Fromage frais! It's sub Arquin to the rescue for Notts
IT IS bonjour again to Yoann Arquin, but it could soon be au revoir to the play-offs – or the other way round if your French is as bad as Del Boy's.
Striker Arquin, from Le Havre, scored his first league goal in almost four months for Notts County, but the Magpies could still only draw 1-1 at Walsall in League One, which leaves them ten points adrift of the top-six in 11th place.
They are still 14 games of the season left, so it is impossible to write off their promotion challenge just yet. But their hopes of rising into the Championship are certainly fading.
Not only have they won just three times in their last 13 league games, there is also the uncertainty at Meadow Lane over the appointment of a new manager, after Keith Curle was sacked 15 days ago – which is bad for the players and will only continue until the board act decisively by giving the job permanently to caretaker-boss Chris Kiwomya or to somebody else.
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When they axed Martin Allen exactly a year ago today, which is not an anniversary many of the club's fans will celebrate, Curle took over 48 hours later and went on to inspire Notts to ten wins in the last 16 games of last season. They surged up the table and only missed out on the play-offs on goal-difference, finishing in seventh place.
This time, there has been no white smoke at Meadow Lane.
Kiwomya has been in temporary charge for the last three games, leading them to draws against Crewe and Walsall after they lost at Stevenage, but he says he does not know if he will be in the home dug-out when the Magpies face Bury on Friday night, let alone beyond.
He deserves to be. The results might not yet be good enough to persuade Ray Trew to give Kiwomya the job permanently, but the performance in the second half against Walsall, like it was in an identical 1-1 draw against Crewe at Meadow Lane, should encourage the Notts chairman to give him more time to prove he is the right man.
Kiwomya scored the first-ever goal of his playing career against Walsall – and the Magpies should have recorded the first win of his managerial career against the Saddlers at the Bescot Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 after Walsall striker Will Grigg scored from the penalty spot on 29 minutes, Kiwomya brought on Arquin for on-loan Leicester City striker Jacob Blyth, who made his debut, at the start of the second half and he was a central figure as Notts went on to dominate their opponents.
The Frenchman looked like he did at the start of the season when he scored five goals in his first 11 games for the club and many were saying he could score 20-plus goals to fire the Magpies into the Championship.
He scored his first league goal in 17 games to equalise on 65 minutes, reacting quickest inside the penalty area when Jamal Campbell-Ryce's right-wing cross dropped seven yards out to rifle the ball past Walsall goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin in front of the away end – and he went close to scoring twice more.
Seizing onto a mistake by Saddlers' right-back James Chambers on 54 minutes, Arquin raced onto the ball, into the box and drove a low shot at goal, but McLoughlin blocked it with his legs and Alan Judge swept the rebound wide.
He then had a glorious chance to win the game for Notts on 88 minutes, but did not take it, directing a header wide at the far post from only two yards out.
He was still the Magpies' hero, however, and he was not alone in spurning a great scoring opportunity because so did Judge on 58 minutes.
He should have scored as Alan Sheehan curled a free-kick into the penalty area and Jeff Hughes headed it down into his path, but he volleyed over the crossbar from six yards.
The midfielder almost atoned on 67 minutes as he raced onto a headed flick-on by Arquin and aimed a low shot towards the bottom-right corner, but McLoughlin made a good save to deny him a goal and Notts a 2-1 lead.
As the Magpies piled the pressure on Walsall in the second half, it was all a far cry from the first half.
Notts were lucky not to be losing after just six minutes because they gifted the home side a great chance.
Midfielder Andre Boucaud gave the ball away to Paterson with a sloppy pass close to the halfway line, he raced forward and passed to Grigg, who rounded Bialkowski and stroked a low shot at goal that Judge cleared off the goal-line.
The only spark on the pitch in the opening 45 minutes was a flare thrown onto it close to the away end after the home side awarded a penalty on 29 minutes.
Some of the Notts players were furious with ref Trevor Kettle when he pointed to the spot, but it was the right decision.
On his return from injury, the Magpies' No.1 goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski clattered into Saddlers' forward Jamie Paterson just inside the box, after racing off his goal-line trying beat him to the ball.
Paterson got there first and was then sent tumbling by the Pole, whose bravery in that moment at least shows he is not traumatised by suffering a nasty head wound in a 50-50 challenge with Leyton Orient striker Charlie MacDonald at the end of last month.
Grigg stepped up to take the penalty and stroked the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net, sending Bialkowski the wrong way.
Now all wait to see which way the Magpies' season is going to go.