies will collect all season.
Looking at the stats and it's fair to say that this was quite possibly the most one-sided game the league will see this season.
Notts are used to having possession but circa 80% possession in a game is almost unheard of at any level.
The possession stats are backed up by some incredible passing stats where Notts made 723 passes with 91.29% accuracy. In fact, Notts absolutely swamped Maidstone in all match actions except for long passes, one of the things we suggested would happen in our match preview.
And if those match action stats weren't impressive enough then a quick look at the xG data certainly tells a story with Notts expected points from this game being 2.99 and a win percentage of 99%, which, quite frankly is astounding but paints a bleak picture for Maidstone and their fans.
Langstaff and Ruben both accrued over 1.00 xG although Ruben's was boosted somewhat by the penalty. Langstaff's goal recorded an xG value of 0.85 but if you add that to his initial header against the crossbar then he records 1.05 xG for the goal.
Rodrigues' goal was a mere 0.06 xG suggesting a goal would be scored from that position 6 times in 100.
Maidstone's only effort came from Regan Booty with an xG of just 0.03.
With Bajrami starting this game as CM alongside Palmer we thought we would take a closer look at how he compared in this game to his opposite number and ex Notts man Regan Booty.
Firstly, Bajrami had an almost faultless 90 minutes having recorded 129 total actions with an 81% success rate. In fact only midfield partner Palmer and centre back Rawlinson saw more of the ball.
Booty saw much les of the ball but that is a clear byproduct of Notts having so much possession.
As we analyse the data further The Magpies dominance is further proved by Bajrami and Booty's stats, with the former completing way more passes and duels with much higher success.
One area that really stands out for Bajrami in this central role is the number of ball recoveries he made, suggesting he's getting a foot in and winning loose balls on a regular basis throughout the game.
This is something that Notts fans have wanted in a midfielder alongside Matty Palmer for some time now and whilst the numbers look great we do have to take into consideration the quality and playing style of the opposition.
As for Booty it's clear to see this wasn't one of his better days at the office and Notts fans would have expected to se more from him but up against a team like Notts away from home it was always going to be difficult for him.
The great thing for Notts is that Bajrami is just as comfortable stepping in as a defender providing additional cover in this area and it's clear that Luke Williams will have a nice selection problem ahead of him once Jim O'Brien is back from injury.
Slocombe - 7.5
Called into action just the once, palming away a long range effort from Booty. Managed his area well and distribution was good, had one moment where he over played a ball out to Brindley in the second half when under pressure but other than that an easy night for him.
Nemane - 8
His link up play with Rodrigues and Bajrami was really good and was able to get himself into some great crossing positions. Worked hard to recover lost balls and well deserved his standing ovation when subbed.
Brindley - 7.5
A very complete and professional performance. Is happy to recycle the ball when necessary to try and open up the opposition defensive block but also willing to drive forward when the opportunity arises. Just calmly went about his business.
Rawlinson - 8
Has now made it very difficult for Baldwin to get back in the starting eleven. He won just about everything in this game and his vision and passing were very good, particularly his progressive passing through the defensive lines.
Cameron - 8
An all round captains performance. Maidstone's defensive intent meant that Cameron was able to take advantage of this and show more of his offensive game. Always looking to make things happen from the back and forced a good save from the Maidstone keeper.
Chicksen - 7.5
Most of Notts threat seemed to come down the right side but Chicksen continues to put in a great shift defensively and in the attacking phases. Probably could have done better with his chance in the first half although it was a bit behind him and probably saw it late. Have given him the assist for his work in Scott's goal.
Palmer - 9
We are really blessed to have a player of Palmer's calibre at this level. Always a candidate for MOTM and have to say he would have ben a fair shout for the accolade in this game. 97% accurate from 114 passes tells it's own story.
Bajrami - 9 (MOTM)
Was a close call between him and Ruben for MOTM but Baj just shaded it for me. This really was a truly accomplished performance from a player that has brought something to the Notts midfield we have been missing for while, he's physical when he needs to be and with the quality and footballing brain to go with it.
Ruben - 9
An absolute joy to watch and really thriving in playing in a slightly withdrawn role. There's not a player anything like him in this league and he took his goal really well. If it wasn't for the penalty miss would probably have pipped Bajrami as our MOTM.
Scott - 7.5
Struggled to get into the game early on and would have been frustrated with his first 45 minutes. However, his quality shone through second half, showing great endeavour and positional awareness to put away the best goal of the night.
Langstaff - 8.5
A player with a big future ahead of him. Fully deserved his goal purely for his endeavour and desire to be the first to the ball not once, but twice. Could have had two had Ruben not got a touch with his head from the cross.
Mitchell - 7
Continued to lead the front line well without having too much to do and came close to getting on the end of one of Notts' many crosses from the right.
Austin - 8
Slotted straight into Scott's role but playing more on the right. Full of energy and a real asset to have available off the bench. If the Maidstone midfield and defence weren't tired when he came on they certainly would have been shortly after.
Adebayo-Rowling - 7.5
Had very little to do defensively but has speed to burn when attacking with the ball. Had the beating of his man every time he took him on and provided a slightly different threat to that of Nemane.
Goals + Assists:
Goals and assists table updated and I've again gone against Wyscout and their data by giving Chicksen an assist for Scott's goal.
Slocombe and Cameron still the only players to feature in every minute in the league for Notts whose matches average 98.14 minutes.
Progress chart compared to last season updated.
Points needed updated and as it stands the projected points for Notts is just over 108. We will review the points targets when we reach the halfway point.
Notts record updated.
Notts travel to Wealdstone on Tuesday to face a team that has exceeded expectations so far this season, watch out for our usual data led match preview for this fixture.
As always, thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson