My last Away Days will go down as one of the greatest I have experienced. We’ve had over a week since Lincoln City went head to head with Premier League Burnley and dumped them out of the FA Cup, and the magnitude of this upset is just beginning to sink in. Sean Raggett’s header is a goal that will go down in FA Cup history, and there could still be more to come. However if you’ve come here expecting a similar amount of drama and incident, I invite you to leave now, as you may be disappointed.
I have been to Meadow Lane a couple of times in the past, though I have never done an Away Days for it. It is the biggest ground in League 2, and to be honest is way too good to be a fourth division ground, especially given some of the places that I have visited this season. Notts County are however a team in decline, and they don’t look likely to be leaving League 2 anytime soon. They are currently managed by ex-Newcastle, West Ham and Bolton midfielder Kevin Nolan, who is also registered as a player, though he chose to leave himself out of the squad on this occasion.
Away fans are situated in the centre of the Jimmy Sirrel Stand, which flanks the pitch at Meadow Lane. I have to say I think this is a terrible place to put away fans when they bring the sort of numbers that Yeovil Town do. You are stuck in the upper section of the stand, right in the middle, like a bit of an inconvenience. You’re miles away from the home fans, and it just makes for a pretty terrible atmosphere. I don’t see why they can’t put away fans in one end of the stand and put home fans next to them, because that would make for a much better atmosphere.
That said, the stewards in the away end were certainly better than most of them we have experienced. They were happy to have a laugh and a joke with the supporters, and to be honest their conversation was probably more entertaining than the game that we turned up to see. At £5 for under 18s, it was a pretty good price, and puts to shame the £15 that Accrington Stanley charged me to stand in the worst ground in the Football League.
I was quite optimistic when I saw the team news, and was happy to see Darren Way had finally given up with his 4-3-3 in favour of a 3-5-2, and had also at last put the woeful Tom Eaves out of his misery. However though I had anticipated this would bring a more attacking brand of football, he had somehow made the team more defensive. The three at the back was instead a five at the back, with full backs Ryan Dickson and Liam Shephard barely crossing the halfway line all day. The first half was a quite pitiful piece of entertainment, with neither side showing any real threat. The best chance probably fell to Yeovil’s Bevis Mugabi, who put what appeared to be a free header wide from 10 yards out.
In terms of strikers, the game perhaps proved that experience isn’t everything. Yeovil’s Francois Zoko and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro were virtually redundant in the first half, with no supply up to them, and not one of the three midfielders made any effort to join them in attack. At the other, County’s new man Shola Ameobi played much like he did for most of his final years at Newcastle- terribly. Jon Stead looked a little more dangerous, but much like for Yeovil, he was given pretty poor service.
I would love to stay that the standard of football improved in the second half, but it just didn’t. County showed some ambition, with Stead shooting straight at Yeovil ‘keeper Artur Krysiak from close range. It all became a bit too dull for the Yeovil fans, who midway through the half began cheering on a cheese and onion crisp packet that had blown onto the pitch. Believe it or not, for two minutes, a number of fans gave up on the football and waited for the packet to blow into the net, before letting out the largest cheer of the day. That just about sums the game up.
Darren Way did send on Eaves with 20 minutes to go, and he played like only Eaves could. His first touch is absolutely dreadful, and the ball just repeatedly bounced off him every time it was played forward. The Glovers did however nearly pick up a totally undeserved win at the death, with Matt Dolan’s long free kick falling to Alex Lawless, who was well kept out by County ‘keeper Adam Collin at his near post. That was just about that, and I’m actually quite surprised that I’ve been able to talk about the match for as much as four paragraphs.
This was undoubtedly the worst game of football I have seen in my life, and I’m afraid that both sides must take the blame for that. Yeovil showed absolutely no ambition to go and win the match, and I think eight of the ten outfield players were sent on to that pitch with the instruction to prioritise defending. Notts County showed similarly little ambition in the first half, and although they improved slightly in the second period, they never really did enough to win the game.
I will be heading off to the Emirates to support Lincoln City next week, and I can guarantee you now that it will be a much better game than this one.
Rating out of 10: I really can’t put into words how bad the game was. It’s a nice ground and good pricing, but the quality on display was so poor. 4/10