This is not just in terms of missing what that particular player offers, but also how his absence may affect the rest of the team. The manager is forced into making a quick-thinking, last-minute change, which may necessitate an alteration in team formation, and the blow felt by the rest of team when they hear that a vital member of their number is missing, can hugely affect confidence.
Notts suffered such a setback on Saturday, when star striker Lee Hughes did not re-appear after the warm-up. He had aggravated an existing groin injury and had to be withdrawn. Had he played, Hughes would have been the focal point of manager Craig Short’s strategies, playing as a lone striker.
It was vital that the Magpies adapted quickly to the loss of Hughes, but insult was added to injury, when they fell behind after only four minutes. As if that wasn’t enough, bad luck was added to the mix when Graeme Lee was then sent off, somewhat harshly, after 39 minutes.
It was always going to be difficult to fight back with only ten men, and Notts were dealt a further blow on 56 minutes when they conceded a second goal. Although Ben Davies pulled a goal back in the dying stages of the game, with his fifth goal of the season, County were condemned to their third away defeat of the season.
Craig Short was unhappy and revealed that: "Graeme said to me that he ran across him (Joe Kuffour) and they just collided. He said it was probably a free-kick. To lose a player for that is a joke. Things went against us and we have got to accept it, but it is frustrating."
Lee Hughes’ absence was also obviously a big talking point. Davies said: "It was a big blow to lose Hughesy. He's been on fire lately so to lose him so close to kick off and have to reshuffle was a nightmare." He went on to lament: "It was one of those afternoons. Everything seemed to go against us. We lost Hughesy before kick-off, we conceded early and then there was the sending off."
Notts’ game against Peterborough tonight has now assumed greater significance. Jon Harley said: “It's big for us nowt. It's important we start well and don't give ourselves an uphill challenge." Davies added: "They are probably one of the best teams in the league, they are very strong, especially going forward," he said. "It will be another big test for us, but one we can handle. It's a good place to go and try to get our first win."
It will be a huge test for the Magpies, given that Peterborough were playing in the Championship last season and have a 100 per cent record at London Road so far in this campaign. Short is hopeful that Hughes will be fit to face the Posh, and that is pivotal for County’s chances of getting something from the game.
If Hughes plays, and Notts can conjure up a performance like those that led to impressive Carling Cup displays away at Watford and Wolves, then maybe they can force their first League away win of the season.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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