Notts County: Haydn Hollis hopes his time has finally come
FROM fantasy to frustration, Haydn Hollis has had a rather unique start to his career at Notts County.
Given his debut for the Magpies in a special friendly against Italian giants Juventus on an unforgettable night in Turin back in September 2011, he almost beat the famous Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a close-range header.
Four months later, the young centre-back made his League bow for Notts up against one of the best strikers in the Football League, Jordan Rhodes.
But after those two memorable early moments, he has amazingly had to wait until now for his latest chance in black-and-white stripes.
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After 14 long months, Hollis started in the heart of the Magpies' back-four in their 1-1 draw against Leyton Orient at Meadow Lane on Wednesday night and, though he was caught out for the visitors' equalising goal in the second half, he did well and now hopes his time has finally arrived.
"It's been a long wait," he said.
"Those games against Juventus and Huddersfield feel like ages ago so it was spot on to be back out there and I think I deserved my chance.
"Playing football is all I want to do, I don't want to sit in the stands, that's just frustrating.
"You're sat there watching and thinking 'I could play in that'.
"When I started the game (against Huddersfield) last year I felt better than anything and it was the same when I walked out the other night.
"The manager told me I was starting on Tuesday so I had plenty of time to get my head round it and make sure I was ready to go out there and take my chance.
"I didn't feel nervous, I was quite relaxed really.
"A few of the lads asked me if I was nervous, but I was fine.
"I was just determined to go out and give my best.
"It's the first competitive game I've played all season.
"I came on for ten minutes against Bury, but that's it.
"I thought I got caught wrong side for their goal, but it's my first game in a long time and I'll learn from that.
"If I can play some more games before the end of the season it will be brilliant.
"It's what I want, I want to start every week, but it's down to the manager and whether he plays three or four at the back. I hope he plays four!"
Having impressed Magpies' boss Chris Kiwomya with his performance at the heart of the back-four with Dean Leacock, Hollis is likely to get his wish at Crawley Town in League One tomorrow (3pm).
"If I could play consistently every week I think I will reach better levels," added Hollis.
"I need more games – but not reserve games.
"They're good for you, but there's nothing like first-team football.
"There's nothing like playing for three points."
Notts are unbeaten in their last six games, but were disappointed with a draw against Orient, after captain Neal Bishop had fired them 1-0 ahead in the first half with his seventh goal of the season.
Hoping to close the gap on the play-offs to five points with a victory, the Magpies had to settle for a point and are still seven adrift of the top-six with ten games of the season left.
"I think we defended well, we didn't overplay in the wrong areas at the back," said Hollis.
"I think we defended solidly apart from that one time when I got caught out and Shees (Alan Sheehan) wasn't in there and Deano (Leacock) fouled their lad in the box.
"It was one little mistake and we gave a penalty away, but apart from that we were solid.
"I don't think they looked like they were going to score until the penalty.
"It would have been great to win – but I still loved being out there again even though we drew.
"I know I can do it in the first team, I have just to carry on proving that and hopefully get my run in the team."