That was certainly a game which epitomises why the Sky Blues and Notts County are locked in a relegation battle. It was another relatively poor fixture as the nerves seemed to effect both of the teams. Frustratingly, our inability to score goals was reflected on the scoreline. Although we had the lions share of possession in the second period it just wouldn’t fall for us, both teams struggled to create any clear cut chances and it was a fair 0-0 draw on reflection.
The Sky Blues started brightly in the Nottingham sun and the first chance of the affair was carved out on 2 minutes. A forward ball picked out Simeon Jackson who was recalled to the side after Dominic Samuels injury, he then ran towards goal before striking low but straight in to Roy Carroll’s clutches. Notts County’s players seemed to be effected by the nerves early on as they gave away the ball on numerous occasions with City implementing a high press. This allowed the Sky Blues to gain possession and forge attacks, the next one involving Nick Proschwitz who’s hold up play looked impressive early on. He rolled the ball to Frank Nouble who characteristally opted to skip round his opponent before his cross was put behind for a corner. The early signs were good, we seemed to be unnerving the Magpies and Jackson and Proschwitz looked lively as they were thriving to prove themselves.
Despite some good passages of play it was another fairly scrappy game to tell the truth as another bobbly surface didn’t cater for slick football. This caused both teams to look for the long ball, neither side used it to good effect early on and it was dissapointing to see City just give the ball away too often. When the home side did look to play it forward to the experienced Alan Smith, who was being deployed as a striker, the City defence stood up to it and cleared their lines well. Chris Stokes and Jordan Willis also started brightly with them cutting out any diagonal long balls to relieve pressure on the City back four.
After around 15 minutes though Notts seemed to have settled down as they started to enjoy a bit more possession of the ball. Their first chance of the game came with 17 minutes on the clock as Hayden Mullins drove a shot towards goal, Burge was down quickly to react though. The home side had another opportunity just a few minutes later but it was wasted. This came about when Gary Jones firstly smashed a free kick straight at the wall before skewing the rebound wide after the ball fell back to him.
The Magpies continued to look the better side as they knocked the ball around well. City’s midfield looked second best in the first period as Gary Jones and Sean Newton were dictating play in the centre for County. A lot of joy was to be had out on the wing as well as they looked to exploit the wide areas but City’s full backs stood strong and restricted the number of crosses to very little. The next chance of the game came on 30 minutes as County’s midfield allowed them to drive forward again. The old head, Gary Jones, found room on the edge of the area but his deflected effort was held confidently by Lee Burge in the away goal.
There was no doubts that the home team were on top at this point but it still remained a scrappy game. Most of the Notts County possession came about after the Sky Blues gave the ball away simply. We continued to look long and it just wasn’t paying dividends. Proschwitz was doing as well as he could up there but every time he got the ball he looked isolated as Nouble and Jackson didn’t get close to him quick enough. This caused the German to give away possession on a few occasions because he simply had no options. When we had the ball in midfield nobody up top looked to come deep and collect the ball, all of the front three would make forward runs which clearly showed we had set out to play the long ball.
One thing that was causing Notts County problems however was City set-pieces. On numerous occasions Grant Ward picked out Chris Stokes at the back post, he would then head back across goal but nobody was winning the second ball in the mix of it. We were just lacking a bit of physical presence in there. Was the answer on the bench… Reda Johnson? I can only imagine he would of got on the end of the pull backs but we’ll never know. The final real chance of the half fell to the hosts after a short corner caused City problems. It was a good delivery in to the box which bounced around off a few bodies before Jim O’Brien finally hooked the ball clear, this then allowed Ward to fire way over at the other end with the last kick of a poor first 45 minutes from both sides.
The second period got underway and we started in a similar fashion to the first as a chance was carved out on 48 minutes. Adam Barton played a neat one-two with Grant Ward before the Irish midfielder saw his effort deflected wide off a defender. Confident passing and possession allowed Barton to receive the ball on the edge of the area with 53 minutes played and another chance was constructed. After dawdling on the ball for a few seconds he then only mustered up a weak and lacklustre effort which was collected gratefully by Carroll.
