Hush Hush at Meadow Lane

Last updated : 11 January 2007 By Paul Smith

There is sure to be a shake up of personnel on Saturday, as manager Steve Thompson shuffles his pack in an attempt to hoist Notts back into the playoff race. Following the weekend games, Notts have slipped out of the top half of the table, and now sit in an unhealthy thirteenth position. Far from chasing the playoffs, the recent poor run of form, which has seen Notts pick up just four points from a possible 24 in their last eight fixtures, fans are now worryingly looking over their shoulder at a relegation battle.

Thompson... Set to shuffle his pack
As sides in League 2 continue to expand their squads, a lack of transfer activity is further hampering the confidence of fans. With the three loan signings of Ian Ross, Daryl McMahon and Jay Smith set to end their deals shortly, indeed Ross' ends after Saturday's match, Notts' squad could be down to the bare bones.

This time last year under Gudjon Thordarson, Notts were a point better off than they are now and it took a final game draw over Bury to preserve league status. Surely it won't come to that.

The noises from the club are determined not to make it happen, though many are questioning the selections of Thompson. It makes his line-up at the Fraser Eagle Stadium particularly interesting.

Goalkeeper. Will surely be Kevin Pilkington, seemingly Thompson's preferred player. After being dropped in favour of understudy Saul Deeney following a loss of form, Pilkington was soon restored after just three games with Deeney failing to impress. Pilkington has since been in decent form, though is positioning was questioned for Chester's first goal in the recent 2-1 defeat at Meadow Lane. He should start.

Right-Back. David Pipe has been the man in possession for the previous two fixtures, and many believe that to be the Welshman's best position, despite him spending the majority of his successful spell at Meadow Lane as a right winger. He put in a fine performance in this position at Swindon but looked weak against Chester. This has been proposed by Thompson, who may push him back into a right-wing slot. This would leave Gary Silk and Dan Gleeson as the main options. Gleeson hasn't appeared in the squad for nearly two months, though he did perform there during the most successful spell of the season. Silk has been consistent if not spectacular in recent weeks.

McCann... Out through training ground injury

Left-back. With regular Austin McCann sidelined with injury, Stephen Hunt should start. The other candidate is Dan Martin who has been used mainly as a central midfielder this campaign. However, he did arrive as a full back and may be utilised as cover with Hunt currently occupying a central position.

Centre-halves. Alan White and Mike Edwards are the consistent pair, though White's loss of form often sees him questioned by fans. Thompson remains fiercely loyal to his Captain and he is sure to start him. Mike Edwards has perhaps been Notts player of the season so far, but following illness has been a substitute in the past two games, with Hunt's form keeping him out. With Hunt set to move to left-back, Edwards and White may be reunited.

Right-wing. If Pipe doesn't shift back here, the other options are Andy Parkinson, used mainly as a left sided player, Jake Sheridan, hardly used at all, or a central player such as Ian Ross filling in. Ross has looked out of place as a winger, and should be used inside. This is the one position that lacks an outstanding candidate as a starter on Saturday.

Smith... Notts' best player in recent weeks
Parkinson is Thompson's favourite here, with Thompson exclusively telling NCM in the past of his loyalty to the diminutive attacker. However, ‘Parky' has been far from at his best this campaign, and has faced calls from the supporters that he should be dropped. If he is, which is unlikely, loan man McMahon could step in, though he has failed to make any impact. Martin could play there also, with Thompson claiming he is fighting himself back into his plans. Sheridan is known to be both right sided and left sided, and could get a squad recall at the least.

Centre-midfield. The most fiercely competed slots in the squad come here. Ross, Martin, Smith, Somner, Edwards, McMahon and Pipe can all figure here, but Ross and Somner have been the mainstays. However, Smith has been named by Thompson as Notts' best player in recent weeks, and will keep his place. With his attack minded brain, it is unlikely that Ross will play next to him, and Thompson will most likely select Somner for his battling skills, particularly so with Accrington a physical side struggling in the league. Martin scored twice in the 3-2 win in the reverse fixture, and that could be in his thoughts also.

Martin... Which position isn't he a candidate for?

Strikers. Lawrie Dudfield will partner Jason Lee up front. Dudfield is the in-form player in the squad, and scored in the last away fixture at Swindon. Lee is the most used striker in the squad, particularly so with Junior Mendes struggling with injury. Thompson has already said that Mendes will be used as a substitute only. Tcham N'Toya is injured.

Drapes' Team: Pilkington, Gleeson, White, Edwards, Hunt, Pipe, Martin, Smith, Parkinson, Lee, Dudfield.

Thommo's likely team: Pilkington, Pipe, White, Edwards, Hunt, Ross, Smith, Somner, Parkinson, Lee, Dudfield.