Bad day for Notts County up north ultimately costs Keith Curle his job
MAYBE it's time for Notts County to make another big change. Keith Curle has gone. Perhaps now, they should look at their name. 150 years is quite long enough to have the same one.
After losing 2-1 at Victoria Park to goals from Hartlepool's Hartley and Poole, maybe the Magpies should become Enoch County, or better still, Arquin, Zoko, Showunmi, Hughes, Judge, Campbell-Ryce, Bishop, Boucaud and just for good measure Leacock, Liddle and Sheehan County.
It, admittedly, has little ring to it, but they could then lay claim to being the world's longest named league club as well as its oldest and, more importantly, they might go and beat Stevenage tomorrow night, unless, of course, their No.1 goalkeeper Steven Arnold comes of age.
It's all very confusing, but victory at Broadhall Way is now the name of the game for Notts in the wake of their worst defeat of the season in League One against its rock bottom team in the north east, which ultimately cost Curle his job.
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Almost exactly a year ago a bad defeat against Hartlepool was followed a few days later by a victory against Stevenage in, ironically, the first game of Curle's reign at Meadow Lane that sparked a late promotion charge.
The Magpies went onto win ten of their last 16 games and only missed out on the final place in the play-offs, to Stevenage, on goal-difference. With 17 games left of this season, they need to do the same again under their new manager, whoever that might be, to have any hope of finishing in the top six, having slipped down to tenth.
They might only be five points adrift of the play-offs, but they have only won three of their last 13 league games.
Five points off sixth, they also conceded after just five minutes at Hartlepool.
Talk about a nightmare start. Notts are so vulnerable from set-pieces they are now conceding from ones of their own, as Pools hit them with a quick counter-attack from a corner.
Jonathan Franks was sent racing away down the right wing, crossed into the penalty area and James Poole flicked the ball over Jamal Campbell-Ryce with his first touch and volleyed it past young Magpies' goalkeeper Fabian Spiess from close range with his second.
It was a stunning finish from the striker. Spiess, making his second start in place of injured No.1 Bartosz Bialkowski, had no chance of stopping it. But there is no way Notts should concede from a corner of their own. No way.
Hartlepool also scored their second goal from a set-piece, although, at least, it was their own on 69 minutes as defender Evan Horwood curled a free-kick into the Magpies' penalty area from close to its right edge, home captain Peter Hartley beat Spiess to it in the air and headed the ball into the net, although Francois Zoko so nearly hacked it off the goal-line. It had just crossed the line before the Ivorian got there and that was it.
It is so bizarre for Hartley and Poole to score their team's goals – it is the first time it has ever happened – but Notts were not laughing about it afterwards as one by one they boarded the team bus back to Meadow Lane. "Rubbish" was Dean Leacock's verdict. Alan Sheehan just shook his head.
Before them, Yoann Arquin walked past with a hood up and headphones on, big ones, of course, almost like he wanted to escape unnoticed, having not scored again. The young French striker has now not netted a league goal in 14 games and only once did he threaten to end his drought in front of goal at Hartlepool before being substituted in the second half.
That was on 38 minutes as he met a corner from Alan Judge with a header ten yards out, directing it downwards and inside the left-hand post, but Pools defender Neil Austin cleared it off the goal-line.
Despite not scoring for so long, he is still the Magpies' leading scorer with seven goals, which illustrates perfectly the problems they have in attack, but it is now jointly with Campbell-Ryce, who was their star man against Hartlepool, scored a superb goal and did not deserve to lose.
Having created chances for Arquin and Zoko that had not been taken, it was almost as if he knew he would have to do it all himself on 52 minutes, after seizing onto a pinpoint, long diagonal pass from Sheehan on the right wing.
Instead of crossing into the penalty area, he cut inside, swept past two Hartlepool players and then drove an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Scott Flinders and into the bottom-left corner of the net.
It was a goal that screamed 'that's how you do it' to his misfiring team-mates.
Once Notts were level at 1-1, against a side that had not won on home soil since the very first day of September, all expected them to go on and complete the fightback and return with three points.
They played their best football of the entire game in the opening stages of the second half, after switching stand-in captain Gary Liddle into central midfield against his old club, and created several chances.
Judge had a powerful shot blocked, Jeff Hughes had a close-range header deflected wide and Sheehan forced Flinders into a save with a long-range strike.
But then they were undone for a second time in the game.
Judge went closest to rescuing a point before the end, with a header inside the six-yard box that squirmed through the legs of defender Sam Collins, but then got stuck in the mud in front of the away end. It kind of summed up a bad, bad, day for Notts – and the last for Curle as their manager.
Other League One results: Bury 2 Doncaster 0, Crewe 1 Scunthorpe 0, MK Dons 0 Bournemouth 3, Portsmouth 2 Colchester 3, Preston 1 Shrewsbury 2, Stevenage 0 Leyton Orient 1, Tranmere 0 Carlisle 1, Walsall 3 Oldham 1, Yeovil 3 Brentford 0, Crawley 1 Swindon 1.