Notts County 3-0 Doncaster Rovers (EFL League Two)
So I’ve a boxing day party to go to around the corner from our house and I’ve had a text off the host who says ‘whilst the women are left at home to prepare the buffet the men will be going to watch football’ so “Do you want a ticket” how can I refuse?
I last seen Notts play in the summer and although I’m a red from across the river I’ve often watched the Magpies with friends as something to do when Forest are away and have no problem sitting in the Kop and seeing one or two familiar faces from the local footballing fraternity.
Kev’s whatsapped my ticket and he’s picking me up at 2:30pm with his brother and old man, all three huge Pies fans and season ticket holders, I’ve been watching Forest annihilate Newcastle United on Amazon Prime before getting in the car… “I bet you’re depressed being a Forest fan” Kev’s Dad says to me on first meeting… “They’re actually winning 3-1” I reply, as he’s not yet aware of today’s score… “I’m buzzing”.
Like Forest, Notts have had a recent sticky patch with a couple of poor results of late but I’ve been told performances are there, County play like a lower league Man City and pass out from the back, dominate possession and have goals in all departments, Doncaster are struggling and just the sort of team that Notts could do with facing today as I predict 4-0 in the car journey to the ground.
Kev’s parked in the County Council car park and tells me “They charge £10 when Forest play but nothing for Notts games” it’s a short five minute walk over Trent Bridge as we cross the river and head for the back side of the stadium which has queues all down the Iremonger Road to get in. A big crowd today is hoping for some festive cheer.
There’s a newly built paddle tennis centre in the car park behind the Kop. There’s also an outdoor bar which has been made out of a shipping container, it’s the Magpies owners ploy to bring more money through the doors, the Reedtz brothers are Danish and have stamped their own nuance on Notts County Football Club and boy the fans are pleased, watching good football, in good hands, it feels even despite recent results the club is finally in a great place following a few years outside the football league.
We’re through the turnstiles after a quick scan of my mobile phone. Kev’s old man and brother go straight to the shipping container for a pint whilst we walk up the steps for a Bovril and hot chocolate. There’s only 14 minutes until kick off and I doubt I can down a pint in that time.
Inside the arena it’s impressive in black, green lit surface below four large stands of similar height, Doncaster fans have the corner of an otherwise empty Jimmy Sirrel stand to our left. In front the Haydn Green Family Stand is half full whilst both the Kop and Derek Pavis Stand on the right are packed, we are in line with the corner flag and touchline, a wide view of everything below but about as high up as I’ve ever been at Notts, crammed in and comfortable with my hot beef drink as Kev’s brother and dad appear around the same time as the players come out to cheers.
Doncaster look more like QPR in blue and white hoops, Notts in thin black and white stripes are knocking it around as the away side stand off, they’ve retreated with a game plan and I’m already thinking it’s a dangerous tactic to allow County to have so much of the ball.
It should be 2-0, Notts have missed a couple of chances already and have dominated play but a cross into the Magpies box has Jodi Jones tug a shirt and Joe Ironside has the chance from the penalty spot, as soft as they come I feel it’s the Referee’s attempt to jazz up a one sided game but Ironside’s penalty is wide as I scream ‘they aint scoring today’.
It doesn’t take Notts long to take advantage, a few more missed before finally they have the ball in the net. Jodi Jones whipping in with velocity, swerve, dip, Dan Crowley running in to tap home without breaking stride.
Macaulay Langstaff is next, he’s been sniffing all half with his constant off ball movement he has two chances missed but doesn’t fail the third time as he prods home from neatwork by David McGoldrick. Langstaff with fifteen for the season is a proper old-skool centre forward who ‘every young budding number nine should watch play’ His educated awareness and instinct is why he scores so many.
At half time Kev’s brother shows me the possession stats on his BBC sports app which have Notts County on the ball for 83% of the first 45. They are ridiculously good on the ball for a team at this level but leave themselves very open at the back. I can’t help feel a side with pace can catch them on the break, luckily for Notts, Doncaster don’t have any, with Ironside isolated often alone up top. He’s certainly not the quickest as he trots around frustrated with his lower arm in plaster.
In fact it’s Notts who possess more attacking prowess and McGoldrick is dazzling again, he’s running forward with the ball before supplying Langstaff who’s shot on the spin is parried by the goalkeeper and Aaron Nemane taps home a third.
With plenty of time left there’s a flurry of substitutions as Notts release their foot off the gas, a couple of half chances for both sides but the game is won, by now the home fans are singing ‘3-0 down on your big day out’ and ‘can we play you every week’.
I really enjoyed watching the off ball running of Macaulay Langstaff, a natural born centre forward who is always sniffing and sensing where the ball might arrive, and his movement seems to nearly always lead to goalscoring opportunity. He’s the type of player I feel no matter what division, he’ll simply score goals because it’s what he does, it's what he's born to do.
Dan Crowley was fantastic and is a lovely player to watch, cutting in off the right and looking to make things happen whilst David McGoldrick looks to have a responsibility which he’s enjoying. Showing those ‘youngsters’ what it means to play for his boyhood club and leading by example with every touch of the ball a positive manoeuvre with intention to make something happen.
Not really a day for Doncaster or their fans to cheer much about. Young substitutes Tavonga Kuleya and Modou Faal on loan from West Brom did at least have a positive impact when they came on, but they were largely second best and perhaps indebted to their goalkeeper Ian Lawlor for keeping the score down.
Notts need to keep tracks on those above them and have a must win match at Meadow Lane on Friday verses Morecambe where much of the same type of performance will do nicely. Doncaster will be watching over their shoulders and will also be looking to (not deliberately) do Notts a favour in their next match by beating Mansfield at Field Mill. If they play like they did today however, then they won’t be taking any points against a team flying high in the promotion race.
If there’s two worse teams in League Two than Donny this season, I’ve a feeling the Rovers fans will probably be satisfied with an outcome that leads to survival. They looked poor and resigned to defeat from minute one and if they stay up, I'll be mildly surprised that their season has achieved par.
Notts County: Aidan Stone, Richard Brindley (Connell Rawlinson 68), Aidan Baldwin, Kyle Cameron (Oliver Tipton 68), Aaron Nemane (Tobi Adebayo-Rowling 77), Dan Crowley, Sam Austin, John Bostock, Jodi Jones (Jim O’Brien 69), David McGoldrick (James Sanderson 78), Macaulay Langstaff.
Doncaster Rovers: Ian Lawlor, Jamie Sterry (Tavonga Kuleya 70), Joseph Olowu (Will Flint 46), Tom Anderson (Tommy Rowe 46), Jack Senior, Tom Nixon, Ben Close, Owen Bailey, Harrison Biggins (Modou Faal 60), Luke Molyneux (Kyle Hurst 82), Joe Ironside.
3:00pm Kick Off. Tuesday 26th December 2023, Meadow Lane, Nottingham (att 12,785).