Notts County's lucky omen Neal Bishop targets win at Crawley
NEAL Bishop is not used to his new tag as Notts County's lucky omen, saying: "I've been called a lot of things, but never that!"
The Magpies' captain has scored seven times so far this season – and every time he has netted a goal Notts have never lost.
He has helped fire them to wins against Hartlepool United, Carlisle United and Colchester United and has scored vital goals in 1-1 draws against MK Dons, Crawley Town, Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient.
"It's a shame I don't score more then," he said.
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"I'm just glad my goals are helping us get results.
"But it's not about me scoring, it's about the team.
"I'll be happy if I don't score again this season if we go on and get seven or eight wins out of our last ten games and we get into the play-offs.
"We've somehow got to force our way back into the reckoning."
The 31-year-old midfielder is right – seven points off the play-offs with ten games left in League One, the Magpies must start winning more games to close the gap on the top-six, starting at Crawley today (3pm).
They are unbeaten in their last six games under new boss Chris Kiwomya, but they have won only two of those against Bury and Carlisle, and have drawn the rest against Crewe, Walsall, Tranmere and Orient.
Their last game was against Orient on home soil on Wednesday night and Bishop put Notts 1-0 ahead in the first half with a great strike, but the visitors hit back from the penalty spot in the second half, after Dean Leacock brought down striker Charlie MacDonald.
Notts would have risen up to eight place and just five points off the play-offs with a victory in midweek, but had to settle for a point, which has kept them in tenth place.
"We were confident of getting the three points before the game and it was a soft goal that cost us the win," said Bishop.
"Getting into the play-offs was already a big ask, so it's an even bigger one now to get ourselves back into the frame.
"If we'd won we would have been looking at teams above us, especially because some of them lost the night before we played.
"That was a big incentive for us to go out and win so it's disappointing we didn't, but we're focused on getting three points at Crawley now."
Bishop admits missing out on the play-offs will be hard to take, after losing out on sixth spot on goal-difference to Stevenage last season, but he is not ready to give up on his dream of promotion into the Championship.
"There are still ten games left, so there's 30 points to play for," he said.
"I think every team from third down to us still think they can get in there.
"If we give up hope we have got no chance so we have got to stick together as a group.
"We've got to keep believing, we don't want the season to peter out.
"It's going to be a long end to it if that happens.
"If we win today it won't look such a bad point (against Orient)."
With a career-record tally of goals, Bishop is the Magpies' joint-second top league scorer with Francois Zoko, behind Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who has netted eight times – but five of the winger's goals have come from the penalty spot.
He netted a great left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area against Orient.
"The space opened up in front of me and I just kept going," he said.
"I took a touch and it went to my left side so I thought I'd have a go.
"I thought we sat a bit deep in the first half so it was up to me and the other lads in midfield to try and drive us forward.
"Luckily enough it came off for me."
Bishop scored an early goal against Crawley at Meadow Lane back in November, but former Notts loanee Jonathan Forte came back to haunt them with an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Bishop knows a point against the newly-promoted Reds on their first-ever trip to the Broadfield Stadium will not be good enough.
The Magpies have a headache in defence to deal with ahead of the game because centre-back Dean Leacock is suspended, after being booked for the tenth time this season against Orient and first-choice right-back Julian Kelly is a doubt with a calf injury, but they have good options in the likes of Manny Smith and Haydn Hollis.
"It's a must-win game today, but we've been saying that for a few weeks now," he said.
"It's a massive three points. If we win it will be seven points from our last three games, which is a good return.
"It's vitally important we win."