The Opposition View: Notts County

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 20 October 2016

What's your assessment of Notts County's season so far?

Frustratingly inconsistent, even within the same game. That John Sheridan suggested that his team were yet to play well for a full ninety minutes last week, despite being within touching distance of the play-offs, shows that this team has quality - but it's only appeared in fleeting glimpses so far.

The ship has definitely been steadied after last season's debacle and overall it's a start that everyone would've taken, but with a nagging frustration that we should be capable of more.

What did you make of the appointment of John Sheridan and what do the fans think of him now?

Sheridan was a bewilderingly sensible appointment for a club who tend to specialise in the leftfield when it comes to managerial decisions - and he's proven to be the steady hand that was needed. A raft of solid, if largely unspectacular, signings arrived in the summer and Notts play a relatively pleasing brand of football, albeit with the tendency to spend huge swathes of games seemingly asleep.

He's definitely got the respect of fans, but the reaction to the local derby defeat at Mansfield Town, followed by a home reverse to Morecambe, suggested that his honeymoon period may be coming to an end. Notts fans certainly see League Two as being below our natural level and will generally expect a promotion push, particularly with some useful summer acquisitions.

Richard Duffy and Carl Dickinson played for Pompey once-upon-a-time. What do Magpies fans think of them?

Both have largely underwhelmed to date, although that is as much down to their reputations as steady players in the leagues above as their actual performances, which have mostly been okay. Duffy helps with playing the ball out from the back, as Notts have generally looked to do, but has made a couple of basic defensive errors that led to goals. Dickinson can't be accused of lacking fight, but his set pieces do frustrate, as does his lack of pace.

Who are the key players in this current Notts County squad?

The strikers. Notts are much of a muchness behind the front two, but Jonathan Forte and Jon Stead are capable of turning this team into dangerous opposition and potential contenders for a top seven finish. Stead is capable of scoring a goal out of nothing, whilst Forte's pace and finishing makes him a constant threat on the break. With exciting youngster Aaron Collins, scorer of a couple of fine goals so far, and menacing target man Vadaine Oliver also options, we have far more depth and quality in attack than anywhere else on the pitch.

What are the main strengths and weaknesses of your team?

Notts have a clear issue that needs to be addressed if the pre-season aim of a top seven place is to be realised - we're simply shipping too many goals. We've kept just one clean sheet in the league this season and have generally been far too generous at the back. It could be a hangover from last season, when the defence was also terrible, but Sheridan did change the entire back line over the summer.

On the flip side, Notts have proven to be extremely resilient and must have come from behind more times than any other team in the division, overcoming setbacks at Hartlepool United, Crawley Town and Cheltenham Town to maintain an impressive away record. We also score plenty of goals, with Stead enjoying a particularly surprising run of form.

Will County attempt to "park the bus" at Fratton Park and would you take a draw now if offered?

I'd be surprised if the plan was to park the bus, if only because the last thing our defence needs is pressure to be invited onto it. We're also not the tallest or most aerially dominant team, so encouraging crosses into the box and conceding set pieces is also pretty unwise. It's more likely that we'll try and press up the pitch, keeping Stead and Forte in the game as much as possible. I'd definitely take a draw if offered, though - it's hard to see us conceding less than a couple of goals against a good attack.

Predict the outcome of the game.

We generally score and have enough attacking threat to make a game of it, but it's difficult to see us being tight enough at the other end to come away with a result. 3-2, something like that.

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