Report | Wealdstone (h)
Vanarama National League | 07 April 2023
To describe Friday 7th August 2023 as a ‘Good Friday’ would be something of an understatement. Just shy of 10,000 fans saw Notts retake top spot and ultimately regain control of their title destiny, as both individual and club records fell in their wake. A spirited Wealdstone were unable to truly trouble the Magpies, as a record breaking Langstaff goal secured a 3-0 win for the home side. Elsewhere, Halifax produced a shock win at home to title rivals Wrexham, a result which now places even more emphasis on Monday’s top of the table clash.
After both sets of fans observed a truly beautiful minute's applause in memory of Jason Turner, Notts got off to a fast start. As we alluded to in our preview, Wealdstone weren’t a side who liked to press with intensity, and that was evident early on, as Archie Mair left his goal with regularity, taking up positions more reminiscent of an outfield player than a keeper.
Clearly buoyed by the circumstances, Notts started the quicker of the 2 sides, attacking with a ferocious intensity that hasn’t been seen for a few weeks now. Nemane crafted the first genuine chance of the sunny afternoon, racing in behind down the right hand side. His fizzed cross look dangerous, and after a ricochet or two found Sam Austin, but the midfielder was unable to get a shot away of real note.
5 minutes later Austin would be given the chance to have another go, and this time he made no mistake, putting Notts ahead inside the opening 10 minutes. It was a chance forced by the Notts press, which looked the best it had been all season. It was intense, carried out meticulously, and each man knew their role. Jones and Langstaff combined to pin Wealdstone defender Jack Cook back, and they forced an error. His weak pass found Langstaff, to which Austin reacted immediately, maneuvering into space to be available for a pass. Langstaff seemed to hesitate for just a moment before playing it into Austin’s feet, but that didn’t deter the tricky midfielder. A quick shift of the feet opened the angle to shoot, and an inch perfect effort saw Austin’s curling shot wrap in off the post. Notts got the reward for their fine start.
Notts maintained the pressure on the Stones, dominating the while on the ball, but also while off it due to the high press. Wealdstone did work an opportunity down the left hand side though, forcing a corner, which found the head of Cook. Looking to make amends, the defender rose highest, but his effort was unable to trouble young Mair in goal.
On the half hour mark the Magpies really began to turn the screw, with a litany of chances falling their way in quick succession. The first was perhaps the biggest chance of the sequence, with Austin once again finding himself in space in the box. His effort was well blocked, but the follow up found the head of Langstaff. In front of the Kop it seemed as though he had broken the record, and with Howes stranded the Magpies fans began to celebrate. It was a huge disappointment then, when it only hit the post before being turned away to safety.
That safety wouldn’t last long though, as Notts continued with their pressure. Two huge saves in quick succession from Sam Howes kept his side in the game. The first came from a team move, working the ball nicely from the back, building through the phases before once again finding Austin in space. His effort required Howes to be at full stretch, keeping Notts out. The second save was more instinctive, as Langstaff got on the end of a Jodi Jones cross. It was fizzed down the throat of Howes, who reacted well to palm the ball away.
Howes would make another great stop just before half time, this time racing off his line to deny Langstaff, who had been slipped through superbly by Palmer. That ensured his side were only 1 goal behind at the break, when on the balance of play Notts perhaps deserved more.
Any nerves that the lack of ruthlessness in the first half would cost Notts didn’t show, as with the first real chance of the half Langstaff not only doubled their lead, but also broke the National League scoring record. With his 41st goal of the season, Langstaff showed incredible calm, sweeping past Howes after racing clear. The pass actually came from Mair, who had opted to go long, and there was a certain element of good fortune about the pass, as not one but two Wealdstone players failed to intercept. This allowed Langstaff to go through on goal, and the outcome was never in doubt. A sublime season from a superb player.
Williams then made his first changes of the afternoon, as Nemane and Bostock made way for Vincent and O’Brien, before Jodi Jones also departed, with Cedwyn Scott finally making his return from injury, to a brilliant ovation. The changes meant that Chicksen switched over to the right hand side, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact from that side. He drove down the right hand side, before playing a teasing ball through the box. This eventually found it's way to Scott who fired off a shot that could only be parried into the path of substitute Frank Vincent, who took the chance extremely well to score his first goal in a County shirt this season.
With Notts 3 goals to the good, the result was a formality, with eyes turning to Halifax for the result in the delayed kick off. However, Mair hadn’t taken his eyes off of the action, and it was lucky he hadn’t as he was called into action from a Wealdstone set piece. He got down extremely well to sprawl onto the ball, stopping a potentially dangerous chance for the visitors to get back into the game.
Notts then controlled the action, remaining on top for the rest of the game. Langstaff had a few chances to extend his record, one crafted by a fantastic Vincent cross, but there was to be no change in score, as Notts ran out 3-0 winners. Results elsewhere meant Notts returned to the top of the table, with the Magpies breaking yet another record; for the first time in their history they reached 100 points, breaking the record previously set by Sam Allardyce’s title winners. A fine way to start the Bank Holiday Weekend, with all eyes now on what is potentially the biggest game in 5th Tier History on Monday.
Credit must be given where it's due and Wealdstone are deserving of this despite the result and xG analysis as they were the first team, probably since Wrexham at home to really squeeze Notts in the possession and passing stats ensuring The Magpies didn't have it all there own way.
That said Luke Williams' men should really have been out of sight in the first half with Langstaff in particular missing 3 very good chances.
This is further backed up by the xG analysis which based on the first half goal scoring opportunities would have seen Notts still looking like comfortable winners without the second half chances.
Either way nothing other than a Notts victory was evident and backed up by the data.
Season stats updated below.
Langstaff with a goal and an assist for Austin's opener now directly involved in 50 goals for Notts this season and that's without including any second assists.
Austin showing his class again and what an attacking threat he can be with 7 goals and 13 assists having played approximately 2,000 minutes less than the likes of Palmer, Chicksen and Cameron etc.
Mair gets the assist for Langstaff's goal, although the striker still had a lot to do before finding the back of the net.
Some ridiculous numbers for Luke Williams in the league this season with a 71.43% win percentage for the 42 games played. This currently has him second only to Steve Cotterill who only took charge of Notts for 18 games.
Player Stats - National League:
On to Easter Monday and probably the biggest game the National League has seen or ever will see as The Magpies travel to Wrexham, level on points and with a slightly better goal difference but having played a game more.
If you haven't had the chance then check out our data led tactical analysis for the Wrexham game in our bumper Bank Holiday preview here . . .
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson