October was the month for conspiracy theories and searching questions. The release of over 2,500 documents relating to the assassination of JFK on 26th October was enough to keep Channel 5's schedule busy for the next forty years, while Hollywood was rocked with questions regarding the conduct of its stars and producers.
Fans leaving Meadow Lane on 28th October may have left with their own lines of enquiry that could take up some of Channel 5â€™s schedule sooner rather than later, and hopefully result in fans not having to stay up quite so long to watch the weekend's goals. Because Notts' 3:0 victory over Newport put them top of League Two once more. But on reflection, it's a bit of a mystery how it happened.
October didn't exactly start impressively. The recently-forged rivalry with another Forest, this one over 120 miles away with its roots in Mark Cooper's deception, Liam Noble's defection and their practice of Veganism, should've been enough to secure a performance worthy of three points. But until the 96th minute it was FGR most likely to come away with the win, with ex Notts player and future trivia question Drissa Traore sitting deep in midfield and pulling the strings in front of 13,000 fans. Milsom's equaliser, though welcome and deserved, didn't fully paper over cracks in the confidence that was understandably there before kick off when you are playing bottom of the league with League Two's Manager of the Month in the dugout.
Five days later, Liam Noble's career trajectory took the same path as JFK's "Magic Bullet" as he inexplicably arrived back at Meadow Lane. Maybe not the first player to return to a previous club, but signing Noble on a free some three months after a failed £100,000 bid and FGR's determination not to sell is enough to get conspiracy theorists excited. Even Kevin Nolan got in on that action, berating a fan for covert photographic evidence of Noble's return from the grassy knoll at Greenwich Avenue ahead of the club announcing the signing. Further questions remain as to the motive behind Noble's move, not helped by an understandably ambiguous statement by Forest Green sighting "medical issues" and the fact that he's unavailable until January 2018, a time foretold by the Mayan calendar where Notts lose Jorge Grant.
That's not the end of mystical numbers, either. Notts played Barnet seven days later, who were missing seven first team players through injury. But Notts came up against a resolute side who refused to give up, even when two down, scoring their only goal seven minutes from time with their seventh shot of the game. But it was Shola Ameobi's goal that grabbed the media's attention, somehow aligning with sibling Sammy to both score on the same day for the first time since 2013. Impressive stuff, particularly as Shola's goal was clearly scored by Shaun Brisley.
But seven days is a long time in football, and by the evening of 24th October questions were most seriously asked about Notts' credentials following difficult away games at Crewe and Carlisle. The Crewe game saw us take the field without Grant, Stead and Ameobi (much to Sammy's disappointment). Notts looked toothless without the trio and, though Nolan sent all three on after 66 minutes, Notts fell victim to an impressive performance by Crewe's George Cooper, who assisted in both goals. The inquest followed: Were Notts too reliant on big performances from Stead, Ameobi and Grant? Did this raise questions about the squad's limitations? Notts' management team were clearly frustrated by such suggestions, prompting assistant Mark Crossley to block a few supporters on social media following the game while Nolan was quick to remind everyone the primary objective for this season was safety. But if the JFK situation has taught the world anything, it's that the bigger target you are, the deeper the scrutiny.
Surely a visit to Carlisle, without a home win since August, would offer Notts the chance to silence any nagging doubts and return to the summit of League Two? Crawley's draw with Luton certainly allowed for the opportunity but Hope was on their side, as he opened the scoring after 25mins. Yates replied on 58mins to both Carlisle's opener and those supporters questioning if we were over reliant on Grant (goalless in October at this point). Two other players showed their determination to stake claims for regular football whilst dispelling the myth that our squad lacks depth. Ross Fitzsimons pulled off several key saves to deny Carlisle as he continued to replace injured Adam Collin while Carl Dickinson kept fit-again Dan Jones out of the side with the type of solid and dependable performances we;d hoped to see last year.
The mystery of our dismal record against Mansfield Town was next on the agenda, having not won a league game against them since 2005. But this was the Checkatrade, a competition that has only succeeded in blunting both rivalry and interest on this occasion. So in the spirit of October marking the release of all JFK-related documentation, I hearby embargo any further comment on either the performance or result for the next forty years(partially because it troubles Notts' previously unblemished home record).
Notts County vs Mansfield Town (redacted).
The final game in October saw Notts answer all previous questions raised this month succinctly and with poise. Grant's relief at breaking his barren month with two goals was palpable, while Ameobi scored an indisputable strike some 24 minutes after Sammy had struck for Bolton. The defence looked back to its steady and organised best, while the team grappled and competed for every loose ball - resulting in Newport's early red as Butler led with his arm in a challenge with Tootle. As we clapped the players off the pitch at the final whistle, repositioned at the top of League Two, we returned to those questions we dared to have in conspiratorially hushed tones at the start of the month: How long can this last? Just how good are we? Could this be the season we get out of League Two?
Left Magpie of the Month: Matt Tootle: Marked his 50th appearance for Notts against his former side and has been increasingly influential down the right, laying on goals for Milsom and Yates this month with cutbacks from the byline.