Report | Wrexham (h)
Notts County 1 - 0 Wrexham | Vanarama National League | 04 October 2022
On a Tuesday that saw over 10 thousand fans visit Meadow Lane under the lights, an early Macaulay Langstaff goal was enough to separate the title favourites and the new league leaders. A goal straight from the training ground was enough to secure the Magpies the 3 points and send almost 2 thousand Wrexham fans back to Wales disappointed.
The score line was reflective of the game, and in truth it could have gone either way, with a very even game dictating that this was always going to be a very tight encounter.
Pre-match the tension was palpable, as 10 thousand fans brought an atmosphere rarely seen in the 5th tier of any footballing system. Both sides were clearly desperate for the win, and this was evident in the pre match warm up as Notts’ keepers fired balls into a Wrexham training drill, to which the Welsh side responded by firing said balls over the roof. Kick off loomed on the biggest night of the season so far.
Notts had the better of the early proceedings, and as early as the second minute Notts had a great chance to take the lead, after a Langstaff header was denied by Howard, only for Nemane’s follow up to be turned away off the line. The pressure continued to mount, and keeper Howard was forced into another save after 5 minutes, this time from Scott. Chances were falling for the Magpies, but after 10 minutes they were unable to make their dominance tell.
This didn’t last long though, as Notts won a free kick on the right hand side, the flank we highlighted in our pre match preview. The resulting goal is a work of art, a slick move which has clearly been worked on in training. Palmer and Chicksen stood over the free kick, and the former made a dummy run down the right as Chicksen played the ball into the feet of a retreating Rodrigues. The Portuguese midfielder then swiveled, before nutmegging a Wrexham defender, supplying the ball back to Palmer, whose dummy run had continued into the box. Palmer then showed the composure and class we know he has, picking his head up and playing a delicate pass for Langstaff, who had stepped off of the retreating Wrexham defence to open up the space. Langstaff then did as Langstaff does, calmly finishing for his 15th of the season, and to give Notts a vital lead in a game that was always going to be about fine margins.
As has become characteristic under Luke Williams, Notts did not sit back and look to protect their lead, but instead went in search of a second goal. But credit must be given to the visitors who responded well to going behind, and if anything looked better when chasing the game than when the scores were level. They had 2 shots from range, the first from Jordan Davies, who many Wrexham fans were unhappy to see start over Elliot Lee, and also another strike from range from Jones, neither of which managed to hit the target.
Notts then suffered a big blow, as energetic midfielder Jim O’Brien was forced off with injury. The frustration was clear to see on the midfielder’s face, and with it saw the return of Geraldo Bajrami, who himself had been side lined with an injury. Hopefully Jim makes a speedy recovery, as this season has probably been his best football in a black and white shirt, and his influence was vital in the opening half an hour.
Wrexham’s star striker Mullin then reminded the Magpies what a threat he is, forcing skipper Cameron into some brilliant defensive work inside the area. We covered his threat in our pre match preview, and another area we covered extensively was the dilemma Phil Parkinson was faced in choosing between Jordan Davies and Elliot Lee. And whilst the former got the nod, Parkinson was forced to make the change after 40 minutes as Davies went off injured, with Lee entering the action earlier than he would have expected.
From one sub to another, Bajrami looked to repeat the mazy run he completed against Aldershot, and looked to have once again supplied Scott in the area, but the forward was forced wide by the Wrexham defence. An end to end game, as was expected, showing the quality of two of the finest teams this division has seen.
It looked as though Notts might be forced into another change, as 3 of their back 5, Rawlinson, Brindley and Chicksen, went down after a melee in the box, with the latter requiring treatment. But as we know, the Zimbabwean is a machine, playing on.
Nevertheless, the incident did have an impact, contributing to the 5 minutes of added time, a period that almost proved fruitful for the visitors. Once again it was Mullin causing issues, getting away from the defence, but fortunately for the Magpies the angle was too tight, forcing Mullin to shoot over.
It was then the Magpies turn to have a stoppage time chance, as the high press paid off, allowing Ruben to win the ball high up, before playing the ball into Langstaff. This time though Mark Howard was equal to the left footed effort of the talisman, sending the two sides into the break with the score 1-0 to the hosts.
The second half started completely the opposite to the first, with Wrexham very much on the front foot, creating chance after chance, forcing Slocombe into a litany of saves. First he denied Mullin, beating the striker to the ball after a poorly weighted back pass from Chicksen, before preventing Palmer from getting the equaliser, making a huge save in a 1 on 1 situation.
