But soar­ing Mag­pies are start­ing to have their fans dar­ing to dream

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Graham Ot­way

NOTTS County man­ager Kevin Nolan will sit down this week with club owner Alan Hardy and sign a new con­tract.

How­ever, dur­ing their dis­cus­sion, the topic of pro­mo­tion is un­likely to fea­ture.

The vic­tory over Craw­ley, clinched by Jorge Grant’s 52nd­minute win­ner, main­tained the Mag­pies’ se­cond-placed po­si­tion in the League Two ta­ble.

But, hav­ing had to lead a fight against rel­e­ga­tion at the start of the year when he moved to Meadow Lane from Ley­ton Ori­ent, Nolan is look­ing down the ta­ble, not up it.

When asked about County’s pro­mo­tion po­ten­tial, he said: “I will only talk about it when we are safe in the league.

“If we can get to 50 points as soon as pos­si­ble, then I can as­sess where we want to be.

“Yes, we have got off to a fast start but the first thing we have to do is main­tain our pro­fi­ciency and at­ti­tude.”

The 300 County fans on the visit­ing ter­race at Broad­field could not re­sist the temp­ta­tion to sing ‘we are go­ing up.’

But while Nolan ap­pre­ci­ates their en­thu­si­asm, he will not be join­ing in with them.

“It’s lovely and they prob­a­bly haven’t been singing that for a long time,” he said.

“It’s bril­liant in that re­spect but we have got to be care­ful that we don’t get too car­ried away with it.”

Two sta­tis­tics, how­ever, would sug­gest that County could well be in con­tention to climb into League One next May.

They have now gone seven games with­out de­feat and have not a con­ceded a goal in their last four matches.

That is due to the out­stand­ing part­ner­ship which Shaun Bris­ley and Richard Duffy have formed at the heart of Nolan’s de­fence.

Bris­ley did limp off the pitch just af­ter half-time but his

re­place­ment El­liott He­witt also re­fused to give Craw­ley’s strik­ers an inch of space.

Nolan ac­cepts that Bris­ley could now miss sev­eral matches but feels his squad has the strength-in-depth to cope with his ab­sence.

“El­liot stepped in and did a fan­tas­tic job, and I am ab­so­lutely de­lighted that we have got plenty of cover, even if Shaun is miss­ing for two weeks,” said the Mag­pies chief.

“And to have got an­other win and the score­line show­ing an­other clean sheet is the re­sult of the hard work of these boys, and their de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

The wor­ry­ing statis­tic for Craw­ley boss Harry Kewell is that they have lost three out of their four home fix­tures since the sea­son started.

But they were cer­tainly not out­played in the first half es­pe­cially, when Lewis Young and Enzio Bold­ewijn com­bined to launch at­tacks down the right wing.

They might well have taken the lead in the first half but cut­ting in from an an­gle, Bold­ewijn sent one of his shots over the bar and an­other one wide of the far post.

There was also a good chance for Craw­ley cap­tain Jimmy Smith to break the dead­lock when he rose to meet a cross from Young but headed over the top.

County had their chances too, start­ing from as early as the se­cond minute when the hard-work­ing Jon Stead saw his an­gled shot well saved by Glenn Mor­ris.

And in first-half in­jury-time, Lewis Alessan­dra went close twice too. His pow­er­ful first shot was blocked by Mor­ris’ body and seiz- ing on the re­bound, he shot hur­riedly wide.

Stead was well-mar­shalled by Craw­ley de­fender Josh Yor­w­erth but it was his rare mis­take which set up County’s win­ner.

The Welsh­man’s de­ci­sion to step over the ball let in Jonathan Forte on Craw­ley’s right flank and his low cross found Grant un­marked.

Mor­ris did man­age to get his body in the way of Grant’s shot but he was an­gled back­wards and the ball crossed the line be­fore it hit him.

In re­sponse, Kewell used all three of his sub­sti­tutes but in the fi­nal 35 min­utes of the game, his play­ers did not man­age one strike that tested Adam Collin.

And the Aus­tralian made no ef­fort to mask his frus­tra­tion, say­ing: “We are ca­pa­ble of pass­ing teams com­pletely off the park and can play foot­ball in the right man­ner.

“But some­times it doesn’t work like that and you have to be tougher.

“County got one good chance to score a goal and af­ter that, they just locked up the shop.”

PIC­TURE: Dan West­well

ALL SMILES: Notts County's Jorge Grant, se­cond from left, is mobbed for open­ing the scor­ing

BAT­TLE: Craw­ley’s Jimmy Smith, right, chal­lenges Matt Too­tle DAN­GER: Jonathan Forte crosses for Jorge Grant to score CHIEF: County boss Kevin Nolan

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