"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
It's becoming difficult to report on Notts of late without continuously repeating yourself, however there is an air of self belief, confidence and discipline emanating from the halls and corridors of Meadow Lane right now that aligns itself so fittingly with the words of Pele himself.
His famous quote about success reminds us that even the most talented of people didn't rush their process or find shortcuts, they had to put in the hours, work harder than anyone else and trusted in the process that led them to their eventual success.
Under Luke Williams you could be forgiven for thinking Pele's words are the perfect elucidation of this current Notts County team, and it might be jumping the gun a little to suggest we are, as Notts fans, at the incipience of a title winning season, but there is definitely something about this current squad that suggests we can dare to dream, and this could, somehow, be our year.
Notts County 4 - 0 Torquay United | Vanarama National League | 29 October 2022
The top v bottom clash in the National League carried very few surprises, as the hosts and league leaders Notts County ran out as 4-0 victors on Saturday afternoon. It was a score line that was representative of the balance of play, as Notts faced very little resistance, and the Magpies did not have to be at their best to beat their Devon foes. In fairness, the Gulls did make it difficult for the opening 20 minutes, but once they began to tire the side in black and white took full advantage.
The Magpies may have felt they could have scored more, but the home support was still jubilant, getting one over a side who have been a thorn in their side for the last two seasons.
The result also came in a week where discussion over goal diversification was rife; Notts had 4 different scorers against Torquay, none of which were in their top 3 scorers, showing how well they spread the goals.
It was that man Chicksen, who had scored 2 in the week, that got the first real chance of the game, getting on the end of a Matty Palmer cross at the back post. However, the full back was unable to do anything meaningful with his header, sending the ball high and wide. Still, the early signs were there, and once again Chicksen’s attacking positioning created chances for the Magpies in the final third.
As mentioned, Torquay were fairly impressive in the opening 20 minutes, and despite Goodwin being caught offside several times, they had managed to enter the final third on a few occasions. Left wing back Da Silva was particularly threatening down the left, showing pace and trickery, as well as a good first time delivery on a few occasions, although nothing concrete came of his efforts.
Torquay clearly came to try and grab anything they could from the game, as they began time wasting as early as the 15th minute, much to the frustration of both the Notts fans and players. This frustration grew as Halstead made a save from a Langstaff shot, before he also denied Nemane, who had entered the box on the right hand side. Notts would maintain the pressure high up the pitch, winning a free kick just a minute later, in a position where Notts had recently been employing elaborate set piece routines.
The routine once again was well oiled and straight off of the training ground. Two passes later Nemane was through on goal, albeit from a tight angle, forcing a smart stop from Halstead. Notts didn’t give up there though, as Palmer recycled possession well, spotting Rawlinson who had held his position on the edge of the area. The finish from the big centre half was sublime, something we haven’t seen before from the Welshman. It broke the deadlock, and also the Torquay resistance as the chances began to fall with more frequency.
5 minutes later Notts once again entered the box, once again through Nemane, but this time he was hacked down, resulting in the referee pointing to the spot. After his last penalty there were doubts as to whether Ruben would take it, but the midfielder stepped up and sent Halstead the wrong way, sitting him down before rolling it into the left corner. Notts had deservedly doubled their lead.
Notts had a chance to make it 3, but incredibly the ball didn’t hit the back of the net, as first Chicksen went close, striking the bar with a right footed shot from the edge of the area, before Langstaff followed it in, but was denied by a brave Halstead. The fact Chicksen went so close with a right footed shot should encourage Notts fans though; he will surely add to his tally of 5.
That sent the two sides into the break at 2-0, and soon after the break Notts re applied the pressure, with Slocombe setting Chicksen free down the left, before Palmer received the ball on the edge of the area. However the midfielder couldn’t make it 2 goals in 2 games, sending his shot into the near post side netting, giving Torquay yet another scare.
