2008 review (part two)

By Dane Vincent
Last updated : 02 January 2009

Snapped up: Hoult signed on a two-year deal.
July

The squad returned to training on the first day of the month to begin their preparations for the new season. There were a few more new faces joining those already added, including the newly recruited Russell Hoult, former Nottingham Forest youngster, Ben Fairclough, Derby County full-back, Jason Beardsley, Bishop's Stortford striker, Greg Pearson and local midfielder, Matt Richards.

The following week, the team jetted out to Austria to make use of the top-class facilities at the National Sports Centre in Obertraun. County ended the week long trip undefeated, claiming convincing wins over both Olympia Ljubljana and Wacker Burghausen.


It was not all positive news, however, as first choice stopper, Hoult picked up a stress fracture to his right tibula that would keep him out of the first few competitive games. In addition, it was announced that Stephen Hunt was going to be sidelined for a further three months with a groin injury.


Upon the team's return to
Nottingham, Richards was informed that he was not going to be offered a deal. Pearson on the other hand, rejected a contract so that he could join Burton Albion on a part-time basis, meaning that Ian McParland's hunt for a striker was to continue. Neither player featured in Notts' 5-2 win over Hucknall Town or the 2-0 loss to Stoke City.


Prior to the Stoke defeat was the annual Open Day, which saw the final trials of the Centre of Excellence and the unveiling of the new playing attires. Earlier in the month, a record shirt sponsorship deal with Marston's Smooth and Forward Pest Control had been secured that was thought to be worth just under £100,000.


August

Notts rounded off pre-season with a 3-2 loss to local rivals, Forest, in a match that saw Gavin Strachan miss out because of a re-occurrence of the hamstring problem that had plagued him the season before. Michael Edwards was also named as captain for the derby and the rest of the season.


Three more signings were made to complete the roster that would open the campaign. Fairclough was offered a six-month deal before non-league hotshot, Sean Canham and target-man, Delroy Facey penned contracts just two days prior to the opening day loss to
Bradford City.


Despite the defeat, the side had impressed greatly, producing some attractive attacking football against the title favourites. Improvements were rewarded when the team managed to knock Championship outfit, Doncaster Rovers out of the Carling Cup. Wigan Athletic cut the domestic adventure short later in the month, thumping the Magpies 4-0.


The remaining three league ties saw no joy, with draws against

Sad loss: Jimmy Sirrel sadly passed away.
Darlington, Luton Town and Shrewsbury Town.


Position: 15th in League Two


September

September turned out to be a very heart-wrenching time for everyone associated with the club as the news broke that Jimmy Sirrel had died at the age of 86. Notts' former manager, who took the club from the fourth-tier to the top-flight, had been ill for some time before passing away. Tributes from far and wide flooded in for the great man, which was highlighted by the contributions placed outside the main gates and emotional messages on the site's forum.


It was Sirrel's memorial match that County finally ended their seven match winless run, with a 2-1 triumph over
Aldershot Town. Previous to this, the side had been knocked out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and notched up three consecutive draws. These came against Bournemouth, Accrington Stanley and Exeter City.


The month also saw former Birmingham City and Ipswich Town left-back, Jamie Clapham sign on a short-term deal, and Neil Mackenzie head out on loan to Kidderminster Harriers.


Position: 11th in League Two


October

Another victory against Port Vale lifted spirits even further and encouraged more fans to snap up season tickets, taking the number sold to over 3,000. This turned out to be the only win in the whole of October, as fortunes took a turn for the worse.


Three draws with Brentford,
Macclesfield Town and Gillingham preceded back-to-back defeats to Chesterfield and Rochdale, plunging Notts towards the bottom end of the table with their 11 game unbeaten run in tatters.


Injuries to a number of key players did not help the cause with Jason Beardsley, Adam Tann, Michael Johnson, and Gavin Strachan all sidelined. To soften the blow, Oldham Athletic defender-come-midfielder, John Thompson was brought to the club as cover.


Position: 15th in League Two


November

More injuries and more woe continued throughout November. Jay Smith, Matthew Hamshaw and Myles Weston were packed into an already busy medical room, leaving very little options - especially on the flanks. The quality of football - which was already on the decline - dropped formidably and the results showed it.


Painful losses to Bury, Dagenham & Redbridge and Wycombe Wanderers were only softened by an FA Cup progression at the expense of Sutton United and a shock 4-0 thrashing of Barnet. In that game, on-loan
Scunthorpe striker, Jonathan Forte managed to net a hat-trick on his debut.


More loan signings arrived over the course of the month to help cope with the terrible injury problems.
Preston midfielder, Lewis Neal, Charlton starlet, Nathaniel Wedderburn and Derby right-back, Mitchell Hanson all joined the ranks temporarily.


An unconvincing draw with
Kettering Town in the second round of the FA Cup

Under pressure: McParland will be on his way if the results don't change.
concluded another troublesome month at Meadow Lane.


Position: 17th in League Two


December

Frustration boiled over as Notts crashed out of the FA Cup to non-league Kettering in front of the Setanta Sports cameras. Offering nothing in attack - apart from a stunning Jay Smith strike - and displaying defensive frailties, the weekend's 1-0 win against Morecame was erased from the memory. Calls for the manager's head emerged on the Saturday in another crushing defeat away at Chester City.


Even though integral squad members returned, form failed to alter, as
Lincoln added salt to the wounds, walking away from Nottingham with all three points in the bag. Goals remained a big issue, and with top-scorer, Richard Butcher out for a lengthy period nursing a broken foot, things were looking bleak.


The lack of a reserve team also showed upon Pilkington's return against the Imps as cover for Russell Hoult, who had undergone surgery on his shoulder. A lack of game time appeared to have affected the number 12's aerial ability, as the ball was easily knocked out of his hands for the decisive goal. Several others - Fairclough for instance - have had their chances limited due to this lack of involvement.


An iota of Christmas cheer was instilled with a 1-0 win at
Blundell Park, but 2008 was summed up entirely in the 3-0 pasting by Rotherham United.


Position: 17th in League Two


The Magpies kick-off  2009 away at
Aldershot Town tomorrow afternoon.

Notts. County Match Reports

Sky Bet League Two Sat 13th January 15:00

Lincoln City 2 - 2 Notts County

Last game - Match Centre


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