I’ve not been to The Lane since they thumped my beloved Lincoln City a few months ago. They were mighty impressive that day and I’m a big fan of their manager, Steve Thompson. He is shutting up the moaning minnies on the MAD Message board with a late charge for the play-offs; their current form is good: four wins and no goals conceded.
Today’s visitors are Walsall who are guaranteed promotion with three points from this fixture. Walsall has a population of 170,000 and is famous for making leather; they still make the Queen’s handbags in the town. Famous people from Walsall include: Audrey Roberts of Coronation St, Noddy Holder from Slade and Pop Idol runner-up Mark Rhodes; Jesus I hope this clown isn’t singing at half-time.
I saw The Saddlers at The City Ground last season, when Paul Merson was at the helm, they looked half decent. Takings on The Saddlers’ Social Club fruit machines have taken a dip since Merson’s departure. Richard Money is their manager; he used to coach across the River Trent.
There is no sign of a u-turn on The Pies decision to scrap their youth policy (I used to work at the centre of excellence so I’m a little bitter at times). I can’t help but notice how many goals Leon Best and David McGoldrick have scored for Yeovil and Bournemouth this season, I hope them dim-wits on the County board have negotiated some decent add-ons. Thommo emerges from the tunnel, he is looking stressed and hot, there’s not a cloud in the sky.
There’s a minute’s silence for Notts County legend Bill Brindley, who died a week ago. The silence is golden and moving.
The game is played at a terrific pace; Notts are up and at them. Walsall take the lead slightly against the run of play with a terrific strike from ex Pompey winger and their best player, Kevin Harper.
Thommo’s Notts are never-say-die and play with their hearts and a spirit. Thommo’s tactics are spot-on. The defence play with a high line, and they squeeze the midfield.
Walsall playmaker Dean Keates is given little time on the ball. Charlton loanee, James Walker hits the post for County; they are swarming all over the visitors. They deserve their equaliser on 41 minutes, the impressive Dudfield smashing the ball home at the second time of asking.
Clayton Ince the Walsall shot stopper is wearing almighty white gloves, he looks like the character out of the Kenny Everett Show. He looks more like a basketball player and has a huge kick on the rare occasions he gets it right, Nottingham City Council should consider employing this guy onto the troubled streets of the nearby Meadows area, law and order would soon be restored.
My goalkeeper from the U9s team is with us today, he cuts his finger and receives treatment from a stunningly attractive St John’s Ambulance lady, I consider self-harm but I’ve already committed that, I’m down the lane! All the Notts substitutes sign autographs for the boys, a touch of class that.
Notts up it a notch after the break they are terrific, Walsall are dire and are never in the game. I can’t make my mind up if they are nervous or too relaxed, but Notts are hounding them.
Walsall right back Craig Pead (once a Pie) is awful. Dudfield and Notts sub Andy Parkinson are taunting him. I fully expect the 2500 travelling support to chant “Pead Off”; he saves them the bother on 72 minutes and holds up the white hankie.
Parkinson’s pace is electric but he misses two good chances. Blade loanee, Ian Ross, gets the ball down and sprays it wide. This boy can play but the fans don’t like him. Hunt, McCann and Edwards are magnificent but they can’t finish Walsall off. Hunt has one cleared off the line.
Unlike them fans from across the water these fans back their team, the roadside are in full voice. Old Pineapple Head is having a stormer, everything goes through him, and he’s equal to it.
The final twist comes on 85 minutes, for once Edwards and Hunt are caught napping and the serial, underachieving journeyman, Trevor Benjamin pounces to score, it’s a cruel game. Fantastic scenes at the final whistle from the away end it’s good to see but surely their team can play better than this.
Notts County 1 Dudfield Walsall 2 Harper and Benjamin.
Man of the Match: Austin McCann