I know what you're thinking. We nearly got relegated last season, didn't we? But how can that be the case when the first two months of the year saw some solid if unspectacular league form and the Magpies happily ensconsed in mid-table. Well, March happened. A month that will, without doubt, go down as one of the worst (results wise) in the club's 149-year (for one more day!) history.
It didn't start particularly badly, with another rearranged game, this time on a Tuesday night at Nicky Forster's Brentford. Craig Westcarr put Notts infront after a disastrous backpass from future Notts trialist Robbie Neilson, but after Jon Harley was sent off things looked bleak. Indeed, Karleigh Osbourne was able to equalise for the Bees, but somehow we held out for a point despite another sending off, this time for Mike Edwards, thanks in no small part to a late missed penalty. So, a useful point on the road, but that was as good as it was to get.
Another trip to the capital four days later to face in-form Leyton Orient saw Paul Ince lose the plot entirely, playing Ricky Ravenhill at right back and throwing a cup of tea at a member of the Orient coaching staff. A comfortable 2-0 win for the hosts, despite more penalty saving heroics from Nelson, was a scoreline that flattered a rag-tag County. Free-scoring Peterborough were the next to profit, although they weren't as impressive as they tended to be (in truth they didn't need to be) - Charlie Lee's screamer proving enough for a 1-0 victory at Meadow Lane.
The rearranged games were now beginning to catch up with a tiring Notts and the stream of incoming loanees simply didn't look up to the job of stemming the tide. Ivan Sproule and Dave Martin seemed to be in direct competition for the 'world's most anonymous winger' award, whilst supposedly talented higher division midfielders Kevin McDonald and Connor Clifford were also struggling to offer anything of note. The slide was briefly relented at Sheffield Wednesday, were a 1-0 win courtesy of an Alan Gow penalty was well received, but the pattern of disaster resumed with a trip to Rochdale, where Craig Dawson's header for the hosts was the only goal of the game. Enigmatic and entertaining Gambian striker Njogu Demba-Nyren had possibly his finest moment in black and white, missing an open goal that would've rescued a point for Ince's men.
Goals were becoming increasingly hard to come by and, when relegation threatened Bristol Rovers became the latest team to beat us 1-0 thanks to a late penalty from future Magpie Jeff Hughes, the alarm bells began to ring loud and clear. We weren't actually that far off the bottom four any more. Successive trips to automatic promotion chasers Brighton and Huddersfield Town was not what Notts needed and it was no surprise when the two games yielded neither a point nor a goal. Inigo Calderon's goal for the Seagulls inflicted a third straight 1-0 defeat on the South Coast, before a disastrous televised trip to increasingly unbeatable Huddersfield saw Notts ripped limb from limb by the pacy, skillful Terriers - the final score of 3-0 being as much of a result of the hosts seemingly having taken mercy on their dire visitors as anything else.
So, as with all good things at Meadow Lane, the start of 2011 came to a horribly abrupt end in March. Eight games, one win, one draw and six defeats was bad enough. Just two goals in that time perhaps even more damning. The voices of discontent were getting louder and the vultures beginning to circle over the increasing desolate figure of Paul Ince. A poor result in the next game, a now vital six-pointer against Oldham Athletic, would probably seal his fate. See you in April.