Kiss Me, Hardy? No Thanks…
Notts County – among the favourites to be promoted at the beginning of the season – visited the team the bookies made absolute dead certs to be relegated today. But what do Bookmakers know about anything? (Actually – don’t answer that.) County are twenty-third in League Two and if the season had ended yesterday, they would accompany poor old Macclesfield into the netherworld of the National League. The Shrimps, by contrast, were six points and four places better off. If it wasn’t for the mid-week Cup FA humiliation against Halifax, Jim Bentley’s team would be in a reasonable run of form. According to a distraught manager after the game, the performance his team put on against a team even lower in the football pyramid than the National League was a `sackable’ one. But despite the Usual Suspects screaming for his head in the few days since the defeat, Jim is still at the helm.
The Magpies, on the other hand, have enjoyed no such stability in recent times. They named ex-Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley as their third manager of the season just yesterday. He steps into the shoes of Harry Kewell, who lasted only ten weeks at the helm after the sacking of Kevin Nolan as Notts made a poor start to this year’s campaign. Today, however – with the newly-appointed boss still on holiday – Steve Chettle was in charge of the visitors.
Hopefully, he wasn’t relying on the club’s owner, Alan Hardy, for a lift. This man was caught driving at 77mph in a 40 limit in March this year and said: “I just don’t agree that speed kills. Inappropriate speed kills and there is a distinction.” Pointing out that his attitude to the law of the land as far as speeding is concerned – that he knew better – the Magistrate was not sympathetic. Two weeks ago, the Beak noted that Hardy already had eleven points on his license and had been caught speeding again not just once but twice since the offence he was being charged with. Chairman Hardy was thus fined over three thousand pounds, had another six points added to his license and received a three month ban.
Almost twice the speed limit in a built-up area; a completely blasé attitude towards the law and other peoples’ safety: and three football Managers in less than four months. The question is posed: could there possibly be a link between all of these things? Mistakes we make once can be due to bad luck or carelessness – repeating the same mistakes over and over, though, smacks of something else altogether. Notts County are thus welcome to Mr Hardy: I hope he stays there personally if only because it gives us a better chance of staying-up.
Moving on, the previous record of clashes between these clubs was slightly to the Shrimps’ advantage. They had won five of twelve former contests and drawn three. Having said that, they had lost both of their previous meetings with the Nottingham club: surely today – with the Magpies in the dire straits they find themselves in currently – was a golden chance to stop that sequence.
Today’s game started with a lack of quality and, if anything, got worse as the half wore on. As far as the visitors were concerned, star performer – if there is such a thing as far as County are concerned – Enzio Boldewijn was helped from the field with what was obviously a painful injury after just nine minutes. Over half an hour later, the only other incident of note occurred when Jamie Turley won the ball deep in the Morecambe half and set-up Kristian Dennis one-on-one with Shrimps’ keeper Mark Halstead with a long ball. But the Morecambe stopper was equal to it and the chance went begging. Right at the death, Will Patching went down in the home penalty area and looked towards Referee Dean Whitestone for a spot-kick. To no avail.
If Shrimps’ fans were hoping to see a positive reaction to the woeful display in Yorkshire during the week, they were to be disappointed: the home team never tested Ross Fitzsimons in the visitors’ goal even once during the first half. The only thing which could be even vaguely described as a chance occurred after a quarter of an hour when A-Jay Leitch-Smith just failed to connect with Luke Conlan’s excellent left-wing cross at the far post.
Could the second half be even worse? No – but only marginally so. After four minutes, Liam Mandeville finally forced the visiting goalkeeper into action when Fitzsimons saved his curling shot at full stretch at the cost of a corner. Three minutes later, County took the lead when Elliot Hewitt’s cross from the right flank was headed past Halstead at his near post by Dennis to give the struggling club a lead they probably just about merited. The goal prompted Jimbo to make a double substitution immediately. Belatedly, the home team seemed to wake up and start at last to put what is obviously a team low on confidence under some sort of concerted pressure. This finally told-off in the 88th minute when 39-year-old Kevin Ellison very belatedly retrieved a point for the Shrimp by bundling the ball over the line from a corner which the visitors failed to clear. A match which will not live long in the memory thus ended all-square.
The draw made absolutely no difference to either teams’ position in the table. On this display, County deserve to be where they are. And Morecambe need to buck up their ideas after a pretty dreadful week: they weren’t any better in all truth.
Morecambe: 21 Mark Halstead; 14 Josef Yarney (7 Garry Thompson 53 mins); 16 Sam Lavelle; 5 Steven Old; 3 Luke Conlan; 6 Andrew Tutte; 17 Liam Mandeville (11 Kevin Ellison 53 mins); 4 Alex Kenyon( 12 Jason Oswell 82 mins); 27 Jordan Cranston; 28 A-Jay Leitch-Smith; 9 Vadaine Oliver. Subs not used: 13 Dawid Szczepaniak; 25 Ben Hedley; 24 Joe Piggott; 19 Carlos Mendes-Gomez.
Notts County: 1 Ross Fitzsimons; 26 Jamie Turley; 19 Elliot Ward; 20 Will Patching; 4 Elliot Hewitt; 21 Keston Davies; 24 Robert Milsom; 10 Nathan Thomas; 23 Daniel Jones; 9 Kristian Dennis (37 Kion Etete 95 mins) 11 Enzio Boldewijn (17 Noor Husin (Y) 10 mins).
Subs not used: 13 Branislav Pindroch; 5 Richard Duffy; 8 David Vaughan; 16 Sean Brisley; 2 Matt Tootle.
Ref: Dean Whitestone.
1658 (263 from Nottingham)