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05/06: Reports:

League Cup First Round, 23/08/05, 7.45pm
Notts County
What car is that?
By Ivan Veall

I have a variety of views on people who customise what (in essence) are very ordinary cars. Taking a ten year old Vauxhall Nova 1.2 and putting a fat exhaust, purple lights, some side stripes onto a gimpy paint job and finally a piece of padding onto the seatbelts does not make it look fast. Or better. It is still a ten year old Nova 1.2 with drum brakes that are not capable of stopping a pushbike.

However, take a better quality car - let's suggest an Audi A4 - keep the original dark mauve paintwork, put some stylish new alloys, low profile tyres, subtle body styling, dark grille and double exhaust and you may have actually done something sneaky to the engine management. It may still be an Audi A4 to all intents and purposes, but when push comes to shove, it is faster, more responsive and nicer to look at. Hopefully the brakes have been upgraded as well; wouldn't want to use all that extra oomph and not be able to control it in certain situations, would you?

You can probably guess where I am going with this. Betty has come in and been given something like a perfectly serviceable but faded Mondeo LX to work with. Having managed to get it to the end of season breaker's yard, he has utilised the sum of its parts to create, in my view at least, something that is considerably greater than its whole. Last night is a good example of this in so far as there were a good number of scholars/reserves/youngsters (Campana is sixteen, for heaven's sake!), a few new faces and one legend. This is not a Mondeo any more. But what kind of motor is it?

Whatever it is, until the hour, it was a lot better than whatever Notts County were driving. I am not even sure that they had the same mechanical formula to start with and thought that they could get away with a fleet of bicycles.

The 'Orns got off to what is becoming a customary bright start once the initial meet and greet stuff had finished and the ball was allowed to meet the turf. In an enjoyable difference from the usual pattern of these sort of games, we got an early lead and never looked back. Ant and Mac had already started scripting their Tuesday Night Takeaway with a couple of little double-ups, but the first goal was simplistic beauty which I may have been able to score myself. Picking the ball up just inside the Notts County half, Macca dribbled slightly inside and hit an early diagonal ball which Ash met on the far corner of the six yard box to head across three stranded Notts players. When things like that happen, you remember why football is an enjoyable game to watch. And we've got some of the guys that other people want to watch now....

So, any nerves were abated and we had the rest of the ninety minutes to look forward to. This gives an opportunity to start observing some of the differences in style that we now display: more positive movement; use of ball skills to outwit opponents; fewer long balls; speed of thought and movement. All of these are adding up to making a very enjoyable side to watch and one that is able to score goals. Taking on the points above, Ash won a penalty on thirty-three minutes. Rather than crossing from the edge of the box, which appeared to be the best option, he took on the two defenders and got crunched over the dead ball line for his initiative. Whilst no booking followed, the ref had no hesitation and Hameur duly parked the ball in the left corner.

All in all, a good half, but would we take this on to the next level? My only live action this season so far had been the Northwood 7-1 so my expectations were somewhat tainted, but the opposition could have gone the same way last night. That must be the difference between league and non-league.

My expectations were further inflated by our third which arrived after only a couple of minutes of the second half: Young played a quick one-two with Spring on the corner of the Notts area and pushed in a nasty cross which was bending slightly away form parallel with the six yard line; Pilkington did the best he could, which was to palm the ball onto Blizzard's foot and then go and collect it from the back of the net. 3-0.

After this, a half became three thirds. Nothing really happened for fifteen minutes, then Notts actually had an attempt on goal for the first time, Young went off on sixty-eight for Campana to make his debut, and on seventy-six, Notts scored. Having gone 3-0 up, we did not seem to know what we were supposed to do and with Young going off, a lot of our quality product left with him. So with this seeming lack of direction, the ball was played back to Doyley and Carlisle on the half way line, confusion ensued and Palmer snapped in, ran on and struck a firm shot around Alec from just outside the box. Very well taken, it must be said, after seventy-five minutes of nothing. This seemed to be too similar to Cardiff for my liking....

Blizzard went off, Grant came on. They had a blinding shot which Alec pushed around the upright and Bouazza had a blinding shot which Pilkington guided over the bar. Final whistle.

So, what conclusion? I was tempted to parallel the players to various cars and see if that created a common theme, but putting Clarke Carlisle down as a HumVee and Macca as one of those crazy Caterhams which make your eyes water over sixty mph made things too tricky. I shall leave it to your preferences to draw any parallel but whatever we have got now, it certainly is not a faded Mondeo LX.