THE NCM NOVEMBER REVIEW
Well, my month started somewhere in East London, on a freezing cold Saturday morning. Waking up on a sofa, having cradled a half-empty bottle of rum the entire night, I was somehow persuaded to drag myself off to Waterloo station. Destination Portsmouth. I'd been to a Halloween party the night before and had some sort of bizarre grey spray in my hair, which I couldn't work out how to get rid of, and I just wanted to leave the world behind and go back to sleep. I'm glad I didn't, though. Portsmouth was a great way to start the month, particularly once i'd collapsed in a corner on the hour and a half journey to Fratton, being asleep by Vauxhall and waking up just as it was time to get off.
With our away run still going strong, Notts never seemed troubled by a poor Portsmouth side. Despite Izale McLeod hitting the bar with a clear foul on Bartosz Bialkowski, we took the lead when Alan Judge did well to recycle a loose ball and clip to the far post for Francois Zoko to head home on the stroke of half time. Within minutes of the restart, Arquin had scored another far-post header courtesy of Jamal Campbell-Ryce's delivery and Notts had strolled into the second round. Portsmouth lost their marbles after Arquin's goal, kicking anything that moved and eventually seeing Scott Allan sent off for basically assaulting André Boucaud.
Three days later I was on the road again, this time taking the one-hour journey from the East End to Colchester, out in deepest darkest Essex. For me, the Weston Homes Community Stadium is the worst away trip in the division - there really is nothing there, the wind is allowed to swirl around the place, icy and biting, whilst the home fans are both quiet and few. Again, though, Notts found themselves in control - Neal Bishop spectacularly volleying home a Judge free kick at the far post, before the little Irishman got on the scoresheet himself, poking home a Campbell-Ryce flick. Colchester dominated the second half, but Notts had done enough to make it back to back 2-0 wins on the road and take the record to seventeen.
Unfortunately, we then had to play a home game, something which has become the thorn in Keith Curle's side this season. Crawley Town were the visitors, giving Notts some hope, with Richie Barker's side having trailed off slightly after a very quick start to the season. This one started perfectly, with Bishop keeping up his stunning goal scoring form by slotting home a delightful Campbell-Ryce pass, but Notts missed chance after chance and were made to pay when former Magpies Jonathon Forte poked home on the stroke of half time. Lee Hughes and Yoann Arquin both should've won it, but didn't, and Notts had to be content with only drawing at home. Which, at least, was better than the two previous defeats.
I woke up on that same sofa I talked about earlier before Scunthorpe, ready for a soul-destroying, optimism-sapping Megabus trip to North Lincolnshire. It was worth it, though, as Notts came as close as they ever have to losing their away record at Glanford Park. Despite dominating possession, they fell behind when Christian Ribeiro curled home for the Iron, only to quickly equalise through Lee Hughes. Damion Mozika had the hosts back ahead before half time, though, with Hughes' late equaliser having come only minutes after Scunthorpe captain Paul Reid was shown a red card for an elbow on Arquin. The celebration when Hughes struck were chaotic, and things nearly got better, but Notts couldn't quite turn their late pressure into three points.
Eighteen then quickly became nineteen at Preston, in a game that I didn't go to. As far as I can tell, Gary Liddle made a wonderful clearance off the line from the only really clear-cut chance that the hosts created. They then got frustrated, began to lose their heads, only for Campbell-Ryce to lose his even more, getting sent off for a tackle on Scott Laird in injury time. Laird broke his leg and Graham Westley launched into an astonishing post-match rant that i've already dissected for your amusement. What we really needed, though, was a win at home, which finally came last weekend against Swindon. Alan Judge's long range effort lit up a dour game played in poor conditions, whilst the performance of new man Chris Iwelumo leading the line was also impressive. A good month, I think.