City looked a different side in the second half as they controlled possession and looked to attack the Notts back line. The midfield also seemed to be a lot stronger as Grant Ward in particular broke up any opposition attacks, which allowed the Sky Blues to get the ball down and play. The long ball approach had seemingly been ditched as we tried to pass our way in to dangerous territory. There was 57 minutes played when the next chance was created, and a good build-up was on show again. Great work out wide allowed Jim O’Brien to feed Simeon Jackson, the Canadian forward then whipped in a peach of a cross which was put wide at the back post by Adam Barton who was under pressure from his opposite number. With the next move it was good defending again that thwarted the Sky Blues as a brilliant Jackson pass released Proschwitz down the left, he then drove in to the area before firing a low cross which was turned behind off a defenders sliding leg. It was a period of dominance that we had to make count… Unfortunately we didn’t.
The hosts then nearly took the lead against the run of play on the hour mark as a corner was fumbled inexcusably by Burge, Nicky Wroe then saw his header blocked off the line by Matthew Pennington. On 64 minutes another nervy moment had us fans panicking in the stands… Another corner was floated in and it somehow bounced in the centre of the box unchallenged before clattering off the outside of the far post and then dropping to safety – a lucky moment for the Sky Blues. The hosts got away with it on 69 minutes too though as a Grant Ward free kick caused havoc. It curled around the back four towards the far post where Nouble was lurking, he was then pulled down blatantly but another stonewall penalty was waved away to our dismay.
City continued to drive forward and Roy Carroll was called in to action again on 71 minutes. Good expansive play allowed Jordan Willis to receive the ball out wide, his cross was then mishit but it looped on target and forced the stopper in to a smart save. It was just the final ball that was lacking on numerous occasions in what was becoming the norm for City, we were forcing a few corners but we couldn’t make our pressure count. It was another corner that was met by Stokes that caused problems again, the on-loan defender nodded the ball down to Pennington who could only skew his shot wide as the ball bounced awkwardly in front of him.
The final few chances of the affair fell to us but we couldn’t make a breakthrough. Adam Barton saw another shot blocked on 82 minutes before a few crosses were propelled in to the Notts area, the home defence stood firm though as they got the ball clear of danger. The ball did however get past the back four with the game in the dying embers as a superb free kick from Grant Ward picked out Adam Barton, he then thought he’d scored with a powerful header but Roy Carroll turned back the clock to spring up and acrobatically tip the ball over. The final whistle was sounded soon after to signal a share of the spoils for the two sides.
Well… It wasn’t exactly a great spectacle again but you don’t expect it to be down in the lower reaches of the third division. A distinct lack of quality from both sides caused it to be a fairly dull game, but City did provide us with some heart in mouth moments both going forward and defensively. Looking back and reflecting on the game you could argue it was a fair result, but I still think it’s two points dropped. If we had put a chance away to win 1-0 the three points would of put us in good stead going in to Saturday’s tie with Colchester at the Ricoh. It just wasn’t to be.
Defensively I thought we coped very well again and we looked fairly solid, albeit against a Notts County side who didn’t really cause us any problems. There was a few nervy moments thrown in there as per usual but you expect this with a young squad like we have. The midfield had a game of two halves really as they got completely outplayed in the first half, but they responded well and dominated the ball in the middle of the park during the second period. As for the front three it was an average display, with Proschwitz looking as if he could be a good option going in to the closing five games. Simeon Jackson wasn’t to effective but he has pace to get in behind, which could allow him to directly replace the injured Dominic Samuel. As for Frank Nouble, the big striker showed glimpses of brlliance but it was just another average display by him. I just hope he lifts his form. I still think Reda Johnson could of provided us with an outlet late on, and his threat from set-pieces would of no doubt caused the home side problems. He didn’t come on though which is dissapointing, he could’ve got the winner.
I predicted a draw prior to the game and from the get-go it looked nailed on to be a stalemate. A point is a point at the end of the day but I am disappointed we didn’t leave with all three. It will be seen as a good point if we beat Colchester on Saturday, but we have to lift it at home. We now sit just one point above the bottom four but a few of the teams below us have a game in hand, most notably Crewe who occupy 21st position. The pressure is mounting. All we can do now is concentrate on ourselves. As I’ve said before, if you look at who we have to play, our destiny is firmly in our own hands!
Lee Burge – 6
Chris Stokes – 7
Aaron Martin – 6.5
Matthew Pennington – 7
Jordan Willis – 7
Adam Barton – 7
Jim O’Brien – 7
Grant Ward – 7.5
Frank Nouble – 6
Nick Proschwitz – 7
Simeon Jackson – 6
James Maddison – 6
Sanmi Odelusi – 6