The Thursday Preview: Notts County Vs Brentford
Having suffered just one defeat in eight, County go into this fixture on a Stairway. With Lee Hughes struggling for fitness in recent games, (Big) Ben Burgess and Karl Hawley have been handed opportunities, and both are looking revitalised. Benefiting, perhaps, from Allen’s bum-slapping man management, Burgess has been particularly focal, his aerial prowess key in a side that generally tends to look long.
A quick glance at the Pies’ last few team-sheets reveals an equally strong spine in defence and midfield. Neal Bishop’s career-high may have already come via a headed goal against Man City in last season’s Cup, but his Eddie-steadiness alongside Gavin Mahon, recently contracted for 18 months after a series of pay-as-you-play appearances, offers Notts a combination of savvy know-how and driving power through the middle.
A partnership of Mike Edwards and Krystian Pearce at centre half isn’t a million miles away from what lies ahead of them; despite possessing a lower average age than the Bishop/Mahon pivot, the pair channel experience and youth to great effect having already started a number of games together over the past year or so.
Given Allen’s place within that small circle of (supposedly) attention-worthy Football League characters along with the likes of Sven and Gus, the Magpies’ recent upturn in fortunes has not gone unheralded. Just yesterday, John Ashdown was the latest to be enchanted by the Dog effect, his piece for the Guardian speaking of giggles, grins and flower power in the black and white quarter of Nottingham. Critics will point to Allen’s dearth of honours as a manager, his horror spell at Cheltenham and the fact that he’s genuinely a bit of a shit, and his words leading into the Brentford game betray the menace that lurks behind his platitudes about teamwork and ethics.
Allen’s comments regarding the financial disparity between the two sides exhibits both his will to win at all costs, even if it does ruffle a few feathers, as well as a short memory; would his Magpies side even be competing at this level had Munto not happened? Simple mind games of Fergie’s ilk though they may be, his words will no doubt heap further herb on to this fixture.
This may not be a bad thing for Brentford, however. Having recorded just one win in six league games, a prod is required in order to keep up with the pace and safeguard against falling into obscurity so Allen’s words may yet backfire. The big money signings that the Dog’s likely to have been referring to, Clayton Donaldson, Jonathan Douglas, and Niall McGinn, should all figure and another, Shaleum Logan, has declared himself fit after two months out.
Three weeks on from a 4-0 mauling at home to a trenchant Huddersfield, Bees need a result to breathe some new life into their season; for me, however, they’ll have to wait until back-back home games next week to taste victory. A County win.