A raft of impressive signings, as well as retaining some of the most consistent performers from last year’s campaign, had left most fans assured that this was definitely, definitely our year. Definitely. Add to that a new kit, enhanced facilities and extended discounts on season tickets and the atmosphere come kick off was bordering on fervent. Not bad when you consider that Notts fans are custodians of the most pessimistic song in English football.
In fact the Broken Wheelbarrow featured early in proceedings as it played host to those determined to get their football fix as soon as possible; many Notts fans attended the book launch of Record Breakers, an excellent piece by Paul Smith celebrating twenty years since Notts claimed promotion in style under Sam Allardyce. In it, he gives an exclusive interview about his time at Meadow Lane and his infamous exit. Title-winners Ian Richardson, Ian Baraclough and Ian Hendon gave insight into that year, to fans desperate for a similar season, with Colin Slater poignantly pointing out that the Magpies have enjoyed only one title since.
A few hours later, 7,000 Notts fans filed in to Meadow Lane in the hope of getting a new title-winning campaign started with a home win, just as they did in 97-98 and 09-10. The pre-match buzz felt like a determined effort to finally rid ourselves of our semi-final sadness, added to the fact that Kevin Nolan announced four of the impressive new signings in his starting eleven: Vaughan, Boldewijn, Thomas and Hemmings.
Notts started fairly brightly, with Boldewijn involved early down the right flank as Notts utilised the pace and power of the Dutchman, signed for a six-figure sum from Crawley, to great effect. This marked a subtle change from the Notts side that finished the 17-18 campaign, where little natural pace or width could be found in the middle or final third, and fans were hungry to see more.
But things turned stale quickly, as more became asked of Vaughan and Hewitt in central midfield. Previously, Notts hadn’t relied on their central midfielders to create many chances, but to simply turn over possession. Here, with two wide men needing regular service, Notts struggled to get the ball into wide positions and often saw Boldewijn and Thomas forced deeper or inside to get any of the ball. With opportunities few and far between, Notts resorted to longer options - and Colchester were more than ready for that.
As Notts started to look for more direct balls forward, Colchester grew in confidence and looked for every opportunity to launch quick and effective counters - twice stopped brutally by Notts’ Richard Duffy and David Vaughan. Thankfully, Colchester suffered similar stage fright in the final third to Notts - though struck the frame of the goal late on to make it an anxious few final minutes for the Notts faithful.
The final whistle was met with some groans of disappointment that we’d been unable to start the season in the same way that previous title-winning campaigns had, but there were signs that this could still be the start of something to shout about. Maybe not record breaking, but there is certainly a determination to break the mould of Nolan’s previous Notts model.
Notts 0 - 0 Colchester
Next up, away at Cambridge 11th Aug 3pm