Gutless, spineless and simply intolerable.

Last updated : 28 December 2003 By Richard Brown

County's best player this afternoon.
The beginning of December looked so bright for Notts County Football Club, with the clubs share in the Football League securely passed over to the new owners as off the field problems began to clear. And within days of emerging from administration, the on-field matters were brightening up too as the Magpies booked their place in the Third Round of the FA Cup.

But within thirty days, we’ve gone from having the prospect of signing a host of players currently on the books at the club on lshort-term contracts along with the exciting possibility of signing a quality youngster in the form of Adam Murray, to be hanging onto the 23rd position by the skin of our teeth, yet to sort out contracts of anxiously awaiting players and without the services of Adam Murray.

And even after turning the Second Division on its head with a six-goal Boxing Day thriller that restored some hope in the short-term, the game at Kenilworth Road spun the general confidence of the club and its supporters into free-fall.

But if Billy Dearden wants to keep his job, then the first thing that he needs to achieve is to steer the good ship
Notts County out of the habit of sloppy defending in the opening stages of the game. Something which cost Notts dearly today as Adrian Forbes broke the deadlock with a lob over Steve Mildenhall who advanced on a kamikaze-like sprint from his line with the game just four minutes old. And from then on, everything else was simply a formality for the Hatters.

Notts failed to find their way as the game was one that looked more like a kick around in the park for a well-organised Luton side that were quite simply, everything that Notts were not.

Steve Mildenhall, as defenceless as he was for the first goal, was Notts’ only real hope of keeping the score line as a respectable one as he kept out Forbes from adding to the early slump.

As early on as the seventh minute though, it was clear that the travelling contingent of Magpies disciples had had enough. The weather not making the matter any easier as the frost-bitten limbs grew more excruciatingly painful by the minute.

The man with a plan.
Paul Heffernan, with the thought of his hat-trick just 48 hours ago still very much in the minds of Notts fans, claimed the first half-chance from the viewpoint of Notts as he was second to a through ball from midfielder, Paul Bolland.

However, County’s best hope of getting back into the game, namely Paul Heffernan, was withdrawn from play due to injury as Mark Stallard replaced him with immediate effect.

It took until the half-hour mark until a real chance came Notts’ way and when it did, it was never too promising as a Simon Baldry effort from range was made to look non too troublesome by Luton ‘keeper, Marlon Beresford.

Shortly after, Notts’ second followed as Stallard, followed in quick succession by Baldry, struck their shot straight down the throat of Beresford.

Although, in truth it was all
Luton in terms of possession as their immaculate pass-and-move technique rang rings around a Notts side that lacked pretty much everything today.

’s man at the centre of their play was the games only goal scorer, Adrian Forbes, who constantly got Notts shot-stopper, Steve Mildenhall, thinking as Mildenhall’s eagerness to come hurtling from his line was becoming too much for the hearts of the frailer Notts fan.

Luton Town 1-0 NOTTS COUNTY

Notts’ star-man on the day, Simon Baldry to be precise, however was having none such luck as every cross he whipped into the centre was either claimed by Beresford, went blazing onto the opposite flank or was wasted by a team-mate. In this case, the latter was so as, on this occasion, Paul Riley headed over from point-blank range.

A chance mirrored by Clive Platt who rose highest to a Kevin Nicholson cross following some good wing-play from his left-sided comrade, Paul Riley.

Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? No, it’s…
Darren Caskey was then given a chance to shine – on the left wing!?!?! Proving, to me at least, that Dearden has well and truly lost all idea – that was left after the last time anyway. The player sacrificed was youngster Paul Riley as he took to the bench for this once-in-a-life-time opportunity.

After that however the game was as good as lost from the Notts standpoint. But Luton wanted to certify their dominance on the game by securing the game with a second goal. And when it came, Emmerson Boyce was the scorer as he mopped up a spilt clearance from the striker-come-defender Clive Platt.

With the game beyond all reach now, Dearden brought on another of his blue-eyed and blue-shirted boys in the form of Tony Hackworth as the one-goal wonder-why-he’s-still-here striker replaced Paul Bolland.

Between that goal and the full-time whistle, very little happened except for the booking of Emmerson Boyce for a horrific foul on Mark Stallard and the substitution of Adrian Forbes so he could get the applause he rightfully deserved.


Now that the half-way point in the season has come and gone and Notts’ position not looking any cleverer, it now looks that the only solution in order to help this sinking vessel is to bring in new personnel and make old, unwelcome ones jump ship, fast.

Match Ratings to follow.