Was it pretty? No. Was it effective? Heck, Yes.

The Glovers’ Wall stood firm to hold off wave after wave of Notts County attack and take home a well earned point from Meadow Lane in front of a National League record, 16,500.

Gloverscast Ben joined Gloverscast Dave in the away end for this one, it’s conclusion time….

I think it’s worth putting some stats together to just understand just how good that result was.

Notts County have scored in every game this season, in every competition, regardless of eventual outcome.

49 goals in 19 games prior to the weekend, doesn’t take a genius maths wizz to work out that’s a seriously good XG return.

County had actually scored in every game since drawing a blank against Stockport County at the back end of last season. The last time Meadow Lane didn’t see a goal from their side in a competitive match…. April 17th 2021 when Eastleigh kept them out, 520 days between away clean sheets.

Notts County will be fine, on that evidence, they’ll finish top three, no question.

Their ability to find short passes through lines of players is second to none, every pass is quick, crisp along the ground and presented with pin point accuracy, which for me, only makes the Glovers’ rear guard action even more impressive.

Notts County are probably the best footballing outfit I’ve seen this season, or maybe even for a couple of seasons… and the Parma Violet Party Poopers gave them a good old dollop of ‘thou shall not pass’. 

The difference between this game and the Oldham shambles came down to a very simple gameplan.

Be. Organised.

A very flat back five, a central but very flat four in front of them, and at times a rather defensively minded frontman.

I don’t think Scott Wickens’ running tracker would have had too much of a tough task getting the numbers for this one, it wasn’t expansive.

But that’s okay, sometimes, you have to dig in and get it done, what I want to highlight is the levels of concentration needed. To stay switched on at the back for basically 95 minutes is tough, mentally.

Only for maybe twice could messrs Hunt, Bevan and Williams dare to switch off as the ball made a foray forwards, but they kept their cool. Block, Tackle. Head. Clear. Repeat.

One misplaced foot and a penalty would have gifted their hosts a chance to undo all that hard work, one flung out limb could deflect a ball beyond Smith, one lapse in concentration and your (very good) opponents have a yard of space and a free chance to ruin it all.

It never happened once.

The legs might not have done quite so much of the hard work, but the brains would have done extra.

Owen Bevan in particular for me was outstanding, but I truly believe that was one of the most assured defensive displays I’ve ever seen from Yeovil.

Owen Bevan heads away. Picture courtesy of Mike Kunz.

Now… there were a couple of moments where the County barrage broke through the wall, that’s to be expected, they’re a wonderful outfit, but what they got when their half chances came around happened to be…

The best ‘keeper in the National League.

It’s not even close, the levels of trouble we’d be in as a team without Grant Smith is astronomical.

He makes the easy ones look easy, because his positioning is always foot perfect, he makes the difficult ones look easy, because he is quick, agile with spring powered boots.

It’s the boring stuff like he always gets the parries AWAY from goal, he never stopped marshaling his back line, and I’ve never seen a man take a slower goal kick in my life!

I joked to Dave that the reason Will Buse was on the bench was in case Grant Smith got booked twice for time-wasting, in the end, he didn’t once, he got warned, but it turns out he can even charm an official to keep his cards in his pocket. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAN CAN’T DO!?

Can I ask about the contract situation? Are we able to make that a longer deal? He’s a genuine asset and with January fast approaching and EFL teams looking to shuffle the pack, he’s worth a few quid, I’d quite like that protected.

Grant Smith. Picture courtesy of Mike Kunz.

Our new additions have really added something – something we were missing.

Andrew “What’s the Story” Oluwabori was the brightest attacking spark in a performance which wasn’t very attacking, but I found myself really appreciating the little nuances of his performance.

More than once, he held a defender off on or around the half way line, kept the ball and won a throw in, free kick or made the simple pass to someone who can get the ball forward.

He’s rapid, and the Notts County left back didn’t stand a chance when they got in a foot race, he’s direct and will cause plenty of decent teams trouble, I’d like him to stay for the season please, thanks.

Jamie “Taller than you think” Andrews is another one who really shone for me. Again, I know I’m talking about a different style of performance, but I saw enough in his resolute sideways defensive formation to know he’s got something.

Towards the back end of the second half, Josh Staunton was really starting to feel the injury that has prevented him from training, he came to a bit of a standstill in the middle, so Andrews did his chasing for him. Harrowing, closing down, side to side like a crab at times, blocking one path, then shuffling to the next and so on.

There were glimpses of his ability to take a ball and go from back to front quite quickly, but this wasn’t the game for that.

And finally, it was mentioned after the game that the team “couldn’t apologise” for their approach to this game.

I don’t want an apology, I don’t need an apology.

I think every one of the 452 fans there appreciated that it might be the toughest point we get all season, the toughest clean sheet (Not a ‘Cleano’) we might have to fight for all campaign.

I said as we left that if this game was a month or two further down the line, then yeah, ok, I dont mind if people get a bit disgruntled, but not now.

You can just start to see the beginnings of a run; that’s unbeaten in three, that’s just one goal conceded in three. That’s a game which can set up potentially massive clashes at home with FC Halifax, Scunthorpe United and Torquay United before the New Year is rung in.

It was a top draw defensive masterclass, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll look back in a couple of months and pinpoint it as so much more.

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Jeffrey Baskerville
1 year ago

I was a neutral at Meadow Lane on Saturday. I came across the Five Conclusions article by Ben Barrett and took great pleasure reading it. Outstanding. Loved reading it. Spot on with all his observations. Well done.