Setting off for the away game at Peterborough, Notts County knew that they would be going into their hardest away league game of the season without their two most experienced strikers, Lee Hughes and Ben Burgess.
The loss of Hughes was not a huge surprise, since he missed Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers after aggravating an existing injury in the warm-up before that game.
However, the absence of Burgess, after he sustained a calf injury in training yesterday, was a huge kick in the teeth, as he had actually been set to replace Hughes at London Road.
These two players began the season as County manager Craig Short’s first choice strike pairing, and as the team travelled south without them, he admitted: “It's going to be a very tough task."
Short must have thought long and hard about his team selection in the wake of both the loss of these two key men and their unexpected defeat in Bristol.
In the end, he opted for three personnel changes; goalkeeper Rob Burch made his first league start since the opening day of the season, Mike Edwards came in for suspended Graeme Lee in defence, and Kevin Smith replaced Lee Hughes in attack, where he was partnered by Craig Westcarr.
The Notts’ boss backed his players to rise to the challenge, saying: “We are without two experienced lads but we have to get on with it. We're looking at Jake [Jervis], Karl [Hawley], Kevin Smith and [Craig] Westcarr, who can play up there.”
These proved to be wise words from Short, as they, and the rest of the team, re-paid his faith in them in spades, as they wrecked Peterborough’s 100 per cent home record, edging them out in a 3-2 thriller.
However, the victory was unfortunately overshadowed by shameful scenes, involving both sides, at the final whistle.
Arguably the key performer in what was probably the Magpies’ best league win of the season was midfielder Ben Davies.
Another outstanding performance was capped with two goals in five first half minutes, making it now seven goals for the season. Westcarr also continued his fine start to the season, scoring his fifth goal of the campaign, also in the first half.
Commenting on his side’s performance, Short had encouraging words, saying: “We looked very dangerous every time we went forward.
"We have got some good goalscorers at the club. It's our best win of the season.
"We deserved this sort of result at Charlton and at Wolves (in the Carling Cup). We had a bad start to the season but the lads have got a lot of confidence now. I'm proud of them and the result.”
County are now 13 points, two points off the play-off places and seven points ahead of bottom club Brentford. Although it is far too early in the season to read much into current league positions, if Notts keep on performing as they are at the moment, they will surely finish the season towards the right end of the table.
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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