Relief all around as, at the third attempt, Notts County secured their first win back in League One on Saturday. Were they shocked into action, or was it down to a change in team formation?
On the eve of the game, chairman Ray Trew warned that big changes would be afoot at Meadow Lane, in the form of several players being shown the way out of the club, unless County overcame Dagenham.
If this was the case, the metaphorical kick up the backside from Trew worked, although it could easily have backfired; the players looked under pressure and nervous in the first half. They rode their luck, as Dagenham almost scored twice – hitting the post on one occasion.
Fortunately, Notts managed to throw off the shackles and overcome their nerves in the second half, attacking with aplomb and topping this off with a great goal from ex-Kettering Town man Craig Westcarr.
When the goal went in, the relief expressed by the fans was overwhelming, and no doubt was matched in no little part by the feelings of the players.
The County defence also played their part by standing strong and keeping a clean sheet for the first time back in the division. This was no doubt made easier by the fact that it was almost identical to that of last season, with both John Thompson and Graeme Lee returning to the back four.
With Lee Hughes out with a groin injury, the Magpies opted for a 4-5-1 system, with Ben Burgess as a lone striker.
It may be coincidence, but they also won when they used this formation in their Carling Cup game against Plymouth Argyle a couple of weeks ago.
Given that Hughes is unlikely to be fit for County’s next two games (against Watford in the Carling Cup and Bournemouth in the league, respectively), the team will likely keep faith with 4-5-1.
Manager Craig Short certainly hinted as much, stating that he thinks that this playing style suits his team. He went on to say that he doesn’t want his side to be a ‘route-one team’, adding that when they play 4-5-1 they are not as direct. He also stated that ‘putting that extra man in midfield also helps us seize command of games’.
It was not a stellar performance from the Magpies, no doubt they are still lacking in confidence after two consecutive 3-0 league defeats, but they showed character, determination and passion. This takes the pressure off a little, although Short insists that further improvement is required.
For now though, the black and white half of Nottingham can bask in a feeling of immense relief.
The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.