Notts County: Jeff Hughes backed to hit goal trail
JEFF Hughes has got his eye back in – and Notts County boss Keith Curle is backing him to hit the goal trail.
After scoring a career-record 17 goals to finish top scorer for the Magpies last season, the Northern Ireland midfielder, 27, was enduring a bit of a drought in front of goal until the last two games.
He actually went 14 games without a goal before scoring in a 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient last Saturday and then netting in a 2-0 win at Portsmouth on Tuesday night.
With two goals in four days, Hughes now has his sights set on firing the Magpies to victory at Hartlepool United in League One today – and Curle reckons he can go on a scoring run.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
"Jeff is always a goal threat – he makes them and scores them," he said.
"He is the type of player that can go on a run of scoring six or seven goals now, comfortably, because he always gets forward into good positions.
"Jeff is a confident lad and scoring is all down to belief.
"He is getting in the box knowing he is going to get chances to score.
"It's great to see him take his last two and I'm sure he will get a few more between now and the end of the season."
Hughes is set to start on the left wing for the Magpies at Victoria Park – but Curle has a big decision to make in central midfield because captain Neal Bishop is suspended.
He has three players to pick from, in Joss Labadie, Gavin Mahon and Gary Liddle, who will return to Hartlepool for the first time since leaving them to join Notts last summer.
Mahon and Labadie have only made four league starts between them all season, while Liddle, who spent six years with the north-east club, has played every game.
Curle has hinted he could switch him from defence into midfield against his old club.
"I'm glad I've got an abundance of midfielders," said Curle.
"A lot of people said we were top heavy in the centre of midfield, but I signed them all for a purpose because I think the middle of the pitch is where you get hold of games and control them.
"Make no mistake, Gary was brought to the club as a central midfielder and he doesn't hang around at the back too much in training.
"He's always in midfield because that's where he wants to play.
"It could be his big chance."
With just one away defeat in almost a year, the Magpies will be favourites to beat rock-bottom Hartlepool, who have won only one league game on home soil all season against Scunthorpe United way back in September.
Notts also beat them 2-0 at Meadow Lane in their first home league game of the season, with goals from Bishop and Francois Zoko.
But Curle watched them claim a shock 3-2 win against big-boys Sheffield United at Bramall Lane at the end of December and Pools also beat fellow strugglers Portsmouth 3-1 at Fratton Park last Saturday.
Ten points adrift of safety, they are fighting for their League One lives – and Curle thinks that makes them dangerous opponents.
"They are struggling, but performing. They are playing very well," he said.
"I went to see them play at Sheffield United and I thought they were excellent. They beat a very good Sheffield United team on their own patch. They have had a few changes since then, but there is a fighting spirit at that club.
"They know they need results and are desperate to do well and fair play to their manager, he has got them playing decent football as well.
"They're not just kicking and rushing, they are not playing with any nerves and any fear. They are going out and are very committed.
"It's important that we don't go there thinking just because we've got a very good away record we can just turn up there and win.
"We are going to have to earn everything we get from Hartlepool."