Notts weathered the storm for the first 10 minutes, and looked to have got the reward, as Bajrami saw his shot destined for the back of the net, only for it to be deflected behind. A battle where the momentum was continuously shifting, Nemane then had 2 good chances, but both times was unable to do anything meaningful.
The game wasn’t purely footballing quality, and a feisty underbelly permeated throughout, with both Tozer and Slocombe going into the book around the hour mark. Notts probably should have made sure the game was out of sight, with Scott once again forcing Howard into an excellent stop, before Wrexham forced Slocombe into a fine save from a Hayden header, showing the ever changing nature of the game. Wrexham made 2 changes in search of the equaliser, replacing defender Cleworth with attacker Dalby,
Sam Austin then made his way on in place of Scott, and as usual he made an immediate impact, with his shot being blocked, almost resulting in a chance for Rodrigues. Mitchell made his way on for goal scorer Langstaff, with 5 added minutes meaning the two sides would play for an exhilarating 100 minutes in total. However, unlike the first half there were no major scares for the Magpies, as Luke Williams’ side professionally saw the game out, to walk away the victors and end the evening top of the table.
It almost feels pointless to try and analyse the data from this game. It does nothing more than confirm what we already knew. It was going to take an error or a moment of brilliance to decide this game and in the end it was brilliance that won the day.
Looking at the data this is the closest set of stats between two teams that we have seen so far this season. They say a picture paints a thousand words and the team attributes by action radar clearly validates this with literally nothing to choose between the teams.
Additionally the xG data also tells a story, clearly showing how Notts came out all guns blazing only to be pushed back by Wrexham as the game progressed. In fact, both teams only had one sniff at goal each in the last 15-20 minutes, an indication that Notts showed some great spirit and determination in holding off the advances of a very good and physical Wrexham team.
One interesting stat following last nights result was the fact that this is now the 4th best ever start to a season for Notts and the best in over 70 years. Big credit to Luke Williams and his team who really have turned this squad into serious title contenders, even at this early stage.
I should mention that the above stat is courtesy of Up the Maggies website. If you're a Notts fan and not discovered UTM yet you really must check it out here !
In our pre match preview we identified how crucial Ben Tozer would be to Wrexham’s build up play, and once again he was crucial, playing 43 passes throughout the night. His opposite number, Connell Rawlinson, was equally as important, playing a crucial role in a vital clean sheet.
Rawlinson was slightly less involved in build up play, playing 34 passes on the night, but the Welshman was slightly more accurate with his passes, completing 94% to Tozer’s 88%. Both are extremely high, showing the quality on display at Meadow Lane. Tozer’s lower accuracy may be explained by his increased involvement; Tozer to Cleworth and Tozer to Hayden, the two other CBs, were the two most common passing links for Wrexham.
When it comes to defending, once again the two are well matched, with Rawlinson having the edge in terms of defensive duels, but Tozer being slightly more accomplished in the air. However, the biggest difference between the two in the defensive aspect is in interceptions, where Tozer completed 7 to Rawlinson’s 3. This may be potentially due to Notts having more possession, so there will have been less need for Rawlinson to make interceptions.
The evenness between Rawlinson and Tozer is probably reflective of the game as a whole, as both Wrexham and Notts were extremely well matched. There isn’t much to choose between the two, and as Tozer is considered as one of the best defenders in the league Rawlinson deserves a huge amount of credit. Williams will have a massive selection headache when Aden Baldwin is back fit.
Goals + Assists:
Goals and assists table updated and there really isn't much else to say, 15 up for Macaulay Langstaff and another assist for Palmer.
Slocombe and Cameron still the only players to feature in every minute for Notts and along with Chicksen, Langstaff and Palmer make up the five players that have played in every game so far. Notts games are averaging 98.33 minutes per game.
Progress chart compared to last season updated and Notts currently sit 7 places and 6 points better off.
Points needed updated.
Notts record updated.
Next up a difficult trip away to Woking, preview to follow.
In the meantime look out for our bumper Q1 report where we cast an analytical eye over the National League season so far. We'll look at team performances, managers and players and offer some thoughts on how the next 12 match days (Q2) might play out.
As always, thanks for reading.
Your Notts County Stats Team:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson
Data - Wyscout
Official Partner - @theterracelife