Notts County expert previews big Chesterfield clash and Macaulay Langstaff transfer latest
The fourth-placed Spireites host the league leaders in a match which could prove crucial come May.
We spoke to journalist Ollie King, who reports on Notts County for the Nottingham Post, to get the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents...
Notts County are absolutely flying this season - what's been the secret to their success?
A huge amount of credit has to go down to Luke Williams. When he was announced as the manager during the summer, many were skeptical about his appointment, but as time has progressed it has gone hand in hand with the vision set out by owners Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz. His possession brand of football coupled with fierce intensity has brought the best out of players seemingly overlooked in recent years by previous managers, contributing to their rise to the summit of the National League. His efforts have also been rewarded after it was announced that he had signed a new contract that would keep him at the club until the 2026/27 season, which shows his dedication and intent to get the Magpies back in the Football League.
What have recent performances been like? Any weaknesses starting to show?
It has been a tough start to 2023, picking up five points from their opening three games of the new year as well as being knocked out of the FA Trophy last weekend. As mentioned previously, the intensity has been a key factor mentioned by players that have been the major difference compared to previous managers, and that has started to show in recent weeks. Williams is aware there has been a drop off of intensity during games in recent weeks but insisted that it would be crazy to change how his side operates given where the first 27 games of the season have got them.
Do you think Wrexham or Chesterfield can catch them?
Given Notts' recent results, you could say that the title is in Wrexham's hands given the games in hand that they have and the points between them and the Magpies. However, points on the board are certainly better to have in my opinion. There is still plenty of football to play, with all three sides having to play each other one more time this season, which could prove pivotal in the title race. While the focus has been on both Wrexham and Notts, the Spireites have started to hit a bit of form just at the right time, going quietly about their business and picking up some important points as they try to close the gap. It's far too early to write off anyone in what looks to be a three-way title race, and in my opinion, could go down to the wire.
What's the feeling among the fanbase about this season?
A feeling of stability. The Magpies fans have suffered turbulent times in recent years and changes of ownership, but it feels as though all of that has fallen into place this campaign. Many are confident that Notts have the capabilities to go on and win the National League, but don't fancy their chances in the play-offs given their record since dropping down to the fifth tier. Many have fallen back in love with the Magpies this season and are happy with the way the season has gone so far.
What are the chances of Notts losing Macaulay Langstaff in the transfer window?
Highly unlikely. The owners and the manager have insisted that only a sensational offer could prize him away from Meadow Lane in January, with Williams explaining in his pre-match assessment of the trip to the Technique Stadium that there has been no interest in any of his key players. Of course, there is going to be interest in the red-hot forward given the rate at which he has found the back of the net this season, but interest and committing to that are two different things. However, many will be happy once the window shuts at the end of the month.
It's not true that Notts are just a one-man team, is it? Who are the other key men?
Definitely not. Notts have managed to register 69 goals this season, coming from 14 different scorers as they chase down the record of 107 goals scored in a season. There have been many standout performers this season, with Ruben Rodrigues continuing to show why he is one of the best players in the league with his creativity and eye for a goal, albeit not as prolific as last season but improving his overall game. Adam Chicksen is another player that has been a revelation under Williams, scoring eight goals in all competitions this campaign having only scored three for the entirety of his professional career before this season. Cedwyn Scott is another who has impressed since joining from Gateshead along with Langstaff in the summer. He has 13 goals in the league which is a very good return but his form has been overshadowed by that of his strike partner.
Do you think Notts would take a draw now if offered to them now?
Potentially. It's arguably their biggest game of the season so far and a draw could be considered a positive but that all depends on the performance on the day. It looks set to be a tantalising tie with plenty of quality on show, and something I feel both sets of fans are looking forward to.
Any injuries or suspensions for this one?
The only injury concern for the Magpies is that of Tobi Adebayo-Rowling. The full-back has been in fine form this season but picked up an injury at the start of the new year, and isn't expected back in the first-team fold for another two weeks. Apart from that, the Magpies will be at full strength for the trip to Chesterfield.
Williams tends to chop and change his starting line-up, but this is what I think he will go with: Slocombe; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley, Chicksen, Nemane; Palmer, O'Brien; Rodrigues, Scott, Langstaff.