Rodrigues then raced into space, before supplying Langstaff on the edge of the area, however the talisman was slow to turn and his shot didn’t trouble the Torquay keeper. Scott had ghosted into the box behind Langstaff, but the striker couldn’t pick out his partner, who was visibly frustrated that he hadn’t received the ball.
Torquay thought they had got through on goal as De Silva broke away down the left, and the wing back had beaten Nemane for pace. However, the Sri Lankan international was unable to go clear as Chicksen scrambled across to make the recovery challenge, showing how superb he is at both ends of the pitch. Williams then made his first change of the game, as Scott made way for Austin, who smacked the crossbar with what might have been his first touch of the ball. The chance might have gone to Austin’s head though, as moments later he had the chance to lay the ball off to Ruben on the edge of the area, but instead opted to shoot with his left foot, but it resulted in a weak disappointing effort.
Williams made 2 further changes, as Adebayo-Rowling and Castro came on for Nemane and Rodrigues, before Cameron crossed for Langstaff, but the ball was just a stretch too far for the forward. The game began to fizzle out, before Torquay saw a shot fizz wide, but substitute Castro killed any hope they had of getting back into the game as his sweet strike flew into the bottom corner. Notts were not content with just the 3 goals though, as another attack resulted in Bajrami getting his second goal in as many games, with his deflected strike the culmination of a good team move. That brought the game to a close, leaving the visitors with a very long journey home in dampened spirits.
Watching the game it felt like Torquay did their best to press Notts as high as possible but when analysing the stats it's evident Notts were never really under any great pressure, and in fact were the ones who succeeded in pressing their opponents.
This is clear in the radar chart above and to add some context Notts' press saw the Magpies reduce Torquay to just 4.61 passes per defensive action, whereas Torquay allowed Notts an enormous 30.92 passes per defensive action, again a by product of Notts having the lions share of the ball.
Notts managed 19 shots on goal with 7 of those finding the target. Torquay were restricted to just 3 attempts on goal, one of them barely registered any xG value and none of them were on target.
The xG timeline chart is a great indicator of the strong start Torquay made in trying to nullify Notts' attacking threats, and for the first 20 minutes or so they did reduce Luke Williams' men to just a couple of half chances. However, Notts finally started to see some joy and after Rawlinson netted the opener it was pretty much one way traffic.
Ruben Rodrigues' penalty conversion meant he had the highest value chance in the game at 0.76 xG and Aaron Nemane's close range near post effort in the first half was a big chance at 0.35 xG.
Based on the xG data the expected win percentage for Notts was 88.96% and expected points was 2.77 for Notts and just 0.13 for Torquay.
With Aden Baldwin starting his first game since coming back from injury and the news before kick-off that ex Magpie Mark Ellis was going to start for Torquay after a last minute loan move from Barrow we thought it would be interesting to see how the two centre half's compared during this game.
Before we have a look at the stats it's worth noting that although both players play similar positions, team playing styles will have an impact on the final match data.
Baldwin saw much more of the ball than Ellis completing 111 match actions with aa impressive 91% success rate. By contrast Ellis was successful with 55% of just 31 match actions.
Passing stats clearly made up a large percentage of Baldwin's actions where he was accurate with 95% of his 99 passes showing just how important it is to Notts to have ball playing centre backs in a team that constantly looks to recycle the ball and play accurate, probing forward passes.
Where Ellis does do better is interceptions and recoveries which highlight his combative qualities, something both sets of fans will already be familiar with. Ellis as we know can also be a threat at the other end of the pitch from set pieces but Notts did well in restricting this threat with Ellis unable to make any impact from the few set pieces Torquay were afforded.
From a Notts perspective it was encouraging to see Baldwin complete the game comfortably and efficiently with no obvious signs of his previous injury causing him any problems.
Player Ratings: (Tom)
Slocombe - 8
Another assured performance for our number 1 and yet another clean sheet. Twice he cut out crosses which looked dangerous, and his distribution was consistently strong throughout. He played a particularly strong pass which almost set up a Palmer goal, and he keeps getting better each week.
