2008 review (part one)

By Dane Vincent
Last updated : 01 January 2009

In charge: McParland took over in 2007.
January
The Magpies kicked off 2008 with a New Year's Day fixture away at Hereford United. Despite two straight losses, Ian McParland's side fought hard to earn a scoreless draw against the eventual third placed finishers.

Revival hopes were slashed later that week when Stockport County walked away from Meadow Lane with a 2-1 victory in a game that saw Guy Branston and Felix Bastians make their debuts. Branston was omitted at the break following a rather disastrous display, which turned out to be his only appearance in the black and white stripes.

With the transfer window open, there was plenty of movement. Paul Mayo was shipped out to Darlington on a month's loan and Peterborough United's Gavin Strachan  signed an 18-month deal, alongside Hartlepool United's full-back/winger, Ali Gibb, who signed on an initial short-term loan. Such new recruits were unsuccessful in preventing a 3-0 drubbing away at Bradford City.


Although promising
Birmingham City defender, Krystian Pearce was recalled by his parent club, the rest of January proved to be much more cheerful. Long-term injury victims, Jay Smith and Michael Edwards stepped up their returns and helped to inspire the team to overcome Chester City and gain back-to-back draws at Morecambe and Brentford.


Deadline day saw more arrivals, with
Norwich City forward, Ryan Jarvis signing on loan after Shrewsbury Town target-man, Andy Cooke pulled out of a permanent move at the last minute.


It was also a very controversial and unsettling month for the club, with prospective buyer, Colin Hancock putting forward his interest on BBC Radio Nottingham's Match Talk show, before withdrawing his interest a couple of weeks later.  


Position: 18th in League Two


February

Two more draws were attained away at Grimsby Town (1-1) and at home against Stockport (1-1) taking the unbeaten run to five games. Any momentum was short-lived, however, as a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Darlington was inflicted. To add to the misery, it was announced that Tim Sandercombe, Stephen Hunt and defensive midfielder, Strachan had all picked up injuries.


With just 27 goals scored in 31 games and the side languishing just five points away from the drop zone, McParland once again bolstered his fruitless strike force by bringing Danny Crow to the club. The
Peterborough striker was an immediate hit, glancing home a header to earn Notts their second away win of the campaign.


Disaster struck over the next few days when the in-form Kevin Pilkington was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a fractured fibula. Moving swiftly, the management team was able to make a shock swoop for former
West Brom stopper, Russell Hoult. Despite impressing, the 'keeper was

Out: Pilkington was ruled out, leaving the squad with no fit 'keepers.
unable to prevent Bradford City from claiming a double with a 3-1 victory.


Scottish left-back, Austin McCann announced that he was going to leave the club. He had decided to head back to his homeland in order to join up with Dunfermline Athletic. This was easily forgotten when the unbelievable news that legendary defender, Michael Johnson was to return to the club until the summer.


Position: 20th in League Two


March

Johnson's arrival seemed to strengthen the defensive unit as Notts proceeded to lose just once across the whole of the month, conceding twice in the process. The only loss came against
Lincoln City (1-0) through a Jamie Forrester strike, which proved to be the last concession on home turf that term.


Scoring remained an issue though, as a lack of firepower saw an equal amount put into their opponents' nets. This meant that County continued their struggle due to a lack of wins. A solitary victory was achieved when Johnson prodded in the winning goal to claim a 1-0 scalp of play-off hopefuls,
Rochdale.


The other five clashes with
Macclesfield Town (1-1), Barnet (0-0), Peterborough (0-0), Shrewsbury Town (0-0) and Mansfield Town (0-0) ended in draws.


Continuing the much needed re-building of the team, McParland strung even more changes. Twins, Matt and Rob Austin were informed that they were to follow in the footsteps of the already departed, Hector Sam, whilst Leyton Orient winger, Wayne Corden arrived on a temporary basis.


Although there were several players added to the wage bill, a rumour began to circulate, regarding the club's financial state. Negative whisperings were soon quashed when Chairman, John Armstrong-Holmes rubbished them publicly.


Position: 22nd in League Two


April

Relegation fears once again became a reality when two consecutive losses to Bury (2-1) and
Rochdale (4-2) were notched up. Desperate times called for desperate measures and Armstrong-Holmes fought successfully to allow home supporters to return to the Kop stand, in a bid to drum up a better atmosphere.


Thousands piled into the sound amplifying stand and spurred the team on to win the remaining two ties at
Meadow Lane and secure the club's football league status. The biggest worry came after an away loss to bottom of the league, Wrexham the following week, leaving County just two points above the drop zone with a couple of testing fixtures remaining.

Encouraged by the force of the Kop, Notts were able to fend off Wycombe Wanderers, with a Richard Butcher goal enough to secure the points and safety at the expense of local rivals, Mansfield.


Position: 20th in League Two


Top-scorer: Weir-Daley netted three times last season.
May

With their League Two status cemented, the Magpies went into the final game at Saltergate with nothing to play for. Nonetheless, they wrapped things up with a draw. Spencer Weir-Daley grabbed Notts' only goal to make him the club's top-scoring striker on a measly three goals.


It was later unveiled that after the two 'test matches', home fans were going to take over the Kop throughout the 08/09 season. As a result, huge numbers abandoned their seats in the other three stands to snap up season tickets in their new base that helped end the 07/08 campaign on a high note.


A positive vibe began to surround the club for the first time in a long time when Johnson agreed to join the club permanently on a one-year deal. Former goalkeeper, Mick Leonard was also announced as the Director of the returning Centre of Excellence.


To make room for more new arrivals, Jason Lee, Lawrie Dudfield, Andy Parkinson, Matt Somner, Gary Silk and Lee Canoville were all informed that their services were no longer required.


Final position: 21st in League Two


June

Of the existing members of the roster, only Edwards and Pilkington were offered new deals. Both signed throughout the month and were joined by
Lincoln City striker, Jamie Forrester and Stags' wide-man, Matthew Hamshaw.


Part two of the 2008 review will appear on the site at some point tomorrow…

Notts. County Match Reports


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