We are now coming to the end of October, the clocks have turned back, the days will get colder and shorter, and after the Halloween and Bonfire Night festivities are out of the way, it’s collision course straight for Christmas, meaning two solid months of adverts, store displays and of course, the Christmas songs. Some will love it, some will loathe it, but nevertheless, it’s that time of year.
With regards to the football calendar, we’re at that time of year where the priorities of all the clubs in all the leagues have been established. Some are riding high and anxious not to drop points in a bid for the title or promotion. Others are floating along in mid-table and will be happy to go along with the ride and try and push for the play-offs and away from the drop zone. Meanwhile, others have realised that they are in a relegation battle, and will be desperate to rectify all the issues which have left them entrenched in the drop zone.
The latter scenario is precisely where Notts County find themselves. Out of the thirteen games played – just under a third of the season – Notts have lost ten, drawn one and won two. Our goals for and against (14 and 24 respectively) aren’t exactly atrocious, mind – Carlisle United have scored a goal less, conceded the same, yet sit in 15th – but the harsh reality is, we have seven points all season and sit at the bottom of League One.
And yet, Notts haven’t played badly in every single game. Often we have more than matched our opponents, yet still contrived to lose.
The reasons are simple: we often get hit against the run of play – the word/s “sucker-punched” has appeared in quite a few of my match reports – when our defence is potentially at its most vulnerable. Lapses of concentration at the back have cost us dear. And when we do fall behind – more often than not the first goal of the game has been against us – we simply cannot get back into the game. We huff, we puff, but we can’t breach the opposition defence.
Most of our goals this season have come from on loan Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor, who’s not shy when it comes from firing deadly shots from outside the box. He has five league goals so far. However, he is just on loan, and if we fail to extend this, then we must be able to make up for it. As it is, our four main strikers – Yoann Arquin, Danny Haynes, Marcus Haber and Enoch Showunmi – have just seven league goals between them, which isn’t a good sign.
As with last season, our goalkeepers have been outstanding and are responsible for having kept us in contention virtually every game. Without Bartosz Bialkowski or Fabien Speiss in between the sticks, we would have been in even more trouble.
Naturally, a lot of the blame for our poor league position has fallen onto the manager, Chris Kiwomya. Points of criticism include the failure to motivate his players and to make the most out of what is, on paper, a very good team, and for questionable substitutions.
Kiwomya is also credited with having done a lot for the youth set-up at Notts during his time as development manager and, as first-team manager, has overseen the integration of several Academy players, notably Speiss, Greg Tempest, Adam Coombes and Curtis Thompson, into the first team.
However, seven points from thirteen league games just isn’t good enough, and when the club has a lot riding on it being in League One, then changes have to be made and, with all circumstances being taken on board, Notts and Kiwomya parted ways on the 26th October. Assistant manager Mick Jones and coach Andy Watson have also left, with Steve Hodge placed in temporary charge for the Oldham game on Tuesday.
So, the search for a new manager, who will be Notts’ fourteenth permanent appointment in ten years, is underway. With Nigel Clough having already opted for Sheffield United, rumours of Ian Holloway coming to Meadow Lane are flying about.
As in the 2010/11 season, we now need a manager who is capable of getting us out of this predicament and into mid-table first and foremost. Once we can stabilise and consolidate our position, then it’s crucial to propel the club up into the league.
As a Notts fan it feels like we have taken several steps forward in the last few years, only to have fallen several back. I’m hopeful we can put things right, though, and head back in the right direction sooner rather than later.
Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger
Giuseppe tweets at @JoeJonesHome