Notts County 2-1 Crawley: four things we learnt

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Kevin Nolan

An industrious display helped Notts County get their first victory under Kevin Nolan, a 2-1 win over Crawley Town – but what have we learnt from the game?

Passive Crawley

In starting just two attacking players – Enzio Boldewijn and James Collins – Crawley manager Dermot Drummy arguably showed relegation-threatened Notts County undue respect. In the first half, their more defensive players were brave with the ball, in their attempts to play around the press and move the ball quickly. Considering the cover they had in their own half however, they were not so brave without it, centre-backs such as Mark Connolly and Joe McNerney never putting in a challenge against the powerful Jon Stead.

Morris’ heroics

Crawley’s timid back-line might also have feared the movement of Jonathan Forte, who made runs beyond the target man, as he did for his one-on-one chance shortly before half-time that forced a good save from Glenn Morris. The goalkeeper made another save from Forte in the second half from close-range along with some other key stops at 0-0. Without the ex-Leyton Orient number one, Crawley could have gone behind earlier than they did.

The importance of aggressive defending

Fittingly, Notts County’s opener came from Thierry Audel. Ably supported by Richard Duffy and Haydn Hollis, Audel was colossal all evening. By attacking balls quickly, Notts County’s centre-backs alleviated pressure and denied Crawley’s midfielders the chance to support attacks. Jimmy Smith had his worst game for the Red Devils in a long time while his midfield partners, Billy Clifford and Josh Payne, were arguably worse, offering neither creativity nor aggression. Defending crosses into the box has long been a problem for Crawley, so midfielders must take more responsibility for stopping them coming in. There were occasions when Notts County had a throw-in just beyond the half-way line and the only Crawley player beyond it was an isolated Collins.

More support for Collins needed

Boldewijn provided flashes of creativity in the first half, while Collins single-handedly produced Crawley’s best moment of the game. The striker’s instinct effort beyond Collin from distance could have salvaged an undeserved point. Both players showed enough to suggest that they can produce when given the right support, but both lacked the tenacity to instigate attacks on their own. Notts County’s forward moves were a team effort, epitomized by the fact that Curtis Thompson, their brightest attacking spark in the first 72 minutes, was sent off and the performance level did not drop. Adam Campbell provided relentless energy, Michael O’Connor battled well in midfield and the team provided a threat from set pieces. Their pressure was rewarded when Forte finally got the better of Morris when he fired home in stoppage time, sparking jubilant scenes.

Continue to play with the same spirit and Notts County will beat the drop, while a continuation of Crawley’s away performances will end any lingering play-off hopes.