7 October ~ After walking over Trent Bridge to the pub having secured the League Two title earlier this year, my Notts County supporting friends and I agreed we would be happy to take fifth from bottom as we re-entered League One after a six-year absence. And as we walked across the same famous bridge, to the same not-so-famous pub three months later, having had our arses served on a plate 3-0 by Huddersfield in our opening fixture, we said exactly the same. A quarter of the season in even the most partisan Notts fan would take survival over a second successive promotion this season. Probably because we're not good enough.
We doff our collective caps at Rochdale and Bournemouth for adjusting to life at a higher level better than us and question the tactics of rookie manager Craig Short. Last season – one which made us hated by fans of rival clubs – we cantered to the title with the occasional blip and a quick-passing style of play that was a joy to behold. Off the pitch we were as disgusted with the goings-on at our own club as any other football fan, but on the pitch we lapped it up.
But this season we have adopted a long-ball style that simply doesn't seem to be working. Midfield terriers Ricky Ravenhill and Neil Bishop are meeting their matches and opposing teams are passing the ball through them. The much maligned Lee Hughes, who got 33 goals last season, has suffered from injury and we have no natural goalscorer in the team to step into his boots.
Most worryingly, having seen a player sent off in our last three matches, our discipline is shot. But, saying all that, we're just below halfway in the table, having secured some great wins with good performances. The highly-publicised mass brawl following our deserved 3-2 win at then table-toppers Peterborough Utd involved so many people that it overshadowed a stunning performance at London Road. And we're still baffled at how Sheffield Wednesday drove back up the M1 with a 2-0 win last Saturday.
Other plus points include Craig Westcarr, as an ex-Forest player (and self-confessed fan) one who needs to work harder to win over the crowd, doing just that with some spirited performances And dead-ball specialist Ben Davies is adding pound signs to his value each week with goals from midfield. If he continues in the same vein he looks likely to go when the transfer window reopens, with our friendly neighbours Derby allegedly keen to secure his signature. If that happens would I still settle for fifth from bottom come next May? You bet I would. Dave Evans