Notts County Football Club haven’t got long left to prove that they’re worthy of a place in the third tier of English football next season. Since Christmas, the Magpies have played 10 games, and although we haven’t exactly resigned ourselves to relegation, a heady mix of Jekyll-and-Hyde performances, combined with yet more poor refereeing calls and a pinch of calamitous luck have seen us still mired in the drop zone with just over a quarter of the season left to play.
Shaun Derry hasn’t been one to mess around. He oversaw a clear out of players in the January transfer window, including Joss Labadie, Danny Haynes, David Bell and Yoann Arquin, and brought in a host of fresh faces, such as Hayden Mullins, Kwesi Appiah and James Spencer. He also worked hard to secure loan extensions for Kieron Freeman, Jack Grealish and Callum McGregor.
On paper, it looked like a good squad that would soon claw its way out of trouble, and in January, the signs were indeed there. Though 2013 finished on a sour note with a defeat at Crawley Town, the first of the year saw Notts record an emphatic 3-0 win against Bradford City.
This was then followed up with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Sheffield United, before arguably the most significant result of the month, a 1-0 away win at Stevenage. The League One table had Notts up in 16th place, and for a weekend at least, Magpies fans were joyous.
As it has often been this season, it didn’t take long for hopes to once again come crashing down. Just when it looked like Notts were on their way to an emphatic victory against Peterborough United at London Road after scoring twice in the first seven minutes, young Ronan Murray then contrived to get himself sent off in the 15th minute for lashing out at Danny Swanson. The Posh didn’t need to be asked twice – by the hour mark, they were level, and by full time, they had won 4-3.
Things would get even worse when Walsall came round and proceeded to humiliate Notts in front of their own fans, thrashing them 5-1, and just to extinguish any remaining feel-good factor brought to Meadow Lane by the January hat-trick of wins, Preston North End saw off the Magpies 2-0 at Deepdale.
But of course, Notts County wouldn’t allow a certain mood to linger within the fans’ collective consciousness for too long – they proceeded to remind people of what they can do when everything clicks into place by routing Coventry City 3-0 at home.
And then, the pendulum swung back the other way with a 2-0 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers, which in itself may not necessarily be a bad thing, considering their pedigree, but when you then consider that the same horror show that took place at Peterborough just a month prior was then repeated against Shrewsbury Town, it was enough to drain even the most ardent fan of any newly instilled optimism. Two early Notts goals? Check. Notts player gets sent off in the first half? Check. The opposition going on to win the game? Check.
As things stand, Notts County are second from bottom. The false sense of security caused by us floating above the relegation zone despite having played three or four more games than the teams around us is now quickly vanishing, because they’ve actually gone on and got results from those games in hand over the last few weeks. All we need is Stevenage to win just one of their two games in hand, and we’ll be bottom again.
Time is running out for Notts County Football Club’s spell in League One. This is it now; they must play like they’ve never played before and fight like they’ve never fought before.
Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger
Giuseppe tweets at @JoeJonesHome