August at Meadow Lane was a bit like when your favourite pub has been taken over. The building is the same, save for the smell of new paint and plusher upholstery, and the staff are vaguely familiar in their new, starchy uniforms. There's some new faces too: hopeful, ambitious and full of the rehearsed slogans and patter they're contractually obliged to say.
But not all the regulars are happy with change. They point out that the bogs still leak and that, while new placemats are fine, Barman Dave still can't pull a pint in under 3 minutes.
Notts' own summer refit consisted of 13 new players and, perhaps most impressively, an upgrade to the club's facilities that are well-above its fourth tier status. The playing surface, changing rooms and indoor training facility were all upgraded and can only help in attracting the caliber of player needed to leave League 2.
So when we began the campaign at Coventry, hopes were understandably high that we would not, at the very least, reproduce the abject performances that littered last season's campaign before the takeover by Alan Hardy and Kevin Nolan as manager. Taking the field with five new recruits, it was a worry that the rebrand had only papered over some substantial cracks as Notts were torn apart by Jodi Jones, the 19 year old exploiting a disorganised back four and scoring a hat trick.
As rebrands go, this started to look like it would fit right in to Samuel West's 'Museum of Failure' in Helsingborg, nestled between 'Bic for Her' and the zero fat Pringles that gave you dysentery. Those that hadn't been won over with new facilities and the new faces nodded sagely into their pints. They knew.
But then Scunthorpe happened. And although 120 minutes of League Cup football ended in failure under the ABBA penalty madness, there was plenty on offer to galvanise the squad and silence those supping and tutting in the corner. Significantly, both Jorge Grant and Ryan Yates started and turned in goal scoring performances in a game that saw Notts respond twice to going behind against League One opposition.
Grant and Yates would star again four days later against a physical Chesterfield side, with Grant scoring a wonderful free kick for his and the game's second in a 2:0 win. But the match was far more significant as Notts kept their first clean sheet of the season, staring down two imposing strikers in Chris O'Grady and Gozie Ugwu who would've annihilated Notts under Sheridan. Instead, Adam Collin, Richard Duffy and Matt Tootle looked rejuvenated and composed, forming a solid and dependable defence that was well-supported by new additions Dan Jones and Shaun Brisley.
When another three points away at Wycombe followed, even the most dedicated of dissenters had to look hard to detract from a side now three games unbeaten, including the 2:1 JPT win against Everton u23s. Letting a two-goal lead slip back to 2:2 almost did it, but dramatic late goals from Jonathan Forte (84) and Lewis Allesandra (89) were enough to convince that Nolan's redesigned Notts were reaping the rewards of Hardy's investment in facilities and infrastructure.
Accrington Stanley visited Meadow Lane on a Friday night for the final game of August, and hopes were high that they too would sample what was fast becoming the staple dish at Meadow Lane. The right ingredients seemed to be there, once Jon Stead and Jorge Grant had secured a two nil lead, but what followed felt like the final scenes of every Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares you've ever seen. Notts, the resurgent restaurant finally getting to grips with newly-installed systems, began to fumble and flap under pressure. Notts proceeded to give away their two-goal-and-one-man advantage, drawing 2-2. It was enough to leave a raging Ramsay expleting long into the night.
So while Notts' overhaul might not have fully removed every blemish from the past, there's certainly an enticing atmosphere and ambiance that is keeping an average of 6,500 fans returning for more. For those still sat at the 'reserved' table, conceding eleven goals in six games is food for thought and needs to be plugged if Meadow Lane is to be transformed into the fortress Nolan wants it to be.
Left Magpie of the Month: Had Accrington not happened, resurgent Richard Duffy would've been a worthy recipient and does deserve credit for turning round a Notts career that was only going one way before January. But four goals in six appearances cannot be ignored and Jorge Grant takes this month's award, particularly for his performance against Chesterfield. The lads in the corner will point out we've only got him until January and, in this form, stand little chance of keeping him beyond then, but we'll turn the music up just a little bit louder and enjoy life in the top half of the table for now.