The recent spell of abysmal weather has proved a source of immense frustration for players and fans alike, with most of last weekend’s league programme called off, as well as numerous cup ties being cancelled up and down the land, due to frozen pitches and the like.
Notts County had been hoping to build momentum after getting their first League win under manager Paul Ince against Swindon in their last game, but they have been thwarted by the icy conditions, with both their FA Cup tie against Bournemouth and their League game against Brentford being postponed.
However, although the players have suffered disruptions and alterations to their training regime, and the uncertainty of not knowing when they will next play a proper match, there is something positive to be taken out of the current enforced lay off.
This comes in the form of a chance to reflect on what’s gone wrong so far this season and plan ahead in an effort to improve things.
One source of encouragement in this respect is that when they do eventually re-start their League programme, four of County’s next six games are against teams in the bottom half of the table - Plymouth Argyle, Walsall and Hartlepool United - giving them an ideal opportunity to gain valuable points and climb to a more healthy position.
However, Ince is not reading anything into the current League positions of his team’s rivals.
He said: “I don't look at places because most teams are very similar to each other in quality, although there are one or two very good teams.” He added: "We have got to take each game on its merit. If we pick up from where we left off against Swindon and perform at our best we can beat anyone in this league."
Midfielder Neal Bishop expressed more optimism than his manager with regard to County’s upcoming fixtures, stating: "With the seven games coming up there is plenty of opportunity to get ourselves up towards mid-table."
He went on to say: "If we can come out of this period with a few wins under our belts, we will be in good shape. We can go into the New Year looking up rather than over our shoulders, like we are at the moment.”
Bishop had more heartening news for the fans, assuring them that he believes Notts are making steady progress under Ince. He said: "Every manager has got their own way of playing. The new gaffer, without wanting to give anything away, is getting his ideas across and we're all embracing it."
He went on to describe some of what the team have been focusing on in training: "We're doing a lot of work on our shape on the training ground and being tight as a unit across the midfield and as a back-four.
"We have said all season that we have conceded too many goals, that is everyone's responsibility in the team. It's something we are working on and hopefully it's starting to show in our performances.”
Looking at the next few fixtures in the context of the entire season, it could certainly be make or break time for the Magpies, although, of course, we will only know that for sure with the benefit of hindsight next May.
For now, we can just keep our fingers crossed that County have turned a corner and are using the enforced winter break as a chance to reflect, rejuvenate and refresh for the battle ahead.
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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