City’s promotion push got back on track last weekend with a thumping 3-0 win over promotion rivals Colchester and, with the injury list gradually easing, Matt Taylor will be looking for momentum against a side surprisingly battling at the other end of the table. Hiram Boateng’s rehabilitation appears to be very much on track after the midfielder competed 81 minutes last week, to be replaced by another long-term absentee, Troy Brown. With Dara O’Shea missing the match after his call up to Ireland’s U21 side, Brown will compete alongside Aaron Martin for O’Shea’s place, with Pierce Sweeney a possible returnee following his bout of chicken pox. Jonathan Forte is unlikely to start but will wish to feature at some point at the club he left last season.
Having fallen away at the end of last season from what looked like a nailed on automatic promotion, then losing to Coventry in the playoff semis, Notts County were immediately installed amongst the favourites for promotion once again. However, despite what looks on paper like an impressive squad – then manager Kevin Nolan adding players like Enzio Boldewijn – things have turned very sour, accompanied by rumours of off-field issues with the Chairman’s company going into administration and speculation mounting that this fate could also befall the club. Nolan quickly left, Harry Kewell was brought in but was out just weeks later to be replaced by former AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley. There have been some standout results against top sides in recent times, their last three wins being against Forest Green, Mansfield and Carlisle, but these have been interspersed with 4-1 defeats against also-rans Newport and Cheltenham. Going into the final eight matches of the season the Magpies find themselves bottom, level with Macclesfield and three points off Yeovil in 22nd. Ardley will be looking to Kane Hemmings (11 goals in all competitions) and veteran Jon Stead (10) for firepower, while former City defender Richard Duffy recently returned from a couple of months on the sidelines.
The reverse fixture saw Harry Kewell make his bow in the Notts County dugout, and was a day to forget for him as City cruised to a 5-1 win which saw the Australian sent to the stands. Sweeney and Stockley put City 2-0 up, Boldewijn reduced the arrears before half time, but a Sweeney penalty, Stockley again and Aaron Martin sealed the points despite Sweeney missing another penalty to complete his hat-trick. City also won last time out at Meadow Lane, Taylor and Stockley putting City 2-0 up in the first half before Stead’s penalty ensured a nervy last 15 minutes in a 2-1 win. Notts County maintain a healthy league head to head lead with 17 wins to City’s 10, but a draw is still the most likely result with 18 matches finishing level.