Notts County are so close to being a top League One side, says Gavin Mahon
NOTTS County are so close to being a top League One team, says Gavin Mahon.
The 36-year-old midfielder has played right at the very top of English football in his long career so he knows what he's talking about.
And he has paid the Magpies the biggest compliment by saying they are the best team he has ever played in box to box, with proper footballers like Alan Judge, Andre Boucaud and Jeff Hughes, who are all great on the ball.
But he also says they have two big boxes left to tick to become a real force in the division, at the back and in attack.
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"I've always said this team is probably one of the best sides I've played in from box to box in my whole career," he said.
"Every player is good on the ball, everybody rotates, the movement is good, everyone has got a good touch, but it's all about the two penalty areas in this game – that is where you win and lose games."
The Magpies actually have the seventh-best defensive record in the division, having conceded 33 goals, and they have also kept ten clean-sheets.
But they sloppily conceded after just 26 seconds in their 2-0 defeat at Stevenage on Tuesday night – and have also let in early goals against MK Dons, Sheffield United and Hartlepool United in three more games since the start of the year.
At the opposite end of the pitch, French striker Yoann Arquin has not scored for 15 league games, having netted five in the first 11 at the start of the season, Francois Zoko has scored one in 15 and Enoch Showunmi has one all season.
"I'm not just blaming the strikers, we're all to blame and it's something we need to improve on," added Mahon.
"We are lacking in goals and a main target man is probably what we need so if we can get that it would be brilliant.
"We have got to defend more ruthlessly as a team, like our lives depend on it, and at the other end we've got to be more clinical.
"I lost count of the amount of balls we put into the box the other night, but I bet the stats will be off the scale.
"It's a shame because this team has got a lot of quality in it, we have just got to show more hunger and desire to stop teams scoring and score ourselves."
Mahon made only his second league start of the season for the Magpies at Stevenage.
After starting 23 times in the league last season, he has endured a frustrating time on the subs' bench because of the form of Boucaud and captain Neal Bishop in central midfield.
He has looked set to leave Meadow Lane a couple of times, but stayed and replaced injured Joss Labadie at Broadhall Way.
He now hopes to play a bigger part in the starting line-up between now and the end of the season.
"It's been really frustrating, but what I will say is the most consistent part of our side this season has been our midfield so it was hard when Keith (Curle) was here to rotate it," he said. "When you're not playing you don't feel part of the team anymore so it was good to get back in, it was just a shame about the result."
Notts face Crewe at Meadow Lane tomorrow (3pm) and, with Bishop suspended and Labadie a doubt, Mahon could get the nod again.
"I don't think Keith thought me and Andre could play together in the same team, but I thought we did quite well at Stevenage so fingers crossed," he said.
It is a big game for Notts because it is make-or-break time in their challenge for the play-offs.
In tenth place, they are only five points outside the play-offs, but another defeat could see them drop well down in the bottom-half of the table.
"We've lost the last couple of games, but we're still in with a shout," said Mahon.
"I have always said this team is not far away from being a real, real top side.
"If we could bring one or two more in and string a few wins together we will be right up there and then anything can still happen this season.
"We've got to keep our heads up and keep working on our defending and attacking crosses and finishing.
"I've never been at a side like this where a big, big part of the jigsaw is done, but the last few pieces are missing."