Rawlinson - 9
His best performance of the season capped by a fantastic goal, Rawinson was absolutely solid and such a threat going forward in a new role for him, to the right of the back 3. He helped pen in the Torquay defence by being so advanced and to say he had to adapt to a new role he did brilliantly.
Baldwin - 8
Came into the side and adapted really well. Didn’t seem too out of place nor did he show many signs of lacking sharpness. Looked good in the air defensively and played some nice passes, as we know he does regularly. A good performance on his comeback and there is now a selection headache for Williams
Cameron - 8
Skipper had a really good game against his former side, despite being booed for the majority of the game. He didn’t have to do anything defensively, but going forward he was a constant threat, putting in a trademark ball and also going on a surging run. He should have shot rather than pass to Langstaff, but overall a really good game.
Nemane - 8
For once he was tested for pace down the wing, as De Silva really troubled him early on, but overall Aaron had another great performance. Always a threat down the right, he forced a great stop from Halstead before winning the penalty. Was made to walk off in front of his former fans, an amusing end to a very solid performance.
Chicksen - 9
To be honest I actually think his overall performance was better in this one than the game against Wealdstone. He had 2 chances to score, showing his threatening positioning continues to trouble defences, and he provided great width throughout. He also showed strong defensive abilities, a particularly impressive action occurring when he prevented De Silva from breaking clear. A top performance from Chicks.
Bajrami - 9
I’m not sure this man ever loses a battle. He regains possession so much, and has the quality with the ball to go with it. He got a deserved goal, although yet again he was fortunate with the finish. Overall, this man was almost flawless, making clever passes and regaining possession on a regular basis.
Palmer - 9
Got man of the match, and it’s hard to argue with that. Such a classy operator, he showed great vision for the first goal, and kept the game ticking, controlling the action for large periods. His range of passing and the control he has on the passes is just ridiculous. This is the best midfield partnership I’ve ever seen us have.
Ruben - 8.5
Worked really hard and showed his creativity with such clever passes. Looked knackered towards the end and think deserves a rest at some point. Got yet another goal and could have had more had Austin passed to him. Another great performance, you can’t say anything bad about Ruben.
Scott - 7.5
Had another quiet game but did have glimpses of quality. Drops into good positions regularly, and shows his overall footballing ability, and whilst I appreciate his role isn’t to get too involved in the box I would have liked to see him follow in more. Overall though a good performance from Ced.
Langstaff - 7
A very quiet afternoon from Macca, Torquay deserve credit for marking him out of the game. When he did get the ball he snatched at chances a little bit, but his presence certainly opened the game up for others.
Austin - 6.5
Almost scored with his first touch, but after that he seemed to snatch at chances, looking to impress rather than pass when it was the better option. I loved his energy and movement, although felt he lacked a little bit of match sharpness.
Adebayo-Rowling - 6.5
Didn’t have a bad game, but I also don’t really remember him doing much. He got down the right well, and showed his pace, and I do think he is such a fantastic deputy to Nemane.
Quevin - 7
Such a sweet striker of the ball, his finish was superb, and sides cannot afford to stand off him and give him time to shoot. A really strong cameo.
Goals + Assists:
4 Goals, 4 different players and from different areas of the pitch means Notts now have 46 goals in all competitions from 12 different players.
Progress chart compared to last season updated. No change, still top . . .
Points needed updated and Notts and Wrexham currently making a mockery of the points targets.
Notts record updated.
Steve Cotterill currently tops the Notts managers table for win% winning 78% of the 18 league games he managed. Luke Williams currently sits just behind Cotterill on 75% from 16 league games so far.
The next closest win% after Williams is Jimmy McMullan in the 1936/37 season where he managed a 59% win percentage from 49 games.
Bromley up next on Tuesday night under the Meadow Lane lights and what looks like a tougher opposition than Notts have faced in the last few games, however Bromley are on a poor run of form and it should present Notts with an opportunity to further extend their winning run and tighten their grasp on top place.
Bromley preview to follow shortly.
As always, thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson