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Well, the transfer deadline came and went and, like our neighbours over the road, we didn’t get the glut of new players the fans were hoping for. But at least we did get a little bit of action...
Long-term loanee John Thompson joined the club on a full-time contract. The former Forest binge-drinking champion has looked like a man among boys at times this season, remaining composed while others in the defence lose their heads like they’re dating the Queen of Hearts. Thompson also makes a decent holding midfielder, which is where he’ll be playing for us until some of our injuries clear up. Given his ties to the area, his obvious leadership skills and his relationship with the manager I’d put money on Thompson being given the skippers armband at the end of the season.
The Magpies also signed up right-back Phil Picken on loan from Chesterfield. The former Manchester United youngster is still only 23 and, judging by the fact Chesterfield let him play for us against them in the league, his days with the Spireites look numbered. With not a lot left to play for this season except pride, it’s a good idea for the club to try and get players in on loan now who might sign for us at the end of the campaign and Picken seems to be one of these.
After Kevin Pilkington joined his fellow keeper Russell Hoult on the club’s injured list, we also went in for Josh Lillis, a young keeper on loan from Scunthorpe. He’s looked fairly composed in his time with us, though his signing will probably only be a short-term measure until others are fit.
|Former Notts midfielder Neil Mackenzie was
the first professional fooballer to appear on Countdown - and ended up staying on for a week!
After this came a spate of releasing players. The paying off of Paul Mayo and Neil Mackenzie was no major surprise. Mayo was a mediocre left back at best and immediately took the well trodden route down the A60 to sign for Mansfield Town, joining other former Magpies Gary Silk, Matt Somner, Mark Stallard and Jason Lee (who has since left to join Kettering Town). Neil Mackenzie was erratic in his time with the club, but will be remembered for scoring some great free kicks and also for his media personality. This was a man who wore a horses head on Soccer AM’s crossbar challenge (see video linked below in comments section) and also managed to stay on Channel 4’s Countdown as Champion for a week. Many of the fans liked him and would have liked to have seen him play more for us, but it wasn’t to be and in the end we were happy to get him off the wage bill. Perhaps more surprisingly Mackenzie, who had been linked with Burton Albion, decided to join David Holdsworth’s revolution at Mansfield too!
If these two releases were unsurprising, they left our squad looking a little threadbare. So the fans expected a couple more faces to come in to replace them. But no! Instead McParland decided to release two more - attacker Spencer Weir-Daley and midfielder Jay Smith. The first came as no surprise whatsoever. Since his much hallowed signing from Forest SWD played 48 games for us (admittedly most of them were as a sub) and only scored three times. On the pitch he’s looked like a player who knows he’s destined for a part-time career in the Blue Square Premier - as mentioned in last Month’s Left Pie-On. Nostradamus has nothing on me!
|A tale of two Jay Smiths - one a good player on the pitch, the other rumoured to be a disruptive influence in the dressing room.
But Jay Smith was a different case. Judging purely by his performances on the pitch for us he deserved a place in the first XI. The night we went out of the FA Cup to Kettering, he scored a cracking goal for us and, in patches he looked like our best player. However, if rumours of a rift with the manager and a bad attitude in the dressing room are to be believed it was probably wise to get rid. A bit of a shame though... if Adam Nowland hadn’t suddenly found a bit of form around the time there would probably have been protests from fans at the games about this.
During this time, and despite our now threadbare squad, we were actually finding some form. Our first game of 2009 was a 2-1 victory at home against promotion-chasing Exeter City. In this game BBC blogger and sometime Notts midfielder Gavin Strachan played a cracker and pulled a great goal out of the bag. Unfortunately next he pulled his hamstring and the familiar routine of seeing him leave the pitch for the treatment table continued. With a squad as small as ours you can’t afford to carry players consistently carrying injuries and, despite his usual high standards when on the pitch, 19 games in over a year just isn’t good enough.
This was followed by two decent away draws: 1-1 at Brenftford and 2-2 at Aldershot, with Facey, Hamshaw and Clapham all getting on the scoresheet. Then came another home victory and probably our most convincing home performance of the season with a 4-2 spanking of Port Vale. Miles Weston started the scoring and then Jamie Forrester, the Ooompaloompah himself, scored a hat-trick, sending a reminder to the manager and fans that he can bang them in at this level when he's in the mood !
So by now it looks like we’ve turned a corner right? Well, it’s never that simple as a County fan. High on confidence and just three days after such an impressive victory, we went to Rochdale and lost 3-0. Then four days later we played Chesterfield, our only local rivals of note this season, at home. In what I’m told was another abject performance (which I thankfully missed due to it clashing with the wedding of a fellow Pie in Birmingham) we lost 1-0.
And that’s the full skinny right up to now. Since then we’ve seen our last two games postponed due to the bad weather and you can already anticipate the problems the fixture backlog will cause with a squad the size of ours. At present we boast a squad of 19, which includes two injured goalkeepers and three loan players. Hopefully we’ll get some more in before then, but either way it’s hard work. But looking on the bright side, at least we don’t get many players moaning because they’re not getting a place in our squad… if they're fit, they're in!
Notts County Mad
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