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Friday, 18 April 2014

The Inside Line: Notts County (Good Friday, 2014)

City kick off their Easter weekend with a spring in their step after achieveing the almost-sacred 50-point mark with last weekend’s 1-0 win at Walsall.  The fact that the players were out that night singing “We are staying up” perhaps shows it means more to them than many often think it does?

However, there are still some hard-earned points to be won and the run-in starts with a home match against a side very much still in the need for points.

Stu Radnedge took time out of his marathon effort on two wheels (Stu is part of the team cycling from Land’s End to Ashton Gate for the Bristol City Community Trust this week) to catch up with his namesake https://twitter.com/blackwhitezine at www.theNottsBlog.co.uk to ask these questions.

What are your thoughts on last week's announcement with the fixture move?
As far as we’re aware, it was Steve Cotterill’s idea to shift the game – or maybe more specifically Sean O’Driscoll’s for not requesting the fixture be moved when it was first announced. Regardless, Notts didn’t have to accept did they?

It’s understandably put a lot of noses out of joint but you can see where the club are coming from. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the fans, more that they know an extra day’s rest could be crucial given our precarious position right now.

Still, doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for those who had booked tickets, travel, hotels etc for the weekend. Notts offered free coach travel to those affected but the damage was already done for many.

Final score? Both parties want castrating, and governing bodies need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Back to the beautiful game, there has been a transformation as of late for County. Is this a late run for survival and does it hinge on Friday's result?
Survival very much happening irrespective of the game at yours if I’m honest. Just to be able to look at the table and see us not in the bottom four when we’ve had so many final nails hammered into our coffin is incredible. When we lost at Tranmere just over a month ago now, we all knew that was it. It was a do or die game anyway but seeing the players slump to their knees at the final whistle was the moment we knew they’d given up.

Shaun Derry and Greg Abbott have worked miracles to get us where we are today. Four games remain and we’ve earned a very real chance at staying up.

What are your hopes from the game? Is there more focus on seeing it through and not picking up injuries, as you have a crucial match at Crawley on Monday?
Absolutely not. We’re merely one of many clubs trying desperately to hit the 50 point barrier like yourselves did last weekend. We’ll be going into the game high on confidence given the nature of our comeback last weekend at home to Port Vale. 2-0 in auspicious circumstances, mere weeks ago it would have been a right hammering – but to win 4-2 was quite brilliant.

What has been the catalyst for the change in form?
The introduction of Josh Vela on loan from Bolton alongside Gary Liddle has been crucial for us. In seeing off Alan Judge, Neal Bishop and Jeff Hughes in the Summer we essentially signed our own death warrants and are only now righting those wrongs. Mark Fotheringham had a very good pre-season but despite possessing passion in droves failed to deliver regularly enough. And the less said about Joss Labadie the better if I’m honest – quite sad considering the hopes we had for him this time last season.

Then up front, Ronan Murray and Jimmy Spencer have formed our most dangerous double act in years. Spencer is a star, never seen anyone in our colours who a football sticks to like it does him. Whilst Murray’s goals have proven incredibly vital of late. There may be issues over his temperament but he’s a permanent fixture in the first XI now.

Should you beat the drop, what do you think the squad will look like for the following season?  Can you see players being snapped up from County and you bringing players in? Are there any particular positions that require strengthening?
As things stand I think we only have six or seven players actually contracted for next season. When we were rock bottom this only came as great news because we couldn’t wait to see the back of most of them! Recent form though has given a true glimpse of what these lads can do – might be an uncomfortable Summer if things continue to pan out like they are!

Bartosz Bialkowski is likely to be targeted by a few clubs in the Summer given he only has a year left on his contract. He’s had sticky moments this season, but far too often he makes League One look so easy, literally can take your breath away at times.

Alan Sheehan is out of contract and should attract interest. Had he left last Summer when his contract was up very few would have batted an eyelid but he’s been a revelation this season, many people’s clear winner for Player Of The Season. The club appears to be a happier place than it might have been just 12 months ago. We’re really hoping that he’s settled and wants to stick around another year or two.

With regard to incoming players – it’s vital we retain the aforementioned Murray and Spencer given that we’ve seen what they can do together.

Who do you fear on Friday and whom should we fear?
(Ex-City winger) Jamal Campbell-Ryce had possibly his best game in County colours last week against Port Vale. He grabbed two goals, and assisted the other two for Spencer. He’s a completely different player under Derry from that which we saw at the beginning of the season – given we actually have players like Haydn Hollis and Jimmy Spencer who will attack the ball now, he’ll be a huge threat I’m sure.

As for who we fear? Well, I certainly hope reinforced shin guards are being prepared as we speak if Greg Cunningham is in your starting lineup!

And finally, can I get a score prediction please?
Long gone are the days of hoping we can keep scores down and hope to scrap away for a point. I’m predicting a 1-0 Notts win courtesy of Jimmy Spencer!

My thanks to both Stuarts for their answers – you can sponsor Stu Radnedge and the Community Trust for their remarkable efforts, here: http://www.justgiving.com/StuRadnedge

The Exiled Robin

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